Oh, more tales of woe from the Shanghai kitchen! I mentioned in my post about the crockpot that I was having difficulty finding small kitchen appliances here in China. Either things are cheaply made, or crazy expensive, or just not available. And yes, it is not lost on me that all of the things at my old local Target were actually made in China. My recent trip home reinforced the irony of living in the country of origin for so many cheap products but being unable to find them here in Shanghai. Hilarious, I know. I am trying to be judicious in my selections when it come to the kitchen. There isn’t much room in the tiny Shanghai kitchen and I don’t have much storage space in the form of closets here either. The things I buy need to be worth the space they take up on the kitchen counter.
I had been burned before, so when I decided to purchase a blender, I was determined not to make the same mistake. I would buy the name brand thing this time—no crazy Chinese company for me!—and I would be sure I was buying something that would get the job done. This time I was even contemplating making a move to the expensive store with the imported appliances. One of the other students in my Chinese cooking class had told me about a store that was a short cab ride away where they had insanely overpriced name brand small appliances. He had suffered with a shoddy food processor, and had decided it wasn’t worth the hassle to spend the time and energy staking out all the local Chinese stores for miracles. He confessed to having been knowingly robbed by the shopkeeper, but claimed the prices were worth it to eliminate the aggravation factor alone. I was set on going that route myself when fate intervened.
Poor Ava decided she could no longer live without breakfast smoothies and she was begging for a blender to help remedy the situation. Mark needed to go to the hardware store so Ava and I tagged along. This hardware store isn’t like most of the places in Shanghai where Mark prefers to shop. He was planning on going to the equivalent of Home Depot. A Chinese big box store, if you will, instead of his usual hole in the wall specialty places where they only sell wheels, or rubber tubing, or specific sizes of screws. On top of this massive hardware store there is an equally massive store selling appliances. Mark assured me they had blenders–he claimed to have even seen a food processor–and, since I only needed this blender to make smoothies, I figured it was worth a shot. We browsed the aisles accompanied by an eager Chinese saleswoman. She and her colleagues were keen to talk to Ava and to tell me how pretty she was. They were happy to show us the blenders and to make recommendations about quality and style. At least that is what I thought they were doing since we were all trying to make ourselves understood in Mandarin. I could have been completely off base. They certainly seemed to be discussing the different blenders. We all agreed on which blender would be the best. One was most certainly the highest quality—a name brand number with a glass container. I indicated that I wanted to buy the blender and that’s when things got confusing.
Buy it? The salesladies were sorry, but I couldn’t buy that blender. After all that discussion it turned out that there were only two blenders available for purchase. Two out of at least twenty on display! They were made by some random Chinese company, and, while they looked sturdy enough, I had my doubts. So now the choice was only between the glass container or the plastic. Which one would I prefer? The instruction manual was completely in Chinese as were the indicators—only three speeds, mind you—on the dial. The saleswoman pointed me toward the one with the glass container. It was “very good”. The plastic one? Only “so so”. I reluctantly bought the glass one. I only needed it for smoothies, surely this thing could handle a few frozen banana slices, right?
Wrong. When I went to make Ava a smoothie the next morning, the blender was incapable of grinding up even the smallest morsel of frozen anything. Even paper thin frozen banana slices proved to be too much. I tried the other settings. I violently shook the container. I stirred in between each futile whir of the blades. The entire kitchen shook with the force of the blender’s motor, but every attempt produced the same result—yogurt with fruit chunks. Any dreams of making pina coladas with this blender died as I tried and tried again. There was no way this thing could handle ice cubes. And there was a curious smell–burning plastic, maybe?—accompanying every flick of the dial.
Chinese blender? Epic fail. Sigh.