The day before Christmas I was visiting a relative in Washington DC and set out to make lebkuchen. The recipe calls for mixing with a rotary egg beater, and this relative didn’t have one. So I set out to find that once-ubiquitous, cheap, handy, and easily-obtainable classic. You know, one of these guys:
Did I say “easily-obtainable”? Think again. My first stop was Target, which had a lot of utensils but nary a rotary egg beater to be found. I thought that was a fluke, until I went to a Safeway (also nada, despite carrying about three types of whisk, which is supposed to be a similar tool but IMHO does not do the same thing). And then Whole Foods, same deal, despite the fact that you’d think they’d be promoting such a green instrument.
Furthermore, at Whole Foods the guy I asked about a rotary egg beater didn’t even seem to know what that was.
By then everything was about to close for Christmas Eve and stay closed on Christmas Day, so I had to do without. Which wasn’t that bad; there are other ways to mix the recipe.
But the experience gave me a jolt. What gives? When I wasn’t looking, did the rotary egg beater become an obsolete relic of the past?
Yes, I know there are places where they’re still sold; Bed Bath and Beyond would be one (I suppose an egg beater qualifies as “beyond”), but their version is a tiny bit pricey and upscale and significantly strange. And there are many obtainable by ordering through Amazon. But the egg beater used to be instantly accessible everywhere, including supermarkets, and not that long ago, either.
So, has the wire whisk, an implement I’ve never liked, won this war? Even though they say whisks are better for whipping egg whites, I beg to differ. And of course there’s the other culprit, electric mixers, but what a pain in the butt to haul one out for every little task. And then to clean it.
Apparently this lack of rotary egg beaters is not a new problem, either; here’s an online discussion about it that goes back to 2006.
So my advice is that if you think you might need a rotary egg beater in a hurry (and who doesn’t?), plan ahead. Or surrender to the all-conquering duo of the whisk and the electric mixer.
[NOTE: Here's some proud history.]