When you speak to Jodi Berg, you find yourself hoping she’ll channel a little bit of Dan Aykroyd.
After all, she’s the fourth generation to head her family’s Vitamix company, maker of those super powered blenders prized by home cooks and professional chefs alike for their ability to grind and puree nearly anything into smoothie goodness. Because that’s the same blender that inspired the now iconic 1976 “Saturday Night Live” skit in which Aykroyd proselytized infomercial-style about the wonders of something called a Bass-O-Matic.
Aykroyd made comic history when he dropped a whole raw fish into a blender, then slurped up the resulting seafood smoothie. And you want just a little of that to come through in Berg.
But here’s the punchline. In an almost tragic case of pop culture absenteeism, Berg not only hadn’t seen the skit, she’d never even heard of it.
Which is why we needed to halt the interview and get her to a web browser.
“I have never seen that. Oh my god!” she shouted, laughing loudly. “But I have to tell you, I have seen our infomercial and it clearly is a playoff from my grandfather’s infomercial (from the ‘40s).”
Which the rest of us realized a few decades ago. But just as well. This is a period of firsts for Berg, who has just written “The Vitamix Cookbook,” the company’s first retail cookbook tied to its product (previous recipe collections have been booklets included with the purchase of a blender), which was launched in 1921. Sure, the book isn’t much use unless you’ve already paid the (hefty) price of admission by purchasing a Vitamix. But people who do tend to love them.
And the demographics behind those people have changed over the years. Forty or 50 years ago, the Vitamix held sway mostly over natural foods advocates. They loved the fact that ‚Äî as Aykroyd so wonderfully demonstrated ‚Äî the blender could pulverize the whole food, no peeling, pitting or ‚Äî in the case of bass ‚Äî scaling needed. Less waste, more nutrition.
But as Americans’ notion of health has broadened beyond a brown rice and patchouli philosophy, so has the interest in the Vitamix, said Berg. A decade or so ago, if you asked people why they ate so-called health foods, most said it was good for the animals or the planet. “All of the sudden about 12 years ago people starting talking about how it was also better for me,” she said.
That’s around the same time Vitamix began embracing retail rather than just direct sales and worked to raise the profile of the brand. “We need to be out where people are going to be making these decisions (about healthy eating). We need to be a resource for these people as they decide what sort of lifestyle they want to lead.”
So how powerful is a Vitamix? Powerful enough that you can fill the blender carafe with frozen vegetables and cold broth, turn it on high and walk away for 5 or so minutes. When you come back, it will not only have pureed the soup, it will have ‚Äî thanks to the power of those blades whipping around ‚Äî rendered it piping hot. And the cookbook has plenty of recipes that harness that cool feature.
BROCCOLI CHEESE SOUP
No Vitamix? No worries. Simmer all of the ingredients except the cheese, then carefully transfer to a blender or food processor, add the cheese and puree until smooth.
Start to finish: 10 minutes
1 cup skim milk
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen broccoli florets
1/2 small yellow onion
1/2 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Combine all ingredients in the Vitamix, then fit the lid on securely. Turn the blender on low, then slowly increase the speed to high. Blend for 5 to 6 minutes, or until completely smooth and very hot.
Nutrition information per serving: 190 calories; 90 calories from fat (47 per cent of total calories); 10 g fat (6 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 30 mg cholesterol; 780 mg sodium; 14 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 8 g sugar; 13 g protein.
(Recipe adapted from Jodi Berg’s “The Vitamix Cookbook,” William Morow, 2015)