Ankarsrum, Sweden. Probably a place you’ve never heard of, but it’s here that a machine has been produced for the last 70 years that has changed and influenced household kitchens all over the world.
In 1940, the Swedish manufacturer Electrolux launched the Assistent in response to the need of many Swedish households to start baking, cooking food, making jams and syrups and preserving foods during the Second World War. The machine proved so reliable and robust that it soon became a common sight in Swedish kitchens, and in the years to follow, kitchens around the world.
The story of one such machine started in the late 70s in Cape Town when a young man named Shiraz – armed with his first paycheque – bought his mother an Electrolux Assistent – as it was then known.
The original owner, Rabia Hathey was a keen baker and used the Assistent regularly whilst baking for her family. The machine became so important to her family that she gave it to her youngest son and his wife as a gift at their wedding in 1989. Luckily the young bride, Zenovia was an eager baker herself and continued the tradition of regularly baking for her family.
Soon afterwards their daughter, Ra’isa was born and from a young age, she joined the family’s baking tradition. From her earliest childhood memories Ra’isa remembers baking cookies and cupcakes with her mother using the sturdy and dependable Assistent – hers were the honours of adding the hundreds and thousands afterwards! So early on she developed a lasting love for baking and soon mastered and memorised her first recipe – cupcakes!
Over the years, with the help of the Assistent, Ra’isa skils developed learning how to bake cakes and cupcakes for every occasion. In the last few years she discovered the joys of decorating cakes which has since become her unquenchable passion.
So close was her attachment to the Assistent that when Ra’isa became engaged to be married her father immediately promised to give her their Assistent as a wedding present – which has by now become a family heirloom. However, since her father Riaz was still quite attached to it, Ra’isa felt that she needed get her own mixer for her new home. She started looking around at different makes and models, but as she says, “Nothing compares to the Assistent”.
Meanwhile, knowing how much she loves the Assistent, her 18 year old younger brother Mikhail secretly decided he was going to try and get her a new one as a wedding present. After unsuccessfully trying to find the Assistent on the Electrolux website he tracked down the original manufacturers in Ankarsrum, Sweden early in 2013. Although the beloved appliance had been renamed to the town it is made in he discovered the tradition of producing high quality machines was still safely intact.
Ankarsrum put him into contact with Culinary Equipment Company, their distribution partner in South Africa. When he shared the news of his successful search with Ra’isa she was delighted to hear that the Assistent was still being produced and grateful to her brother for his effort and kind thoughts.
So they saved up and on December 14th 2013 in Culinary Equipment Company branch in Stellenbosch, Ra’isa finally received her very own Ankarsrum. She even brought along their old Assistent for the occasion. The machines were posed side by side for a few photos to capture the special moment – two machines, separated by over 3 decades yet connected by the same enduring quality, manufacturing and passion that it instills in those who get to use it.
Ra’isa describes the moment as one of overwhelming mixed emotions: “I was so excited about the nice and sleek new Ankarsrum.” Although brand new, she immediately felt comfortable with it, because as she says, “I felt at home… I already knew all the attachments!”
“But I was also kind of sad because I was letting go of the old Assistent…it was the only machine I’ve ever known.” She decided as her final farewell to her trusty old friend she will be baking her wedding cake with the old Assistent and saving her Ankarsrum for her new life. A life that we trust will be brimming with beautifully decorated cakes, cookies and of course, cupcakes!