Now treasured and handed down as a family heirloom from generation to generation, the Electrolux Assistent food processor has become a national favourite in Sweden.
In 1939, Electrolux gave Swedish designer and engineer, Alvar Lenning, the task of converting a professional restaurant kitchen device into a smaller, more compact gadget that would be convenient for domestic use. Few would have suspected that it would become one of the company’s most durable products, praised both for its sturdy reliability and design. The beige bodywork, the distinctive bell-shaped, metal bowl, unique velouté blades and the sleek, slightly retro look are instantly recognisable. Lenning is an unsung hero of Swedish design.
Electrolux Assistent N1, launched in 1940, and designed by Alvar Lenning
A hesitant beginning
This success story had an inauspicious start. When it was launched in 1940, Europe was in the depths of war, rationing was widespread and raw materials were hard to obtain to produce a new kitchen device. Queues were long and only a lucky few could purchase an Assistent. Those with a disability who could provide a doctor’s certificate and evidence that that the device would improve their quality of life were entitled to a more rapid delivery.
A cookbook of wartime recipes was always included, a tradition that continued long after rationing had ended. The lucky owners soon realised the many culinary possibilities which were now open to them. As an ad from 1944 proclaimed, it could whisk, mix, knead, mash, chop , crush, slice, mix, grate and puree the ingredients. And even stuff sausages.
Then in the post-war period, sales boomed. In a brilliant PR coup, the celebrated poet (and future Nobel Laureate), Harry Martinson, bought number Model number 100 001 as a Xmas present for his wife, Ingrid. Here was the ultimate confirmation of success on the domestic market. Assistent rapidly became the centrepoint in any modern, Swedish, post-war kitchen.
Electrolux Assistent N4 shown with additional equipment such as a double beater
Success outside Sweden followed. In the US it was has been marketed using several different names: the Electrolux Magic Mill Assistent, the Verona, the Ankarsrum Assistent and the DLX. In 2001, Electrolux divested the rights to Ankarsrum who have marketed it since then. In 2013 Electrolux launched a new version.
1962 ad brochure for Electrolux Assistent
Sweden has a strong tradition of home baking, so it is appropriate that Assistent should have become the darling of home bakers from Addis Ababa to Adelaide. Just visit any online baking forum and you will read its virtues being listed. Some food processors cannot cope with the heavy demands of the baking enthusiast. That powerful Electrolux motor always wins praise.