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Veg-O-Matic is the name of one of the first food-processing appliances to gain widespread use in the United States. It was non-electric and invented by Samuel J. Popeil and later sold by his son, Ron Popeil along with more than 20 other distributors across the country, and Ronco, making its début in 1963 at the International Housewares Show in Chicago, Illinois. It was also sold in Australia by Philip Kives, who purchased it from Samuel Popeil and sold it as one of the first products through his own marketing firm, K-tel.
Made famous by saturation television advertising in the mid- and late 1960s, Veg-O-Matic is a manually operated slicer, primarily made of injection-molded plastic, which held two sets of parallel cutting blades. The Veg-O-Matic is shaped approximately like an upper-case letter "H" and had an integral operating handle. The item to be cut, such as a potato, is placed on the top set of blades, and then is pushed vertically down through the blades by the handle, while the user's hands are kept safely away from the cutter by the shape of the handle.
The steel cutting blades are contained in a circular, cast-metal holder several inches in diameter. By rotating the top holder, the blades could cut flat slices or square strips, such as for French fries. By putting the slices through the machine a second time, they would be diced into small cubes. In the ads, Popeil would rapidly demonstrate this, with the now well-known catchphrase "It slices! It dices!" Sales were nearly exclusively via direct marketing, and Veg-O-Matic was one of the first products (if not the first) to bear the red-and-white "As Seen on TV" logo on the box.
In popular culture
The "It slices! It dices!" catchphrase is often used tongue-in-cheek to refer to things with multiple uses. The ads for Veg-O-Matic inspired comedian Gallagher to create his trademark "Sledge-O-Matic" act, as well as Dan Aykroyd as a fast-talking commercial pitchman in sketches on Saturday Night Live, especially the famous "Super Bass-O-Matic 76" during the 1970s. Throughout the 1980s, Frank Zappa would satirize the product, as exemplified by recordings on You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 3 and 4; the text of the song were often modified ad-lib. Jonathan Richman recorded a song, "Dodge Veg-O-Matic," in the 1970s. A song by Steve Goodman entitled "Vegematic", written by Goodman, Shel Silverstein and Mike Smith, appeared on Goodman's 1984 album Affordable Art.
- Gladwell in 1963, Malcolm: What the Dog Saw, page 20. Little, Brown, 2009.
- Mateja, Andrew. The Rise and Fall of the First Popeil Gadget Dynasty. (Mustang: Tate Publishing, 2013), 26