Friday, April 18, 2008

Much Ado About Easy-Bake Ovens

EXTRA! EXTRA! Stupid Children get fingers caught in Easy-Bake Ovens! "Roasted Child-Digits" only 185 calories each!

So read the papers and blared the radio a couple months ago ... Dumb kids, dumb parents, dumb recall, dumb world... However, this silliness did bring up multiple memories and tales-to-tell of my own adventures with MY Easy-Bake Oven. And being a good little queer boy I didn't burn MY fingers. I made tasty things to eat!

If I recall correctly I got my Easy-Bake Oven for Christmas when I was about six or seven. I really liked it - mainly because it worked! You could actually "bake" cakes and stuff in it. The oven used two light bulbs, one in the top and one in the bottom, surrounded by a highly-reflective aluminum shell. You mixed the cake mixes in little bowls, greased up the little pan, and slid it into the oven where it baked for a time. When it was ready you pushed the cooked cake out the other side of the oven, and a baker you were!

The packaging shown above looks much as I remember MY oven - the late 1960s "Flower Power" decals included. I also recall thinking that the little girl featured on the box wasn't too bright. Look at her little cakes. You are SUPPOSED to bake TWO layers of cake and frost them together with a layer of icing in the middle! It's boring to simply frost a single layer!

My two big memories about my Easy-Bake Oven involved my Dad. He was all for it - indeed he was the baker in the family. When I made my first cake I was distressed that when I pushed it out the far side of the oven a sharp blade (inside the oven) hacked off the top of the cake and made a very flat shaved-off cake layer. This didn't seem right and wasted some very edible cake. My Dad agreed, so out came the tools, he opened up the oven and removed the "cake-shaver." Voila! Unshaved cakes.

The Easy-Bake Oven also gave my Dad an opportunity to give me a lecture on the evils of Capitalism. The oven was a really good toy, well-made, and fairly priced. But the company really gouged you on the cake mixes and frosting packets. And I was baking a LOT of little cakes!

So Dad explained all this stuff about monopolies, and evil-marketing strategies designed to take advantage of little boys, and he took me to the grocery store where we purchased inexpensive JIFFY cake mixes, frosting mix, corn-bread mix, and such. We found a little clear plastic container and carefully measured a "real" Easy-Bake mix, and using tape and a marker, made an Easy-Bake measuring cup so I could easily use the "real" cake mixes in my oven. These real mixes were even better than the expensive "Easy-Bake" ones. There were more flavors! I could make things like corn-bread! And this made the oven seem more "legit."

We chose the JIFFY mixes because they were the only mixes that already had the eggs and stuff in them. Thus they were ADD WATER ONLY just like the Easy-Bake mixes.

Toys wear out and I have no idea what became of my Easy-Bake Oven. But when I was nine, we traveled to Bridgeport, Texas because my grandfather was very ill. My Dad took care of me and my sister in the motel room while Mom was at the hospital all day. One afternoon, while walking the main street of Bridgeport, we wandered into a "five-and-dime" store and I spotted a treasure I had to have!


Suzy's oven also worked via light-bulb, but it was bigger and looked and functioned more like a "real" oven. You placed your food in the oven through the hinged oven-door on the front of the oven.

Well, Dad sensibly saw this as a way to keep me occupied and amused during those long days in the motel room and he got it for me. This oven came with an assortment of "cake mixes," too, but it was suggested somewhere that one could also make pie! So when we went to the grocery store for the old reliable JIFFY mixes we got some JIFFY pie-crust and a jar of jam and I became the "Boy Baker of Bridgeport" for a time.

So here I sit thirty-five years later, I love to cook and I bake pies from scratch.

But the world has changed. Think of the fun to be recalled in 2043 when some forty-something brat will be writing mini-essays on how when he/she was ten, he/she stuck their fingers in their toy-oven, burnt them to shreds, sued Easy-Bake for Billions, and they are forever doomed to a life of store-bought baked goods.

Bon appetit, David


Will said...

One of my most vivid memories of early childhood was throwing a real screaming, thrashing tantrum on the floor of Woolworth's on west 72nd St. in New York at age 4. The reason was my parents' refusal to buy me a toy but fully functional electric mixer. It was green with cream colored detailing and I wanted it desperately.

I didn't get to cook, bake or do anything my parents felt might lead to my becoming "funny." I now do it all (I bake all our bread and am working my way through paella and Moroccan tagine recipes), having happily grown up and emerged very "funny" indeed.

Thanks for the comment on my blog--I loved it.

Brad Ross said...

Hello David...came across your blog by chance - was doing a Google search for, what else, toy ovens! I have quite a collection - including a few from childhood, that include the 1969 avocado Premier model Easy-Bake, the original turquoise model, a Canadian-made "Bake-O-Matic" (really cool, because the door opens like a real stove and the cooking plate slides out!), Suzy Homemaker -large size, and an old "Little Chef" from the 1940s that used a real heating element. Yes...I'm obsessed! But it is fun!

N.B. there are two bakeries in the U.S. where the owners display their toy oven collections for all to see - one in Los Gatos, CA., and the other is in Chicago.

Enjoyed reading about your memories!


Brad Ross said...

Hello David,

I enjoyed reading of your memories. I have an extensive collection of toy ovens (and always looking for more!). Yes, perhaps I'm a little obsessed, but it is fun! I collect other toys as well.

My collection includes two from my childhood - an avocado green "Premier-model Easy-Bake" as well as a Canadian-made "Bake-O-Matic", which was really cool because it had a door that opened like a real stove, and the cooking plate came sliding out.
Also in my collection are a large-size "Suzy Homemaker", the original 1964 turquoise "Easy-Bake", a "Junior Chef", and an old "Little Chef" from the 1940s that uses a real heating element (the top can actualy boil water - so I guess children used to be far more responsible!)

There are two bakeries, to my knowledge, that display their toy oven collections for their patrons to see. One is in Los Gatos, CA., and the other in Chicago.

Best regards...Brad