I love cooking in all its forms. I have been enamoured with it ever since I was a little girl.
My granddaughter is now two and a half years old, just starting to help her mom in the kitchen. While we were visiting the grandkids recently, I was reminded of all the little things I remember doing as a junior helper, and a flash came to me of a very special toy from my childhood era—the Easy-Bake Oven.
I didn’t have an Easy-Bake oven. Play kitchens weren’t even common among my group of friends. We made what we called “cakes” out of dirt, and “cookies” out of grass clipping “dough” and pebbles (or what we called “chocolate chips”).
But when I made a friend midway through elementary school who had an Easy Bake Oven, I discovered a whole new reality. I’m not sure if I enjoyed that contraption more as a cooking device or a scientific experiment. After all, the baked goods were nothing to write home about (underbaked at best, and without much flavour). The premixed frosting was the tastiest part. I was more amazed that anything could be cooked with a light bulb in just a few minutes.
One of the first experiences I remember when I actually helped cook something in the kitchen was with a recipe my mom had for “Wacky Cake” (recipe link: https://happygourmand.wordpress.com/recipe-archives/chocolate-wacky-cake/ ).
The cake allowed for lots of leeway. Everything was mixed up in one pan, stirred by hand and baked easily in the same pan.
I loved watching the frothy egg-and-water mixture bubble over the dry ingredients. I was mesmerized by the changing textures that came from stirring the wells of oil and vanilla and vinegar to create a homogenous batter. If food chemistry had been a topic in school, I would have signed up immediately.
My friend’s Easy Bake Oven opened my eyes to the concept of innovation with a practical result. It wasn’t about learning how to be a good housewife, as some of the first miniature ovens for young girls were many years before. It showed me that I could think outside the box to find ways to share.
That early experience influenced me into directing my attention to sharing my gourmand nature. I love the scientific artistry of concepts like molecular gastronomy. However, I want to take the magic of good food and share it at home (or while camping or visiting loved ones).
Outlandish garnishes and exotic spices or condiments are more my style, as I can use them anywhere, in many ways.
I suppose I channelled the easy part of that Easy Bake Oven, as well as enjoying its innovation. Something I’ve learned as I have gotten older is that making things easier ups the odds for making them habits. We don’t need to eat cake every day, but that doesn’t mean we can’t feel indulgent by enjoying things we love.
Nowadays, there are many gadgets for the kitchen. My stepdaughter is typical, I think.Her family’s kitchen has a Vitamix blender, a Ninja coffee maker (with pods), a soda water machine, an air fryer, a Cuisinart mixer, a food processor and probably a few more gizmos I didn’t see in the cupboards. If those things help you enjoy your food and drink—especially if it’s healthy—then I say fill your boots.
But if you’re like me, and your favourite appliance is the retro electric frying pan that makes the best pancakes and taco meat, and the newest gizmo is a digital scale to use for baking, then I’m sending you a high five.
If the Easy Bake Oven can celebrate 60 years of business this year, then I believe we can all keep making fun food in whatever way works for us.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.