In Search of Lost Toaster Ovens

toaster ovenBack when I was an impressionable college freshman, the faculty-in-residence who lived three doors down from my suite left a toaster oven outside her door. Now, at the time, I was a simple-minded and perhaps naïve 18-year-old suburbanite who had been raised on a toaster and with the idea that a toaster oven was needlessly decadent. We have a toaster, we have an oven; why combine them into one appliance that doesn’t perform either of those tasks better?

Thus it was with confusion and, in the end, indifference that I met my roommate’s excitement about the prospect of claiming the toaster oven—old and dirty and clearly bound for the garbage—in our room. As college freshmen, we possessed neither a toaster nor an oven, and Seth (this roommate’s name was Seth*) proudly detailed all the glorious meals a toaster oven would add to our lives. I was skeptical and, like I said, indifferent.

*Although, to be honest, it may have been the other roommate.

And I remained so even when Seth’s attempt to haul the toaster oven the 15 feet back to our room was interrupted by the RA, citing the prohibition of all toasting apparatuses in freshman dorm rooms. This was a surprising occurrence for several reasons:

1. This same RA was notoriously negligent, to the extent that he did not notice when five of us pilfered a couch—which, you might recall, is somewhat larger than a toaster oven—from the third floor of our residence hall—which required us to move it a lot more than 15 feet and even maneuver it awkwardly around one of those dastardly 180-degree stairway turns seemingly designed to prevent the transportation of large furniture. Not only did the RA not notice the act of the couch’s pilfering, which is somewhat excusable given that he can’t be expected to see everything, but he also failed to notice, for six weeks mind you, that a couch was positioned precariously atop two dressers right as you walked into our room (let’s just say that we three disorganized people didn’t use our limited floor space very efficiently, and did what good urban planners do: We built up). Sure, our room was in the corner of the residence hall, and you couldn’t see the couch from well down the hallway, but our door was like, always open. If he ever ducked his head into his room, he would have seen it. In fact, this is how he saw it six weeks later, when he said, “Whoa, this doesn’t look like it should be here.” It is conceivable and in fact likely that the negligent RA would NEVER have spotted the toaster oven had Seth (or unnamed other roommate) succeeded in picking up the small object and walking it 15 feet—I mean, like five steps—back to our room.

2. I’m pretty sure I knew at the time that toasters and toaster ovens were prohibited in dorm rooms—I did miss toast, after all—but don’t remember registering any disgust at this act of big University at the time. In retrospect, though, isn’t banning toasters and toaster ovens from dorm rooms a little ridiculous? College is supposed to be when we mature and learn to live on our own, and pretty much everything else is left up to our discretion: We choose whether to go to class, we choose what classes to take, we choose whether to drink underage, we choose whether to have unprotected sex or not. They were fine with our unsupervised operation of a microwave, which strikes me as at least as dangerous as a toaster oven and much more dangerous than a toaster.* They even let us use a communal oven on the first floor, which is definitely more dangerous than either toasting apparatus and was placed in a more centralized (i.e. dangerous) location. And in the end, can a college really confidently “send us forth” into the world without the know-how to operate a toaster oven?

*In college, you learn that there are a LOT of things people think they can put in a microwave that they actually can’t.

3. If toaster ovens were prohibited from dorm rooms—and they were—why did the faculty-in-residence leave hers outside her door? There is a standard of procedure in which, if I think my garbage is worth something to you, I leave it outside my door or my driveway for you to take. But the only possible takers for her toaster oven were students who weren’t allowed to have the item she’s giving away. Either she herself was unaware of the rule—thereby justifying my own retrospective anger at it—or she was part of an undercover sting operation with the negligent RA to catch someone in the act of procuring the illegal toaster oven. The sting seems likely, until we consider the complete lack of payoff. Seth (or unnamed other roommate) was not punished; in fact, the RA didn’t even walk him back to our room. If he had, he would have (conceivably) noticed the missing couch from the third floor.

What I basically want to say, though, is that, when this whole toaster-oven-rejection deal happened because of our RA, I didn’t care. I was far more upset about losing the couch a few weeks later, since, although I was not even a secondary architect of the couch stealing plot, I was inarguably its chief beneficiary (I loved that thing). And you know, I didn’t know what I was missing with the toaster oven. Like I said, I was pretty indifferent about the whole thing. I didn’t think twice about what I was missing, even when for the rest of the week Seth (I’m pretty sure—like 95%–by now that it was indeed Seth) would say things like, “Man, I’d like me some old-fashioned grilled cheese today, from a toaster oven” or “I could really go for some toast right now” or “Thank God the RA didn’t let us have that toaster oven because I much prefer my Pop Tarts at room temperature.”

And in fact, I didn’t think twice about this loss of the toaster oven until four nights ago, when, for my birthday, my parents presented me with none other than a Black & Decker toaster oven.

What happened in the interceding years, you say? Well, by virtue of off-campus apartment life and the insistence of yet another unnamed roommate, I learned that a toaster oven is far more than the ugly conjoined commingling of a toaster and an oven. Indeed, it takes the one thing I use a toaster for (toasting four slices of bread for my patented triple-decker peanut butter and jelly sandwich) and the one thing I use an oven for (reheating day-old pizza) and does them both more efficiently. I can toast all four slices of bread at the same time in a toaster oven, and reheating pizza in the toaster oven takes roughly half the amount of time it does in a traditional oven. In just four days, I have already saved myself literally a dozen minutes in food preparation.

The point of all this isn’t just that toaster ovens are perhaps underappreciated; I can’t say they are, because a lot of people I know—starting with Seth—have been bestowing the proper amount of appreciation upon toaster ovens for years. The point is that all of us have misjudged the metaphorical toaster ovens in our lives and haven’t thought twice about that missed opportunity to transform our perception. And we’re not always lucky enough to have multiple roommates confidently espouse the virtues of said metaphorical toaster ovens.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a sandwich to make.

9 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by soulmerchant on October 30, 2009 at 4:52 PM

    If I’m correct, your faculty in residence was Carol Flath, who is insane. That pretty well explains #3. Nos. 1 and 2, you’re on your own.


  2. Posted by Josh on October 30, 2009 at 6:48 PM

    Carol Apollonio Flath was and is not insane.


    • Posted by Carol Apollonio on December 15, 2009 at 1:59 AM

      Thank you for that kind judgment. It warms the heart.

      And just to set the facts straight: I never have left a toaster oven outside my apartment door. That would be littering.


      • Posted by David Wedekind on May 28, 2010 at 8:27 PM

        Если you’ re испуганный пожаров, не приводится в действие малую печь.


  3. Posted by Dan on October 30, 2009 at 10:54 PM

    I was going to cite the pizza thing as number 1 reason to combine toaster and over, but you beat me to it (albeit belatedly in the post).

    I also have no opinion about Carol, but I am assuming I can guess/name unnamed roommate #2.


  4. Posted by Josh on October 31, 2009 at 11:26 AM

    The other thing that toaster ovens are great for is grilled cheese. I know that’s not part of your diet, Tim, but for the rest of us, having to use the stove or a combination of the toaster and microwave for grilled cheese is a significant pain.

    I’m no toaster advocate but toasters I’ve experience are generally a bit faster than toaster ovens.


    • Posted by Tim on October 31, 2009 at 4:53 PM

      Toasters probably do toast a little bit quicker, BUT that is negated both by the fact that I can do four pieces of bread at a time in a toaster oven and by my own personal preference for very lightly toasted bread.


  5. Posted by Dan on October 31, 2009 at 2:17 PM

    Larry David had something to say about this …


  6. Posted by John S on October 31, 2009 at 9:04 PM

    I will point out that if your toaster only has two slots in it, you are probably using a pretty primitive toaster…That’s like using a cell phone that doesn’t have Internet access.


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