The art of toast / toasting the arts

The toaster in the hotel room gave off an interesting flash and a zap noise the other day, and now it only toasts on one side of each slot; the middle element is burned out. It wasn’t a very good toaster to start with, and having to take the bread out and turn it around wait to toast the other side was reminding me of the days before autoreverse cassette decks. The hotel room has no oven either, just a third-rate microwave, which has been cramping our culinary style a lot and causing excessive amounts of eating out.

We had a toaster oven in Cambridge. It had previously been Laura’s, and had been exchanged for food before she moved away. It hadn’t been very good at making toast either, but we hadn’t been planning a long term relationship with it. A combination of neglect and difficulty of cleaning had meant that it had gradually accumulated grime inside until it began to give off interesting smells and occasional smoke during use. So, it had been given to some guys who had turned up with a truck to scavenge from our kerbside leavings. (I’d posted an open invitation to a couple of mailing lists.)

The toaster before that had always been hopelessly unpredictable, requiring constant supervision when making toast. Then one day it just stopped working altogether. It didn’t seem to have any kind of fuse, so it became toaster roadkill.

Still, that was a less spectacular failure than our first toaster oven, which I had set fire to in Malden by trying to cook tacos. Anyhow, point being, my experience with toaster ovens has been pretty negative. But it was clearly time to buy another one, so this time I was determined to get one that wasn’t going to break, catch fire, prove impossible to clean, or only toast one side of the bread.

You wouldn’t think it was that hard to design a toaster oven. I mean, basically it’s just a box with two electric heating elements in, a door on the front, and a sliding shelf. However, looking at this one I can see that it has a number of features that our previous crappy toaster ovens have lacked.

For starters, it has proper thick heating elements, rather than bits of wire wound around circuit board that burn out after a few months. It also takes the revolutionary approach of having identical heating elements top and bottom, so that the stuff you cook can be heated evenly on both sides.

Also unlike previous units, this one is designed to be cleanable—they’ve actually bothered to teflon-coat the inside. The final piece of toast-making rocket science is that the rack for the toast can be placed in the middle, equidistant from the two elements, so that both sides of the bread end up equally toasted.

Switching gears, today was the East Austin Studio Tour day. Dozens of local artists got together to open their studios to the public. Many of them laid on coffee, cookies, snacks, and a few even had alcoholic beverages available. We got a Christmas gift for my aunt and uncle, and sara got some amazing handmade arm warmer things.