27 August 2012


When I was little, I had an Easy Bake Oven. I think it came with two miniature round cake pans and a handful of mixes for cakes that would fit the tins.  One of the reasons my memory is so spotty is that my sister and her friend spent the afternoon with me making every cake combination possible with the mixes at hand. I don't think we used it after that.

When I bought my apartment in the suburbs of New York, my then boyfriend bought a glorious stainless steel European beast of an oven with iron burner casings that made the top into one cooktop. Back then, he was more interested in cooking and I just thought it looked awesome, so I was down. I even had the plumber move the gas line so it could be on the particular wall I wanted. It came in handy when a friend gifted us with too many oysters and I made a couple of oyster pies, it helped make perfect pizzas and cookies cooked in the expected twelve to fifteen minutes. I was happy. He was happy. All was well with the world, or at least our world of cooking.

When we first moved to Italy we took an apartment, like many here, sans cucina. The thought was, in the beginning we wouldn’t be spending too much time at home (and we were right) and we would eventually get something small yet functional, maybe from Ikea or from a restaurant supply store. Y’know, all stainless steel counter tops, shelves, sink and maybe a work table with a small, inexpensive oven and cooktop that would have to be hooked up to a bombola that would get hauled up all six flights of stairs and switched out when empty. Things didn’t really work out. We ended up spending six months with a purloined mini fridge that you’d expect to find in a bar holding Gatorade and one electric burner. We washed our dishes in the bathtub.

When we moved here, we were thrilled to find an apartment that was both big enough to house all of our furniture and had a kitchen. A twenty year-old kitchen, but a kitchen still. Turns out, the space-age Smeg dishwasher is a little too funky inside for me to tackle with the cleaning prodcuts. The set-in lava rock grill and deep-fryer trip the breaker as soon as they’re turned on. The stove is good, though. Some of the burners make a scary “sshhhhh” noise, but it’s hooked up to mainline gas, which means no lugging and connecting propane tanks so I’m happy. The oven, though? The oven is on the other side of the kitchen, set above a cabinet behind a marble peninsula. I am short. It is difficult for me to open the door, reach in and grab things without wedging myself between the door and the island and my reach is not so “reach-y” when the door is hitting my solar plexus. I’m like the little kid swinging at the big kid whose hand is on my head, holding me at arm’s length. But that’s ok. I can work around that. The bigger problem? The real problem? I can’t set the temperature above 175° Celsius. That’s around 347° F. If I do, the breaker trips which usually means that flipping the switch by the front door will do nothing and someone will have to make a trip to the bottom of the building to flip the breaker down there. But that’s not even the worst part. The worst part is that even though the dial is set for 175° C, that is not how hot the oven gets. If it did, it wouldn’t take five hours to cook a chicken. Or forty five minutes to bake cookies.

But, y’know, I have an oven. I can bake things. It’s quite an improvement. I really shouldn’t complain.  

Once it cools off around here, I’m going to try to make bagels. It just might take an entire weekend…..

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