|My favorite thing to make in my no-temperature-setting "oven toaster": bread.|
I grew up calling it an "oven toaster". When I decided to buy a new one for myself, my online research kept telling me that it's a "toaster oven". Thanks to my Japanese trainees (and some helpful netizens), I learned that it's a Japanese thing — the name and the machine.
If you know, you know. You probably have or had it at home, too. That small box that calls itself both oven and toaster, and kind of does neither. There's no temperature setting, only source of heat options. The timer never works. But it works.
It's complicated and beautiful and has changed my life, so here's me singing my oven toaster praises by way of an ode (I don't think I've ever written one before).
Ode to the Japanese oven toaster
Precision is none of your business.
A second more yields the blackest bread;
A second less and breakfast's a pale mess.
Half toaster, half oven, one's a fool
To seek perfection in either.
The critics laugh. Yes I am mad.
Stripped of haute pretenses,
I learned to tame you. In time
We pulled off a knockout roast,
Baked sweet potatoes, pies,
A cake to pass an entire Sunday's
Worth of loneliness. Friends tease
Out my bachelorette life,
But you're the real mystery,
My kitchenette's box of surprise.
You make me dare, you make me bold.
Is it the tool that makes the master?
The year is 2020. My, a machine
Made in Japan is keeping me company!
We shall stay at home
As long as diseases spread 'round
The world and leaders can't be trusted
With the numbers.
I wake up to find your metal skin
Gleaming by the window
Where I choose to see a future brightened
By feast and fair labor. And me,
Cooking in a changed country with you
Who assumes so little a space in my dream.
—Razel Estrella (August 2020)