The Best Toy I Never Owned

Question of the day: What toy from your childhood do you miss the most and, if it broke, how?

This seems like a Christmas themed question. Let’s dive in.

The toy from my childhood that I miss the most did not belong to me.

It belonged to my best friend Salli. Salli lived across the street. Her dad was an up-and-coming lawyer – so up-and-coming that they did not stay long in that house and soon moved to a bigger house in a fancier neighborhood – but one Christmas, maybe around 1968, Salli got an Easy Bake Oven. It was so technical. So delicate. And it did the one thing that I wanted all toys to do from that moment on: give me chocolate food.

The Easy Bake Oven was a genius bit of homemaker training first introduced by Kenner in 1963. It was a working oven, if by working you mean it makes things slightly warmer under the heat of two small light bulbs. However, there were these cake mixes you could get that I think you would just mix with water maybe? and would magically “cook” in these itty-bitty little pans that fit snugly under the light bulb, er, in the oven, and they were so magically delicious I would have killed a leprechaun to get more.

 The first Easy Bake Oven model 

The first Easy Bake Oven model 

You know those moves that mark the protectiveness and fear-of-disaster of a new owner of an expensive piece of silicon wizardry or delicate workmanship of, say, a new computer or guitar when they are trying to show it off to you but afraid that you might push a hidden self-destruct button, or drop it from a height of 19 feet onto concrete, even if you are currently in a carpeted room on the ground floor? You know that thing where they give a thing to you but do not remove their outstretched hands? Just in case? That is how Salli treated her Easy Bake Oven, which is exactly how I would have treated MY Easy Bake Oven if I had one. But as the covetous friend, being the one on the receiving end of this treatment was frustrating, even though I realized, even at the age of what? Six? That this was EXACTLY how I would act. Still. I wanted that cake.

That Cake! For those of you who are of a certain age to remember those light-bulb-baked cakes, what was it about those cakes? Was it the heavy-duty chocolate flavor? Because those little guys were made of a chocolate that is probably now either too expensive or illegal to produce. Was it the density? The chemicals that are probably now on the FDA Hazardous Materials list? Was it one of those or was it that I was six and my taste buds were amped up beyond crack-level at the excitement of waiting SEVERAL MINUTES for our little cake in that little round mini-pan to come out of Salli’s VERY OWN OVEN. WE HAD THE POWER OF CHOCOLATE. I don’t remember ever feeling that much anticipation.

 About the diameter of a pancake and about the height of a brownie, these babies were my world.

About the diameter of a pancake and about the height of a brownie, these babies were my world.

I tried to not eat more than my share when it came out of the oven, but it took all my willpower to not snatch and snarf it in a corner. When we weren’t playing with the Easy Bake Oven, I was thinking about playing with it. Even when I wasn’t anywhere near Salli’s house I spent a lot of time thinking about those cakes. THOSE CAKES.

Access to Easy Bake Oven cakes depended on so many things outside my control: Salli had to ask me to play at her house, she had to feel like playing with her Easy Bake Oven (after a while it did not hold the same fascination for her that it did for me), and most crucially, her mom had to have purchased some specialty Easy Bake Oven cake mixes. Such a gauntlet of circumstance existed between me and the object of my obsession.

Eventually, Salli moved on, moved to the fancy house, grew tired of the whole pretend-cooking thing, and got lots of newer, more interesting toys, but I never really did. I'm sure she grew tired of my casual, hey-wouldn't-it-be-a-gas-to-get-out-that-Easy-Bake-Oven hints. To this day, one of my favorite foods is home-cooked brownies straight from the oven, the closest grown-up food to one of those little mini-cakes.

Unlike your obsession with that Daisy air rifle, (I’m assuming), there’s no going back for me. The Easy Bake Oven is still a thing, but not really. It now looks like a spaceship and has a real heating element in it instead of a light bulb.

 What the eff? If you grasp the two handles will you see through time?

What the eff? If you grasp the two handles will you see through time?

Even if you found a 60’s era oven, Betty Crocker has long since stopped making the cake mixes chemically perfected for light bulb cooking. I know there’s room for improvement in my obsession; one nut even wrote a light bulb cookbook. But (a) I may be crazy but I’m not a nut and (b) I have a real oven and access to real food. My obsessions are limited by time and apathy. But if somebody offered me a bite of a real-life old-school Easy Bake Oven mini-cake, it would still take all of my grown-up willpower not to snatch and snarf.

What was your favorite toy?