When I was a kid, my favorite book around the holidays was the Christmas catalog. Between that and commercials in between cartoons on Saturday mornings, I always knew the things that would bring me happiness. I can't remember exactly how old I was when I coveted a Suzy Homemaker oven that really baked. I didn't know just how it baked, but the commercials showed little girls my age pulling out cute little cake pans with baked cakes in them, and then the finished product: charming little frosted layer cakes the perfect size for a tea party.
It's really a good thing for a kid to have time to want something. That allows the most fun of a toy: the fantasy. For probably a year I dreamed of how adorable, how fun it would be to make the little cakes, the little pies, the tiny cookies. I'd make them by the dozen; I'd serve them to my sisters and my friends. I would heat up little pots of soup or hot chocolate on the burners. It would be my VERY OWN kitchen appliance! Now, just so you know, I was already baking and cooking things in the regular appliances in our kitchen. This just seemed so much more personal!
Lo and behold, I got one for Christmas! It looked just like the picture except mine was an earlier model that had silver colored burners. From the beginning, there was one minor setback- the burners were just for looks; they didn't heat up. Oh well, I could enjoy pretending. When we opened the box, we found out how the oven cooked: a 100 watt light bulb. It hadn't occurred to me that there wouldn't be a regular burner, but I was game to try it.
Along with the Suzy Homemaker oven, I got a wonderful assortment of miniature pots and pans. There were tiny animal cookie cutters and a cookie sheet, various pots with lids, little metal fry pans, and a little muffin pan that made little bundt shaped muffins that was only about 3" by 4". I couldn't wait to get started.
We didn't buy the little cake packets made for it; we bought the little boxed Jiffy Cake Mixes and I tried to be sparing about how much batter I put in the little prepared pan.
Do you know how long it takes for a 100 watt light bulb to bake a chocolate cake 4 inches in diameter and about 3/4 inch high? About an hour. But that wasn't the worst part. Of course it ran over, since it's almost impossible to fill a pan that small only halfway. When I saw what was happening, I tried to open the oven door to wipe it up before it baked on, but the door was locked! It had a temperature-controlled safety switch that kept tender little fingers from burning themselves on the hot oven contents. So I had to finish baking the cake, then unplug it, then wait about another 20 minutes for it to cool down enough to release the safety switch. My intentions had been to bake two layers and then frost them in a pretty little layer cake-ette, but I was hungry by then, and ate it straight out of the pan. Then I scraped up the spill.
If I were my mom at that time, I would have ripped out the safety device and let my budding cook use potholders like normal people!
Though the oven lacked a great deal in practicality, it had a lot of play value. My dolls and I cooked a lot of little pots of dirt-water soup. My fondest memory is of the summer that my Grandma McConnell stayed with us. She made me a batch of sugar cookie dough for my oven. I kept the ball of dough in the refrigerator, making a couple of little sheets of animal cookies every day for weeks, it seems. I remember her in the kitchen with me, cleaning things, talking to me as I rolled out my little patch of dough, making cookies and baking them in my Suzy Homemaker oven with the 100 watt bulb. I like thinking back on that time. Thank you Suzy Homemaker!