They were gathered around me like medical students crowding a hospital bed. They watched every move I made as if lives depended on their ability to bear witness.
And they were silent.
But it was my turn to ask the questions.
“How do you turn it on?” I asked the boy.
“This lever, right here, slides down,” he said, raising and lowering his hand in the air in front of him.
“How do you adjust the settings?” I asked the girl.
“I believe that knob underneath the lever has number markings. That's how you make adjustments.”
Tricky question: How do you interrupt the process in an emergency?
“Hit this button right there,” said the boy with a smirk. “The one that says 'Cancel'.”
OK, almost ready … One more question:
“What should you never, ever, ever, ever do. ... Not in a million years?”
And they answered in unison using the tone-deaf-sing-song voice of pre-adolescent apathy: “Stick anything metal into the slots. … We know, we know. ... Can we just make toast now?!”
This was a momentous occasion, after all.
We have never, ever, in the dozen or so years of being a family, owned a proper toaster.
If you wanted evenly crunchy bread to slather with butter and jam in our house you had one of three options:
1) Let it go stale.
2) Stand in front of the toaster oven and burn all your fingers (as well as the bread).
3) Go to a diner.
Your wondering why you're reading this right now, aren't you? You are wondering: What kind of person doesn't have a toaster? What kind of rube can't toast bread in a toaster oven?
Well, I'll tell you.
The kind of person who secretly calculates the cost ratio of oven-to-toast-product efficiency. And then asks: How many ovens in a kitchen is too many? We already have a convection oven, a microwave oven and a toaster oven, do we really need the smallest in the series of nesting ovens to crisp bread?
Oh, wait. … That was my husband back there. He was the one questioning my sanity and my counter space as I gushed over how the kids had made their own whole grain “toast flags” at grandma's house. How they'd even looked up nations' flags to accurately represent in stripes of peanut butter and jam. Not to mention how cute Japan's center looked in a bright red, homemade raspberry blend.
“For the sake of their global education, we need a toaster.”
So off to the department store we went.
Picked out a cherry of a toaster. Now, I can't be certain, because I didn't do any in-depth research into the purchase. But it sure looked like a snazzy device, with its name-brand logo, its bagel-sized slots, its one-touch cancel feature, and its easily removable crumb tray.
We would not be burning our house to the ground because we'd been unable to empty a more difficult crumb tray, no sir-ee.
As we stood there -- mouths watering for the taste of toast-y goodness -- I started to wonder why I've neglected this simple culinary pleasure.
Wondering why I'd ever settle for burnt-on-one-side-soggy-on-the-other substitute the toaster over spit out at me all these years when a toaster was always just a hardware-store impulse-buy away?
But then reality has a way of needling in, reminding me that “simple” has a way of getting complicated.
Turns out, I am also the same person who buys a toaster, plugs it into the wall, gives their kids a five-part tutorial on the safety and efficacy of using counter-top appliances only to find out the toaster is a dud.
That's right. It didn't work. Fresh off the shelf and out of the big box store and … Nothing. No light. No heat. No toast.
I was speechless.
“I say we zap it with the mixer,” laughs the girl. “I'll rub the beaters together and yell, 'clear!' That should get it working again.”
“Wait. Hold on. Hold on. ... Since when do we have a mixer?”