At my age, and probably far before it, playing with your food is frowned upon. However, there is a massive market for toys that allow you the joy of playing with your food and creating strange concoctions that you can then gleefully partake in. I have to say my participation within this market has always been full of vigor but most often led to disappointment. Though I do believe that these toys are great as stepping stones for kids to get into cooking and to exert power over their own meals (muahaha).
Yes, I had an Easy Bake oven. In fact, I had two. The first I got Christmas morning probably when I was 6 years old. It was the original pink, white, and purple, and I could not wait to open it. So much so, that my brother and I disobeyed our parents orders to wait for them to put it together and decided we knew how to screw in a lightbulb. Or so we thought. We (probably me, I will take the blame) installed the bulb incorrectly and in trying to take it out it shattered. If you know anything about Easy Bake ovens you know the lightbulb is the most important part and that every other piece is just superfluous nonsense. So, in fact, I never used it. Fast forward a few years and I had somehow coerced my parents into buying me an Easy Bake Real Meal oven and I was thrilled. Not only could I bake all the sugary delights my heart desired, but I could also make mac and cheese and pizzas. DELICIOUS. Or so I thought. The dry brittle creations that came out of that oven were so horrid that I don’t think I even finished the food packs that came with it and I turned to my very real oven and made myself a snack.
Though I knew the food that came out of these machines could never compare to what came out of my oven, I had an obsession (shoutout to marketing companies of the late 90’s/early 2000’s, you had me hooked). The presentation always seemed so simple “just add water” “in 90 seconds” “you can do it all on your own” that even as I matured I still found those vintage toys kitschy and sweet. For many people, they were the first to introduction to creating their own food and perhaps one of the most important steps towards becoming an independent adult. I transitioned directly from these toys to the kitchen and a happy life making dry brittle food by my own hands (lol jk its delicious). Often what these toys were able to highlight was the process. You can put a plate of food in front of anyone and often they will not appreciate it as much as the chef, the one who poured their blood, sweat, and tears into your bechamel (haha ew). Think of the home cook who puts a plate in front of their unappreciative spouse or children and is greeted with “ew” and “I don’t like this” or “God can we order takeout?” These are blows to the ego for sure but they result because of a lack of respect for the process. These toys showed so many children across the globe that their caretaker was actually taking care to prepare their meals. I got a Baskin Robbins homemade popsicle set as a gift when I was 5 or 6. The goal was to mix up different flavored powders with cream or water then churn the popsicle molds through ice cold water. My father and I spent at least 3 hours at the kitchen table and still ended up with runny ice cream that wouldn’t adhere to the popsicle stick. However, I don’t think I’ve ever complained about the homemade ice cream my grandmother makes each year, nor the hundreds or thousands of meals my father has made me (except for split pea soup, that is not for me).
I recall afternoons baking with my younger cousin (a notoriously picky and vocal eater) and seeing his appreciation for food grow before my eyes. Allowing him to prepare his own food gave him respect for the effort and an a treat by the end of the day. As a crowning achievement, I’ve never heard him complain about my food. All of this is to say: yes, the product from these toys will most likely be disgusting. I’ve included pictures of my recent foray into food toys with Kracie Popin Cookin’s Ramen set. Yet I have to say, the product was a flavor I hope to forget, but the way there was pretty fun. It still amuses me to play with my food and I think there is still so much to learn when it comes to cooking, that is ALL in the process and not at all in the end.
Sometimes, you just gotta trust the journey.
And throw up the product.
Play well piggies.