I was intrigued. Earlier this week, I received a press release announcing that Ottawa author and pop culture enthusiast Todd Coopee had just published a book entitled, Light Bulb Baking: A History of the Easy-Bake® Oven. Of course I had to read it.
You see, I have a long and complicated history with these little gizmos that have helped innumerable youngsters – mostly girls, according to the book – fulfill their earliest baking aspirations. Oh, how I longed for one – in either gold or avocado green – as a child. My ever-practical mother didn’t agree, but she did purchase some tiny little baking pans and a stash of Easy-Bake mixes so I could whip up miniature treats using her oven. I can still see my father smiling indulgently as I insisted he sample my latest tiny, sweet creation. When I finally got to try a friend’s real Easy-Bake Oven, I remember thinking that compared to a real oven, the amount of heat generated by a light bulb couldn’t possibly be enough for baking, but I know we eagerly stared through the little “watch it bake” window and ate the toy oven’s output nonetheless.
The book is described as the “first‐ever definitive retrospective of the Easy‐Bake® Oven” – and it certainly is replete with a tremendous amount of information about the development and marketing of this enduringly popular toy, as well as how the technology has evolved over the past 50 years. It also delves into other successes in the Kenner stable of products, which is a great trip down memory lane for any baby boomer. There are also some inventive recipes – with and without Easy Bake mixes in the ingredient list – including some Easy-Bake ‘Baker of the Year’ award winners.
As a life-long foodie, I’ve always been fascinated by the way food and cooking are marketed to kids. There have been a lot of ‘pretend kitchens’ and pretend food – usually plastic or plush – but nothing compares to the interactivity offered by an Easy-Bake oven. Todd seems to have captured that magic in the comprehensive book; he certainly did a lot of research, as evidenced by the lengthy bibliography. I am excited to think that millions of cooks today just might owe their interest in food preparation to a toy oven that gave them the capability and confidence to bake without supervision.
The iconic Easy-Bake oven was launched in 1963 and since that time, more than 30 million have been purchased. Todd himself is the proud owner of a substantial collection of vintage models, all of which will be on display at the book launch and book signing event, taking place Monday, November 4 from 5:30 – 8:00 pm at Art-is-in Bakery, 250 City Centre Avenue in Ottawa.