Requiem for a Toaster

As near as we can figure, it dates from 1999 – a gift to christen the newly renovated kitchen at our previous house. It was ever the cheerful toaster, like a ray of sunshine in the gloom of west Michigan (what KitchenAid refers to as ‘Majestic Yellow’). With a somewhat retro appearance, it has browned innumerable loaves of bread and untold truckloads of pop-tarts.

Only in the last year or two had it begun to show signs of aging. The large plastic tab used to lower product into the chamber and begin the toasting process worked its way loose, causing one’s thumb to sometimes slip during the downward push. A minor inconvenience for such a trustworthy friend.

Its demise was swift and, I can only hope, painless. While some might label me as lazy, I like to think that I was saving energy. During reconnaissance in the bowels of the freezer, where half-bags of tater tots and long forgotten veggie sausage patties lie in cryogenic stasis, slowly becoming entombed in ice crystals, I came across some Trader Joe’s hash browns. Pre-formed, like what you might get at McDonalds, but without the ‘golden arches’ guilt. Just the thing to break me out of my breakfast rut of toast and a banana. I would resurrect the hash browns, maybe throw a fried egg on top, a little OJ…

I was already salivating as I pulled them from their frosty sarcophagus.

But my anticipation was put on hold when I read the instructions. 15 minutes in a 400 degree oven. Seems like an excessive output of energy for one measly hash brown patty (imagine my family’s joy at having Captain Planet in their midst). So I opted for the toaster. It would probably take a few cycles with the browning control set to 11, but the process would still come no where near expending as much fossil fuel as the oven.

In it went, with me leaning over the bread slot to keep an eye on how brown it was getting. And a smug smile on my face for having outwitted the energy wastrels at the TJ’s test kitchen.

The fatal flaw in my plan – as the patty warmed, it also softened. So much so that when the toaster timer hit its limit and tried to pop up, the patty had slouched casually to one side, catching on the wire innards of the chamber and keeping the mechanism from fully ejecting. A fork meant to dislodge the flaccid potato cake proved ineffective, merely tearing pieces loose that then tumbled into the guts of the toaster. All I could do was tip the entire kit and caboodle over and shake violently until the patty fell limply to the counter, along with untold years worth of bread crumbs.

And when I set the toaster back and went to put the patty in for a second time because, well, it wasn’t done, the locking mechanism that keeps everything in the down position no longer locked.

At that moment I thought I heard the sound of ‘Taps’ being played…gently.

Even bringing all my formidable handyman skills to bear (which in cases such as this usually involve banging on the recalcitrant device with varying degrees of force) wasn’t enough to mend its broken soul. It still heats up, mind you, as long as you stand there and hold the lever down, so while I take issue with my wife’s contention that I killed the toaster, it’s probably fair to say that it has been dealt a crippling blow.

It was the trendsetter, the first of its color. And our kitchen here in Colorado was slowly built around it. The mixer, purchased in the same ‘Majestic’ hue, the backsplash chosen for its hints of pale yellow, the matching butter dish, salt box, sugar bowl and wall pockets that contrast so nicely with the smoky green cabinetry. So nothing else will do. And, of course, it’s been discontinued.

My place in Hell has been secured.

If you need me, I’ll be standing at the kitchen counter, holding down the toaster lever while scouring the interwebs on my phone, seeking a replacement. Seeking redemption. But mostly because I just can’t face another kitchen remodel.

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