The Easy-Bake Oven Did Not Lose its Soul

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I love the Easy Bake Oven.

It was and still is my favorite toy. Sadly, the inventor of the Easy BakeEasy Bake Oven 1  Oven, Ronald Howes, passed away last year. I wish I could have met him and thanked him.

This week Salon featured a story about how Hasbro had to replace the oven’s original light bulb with a heating element. It was titled “The Easy-Bake Oven Loses its Soul”.

Although I don’t agree with the author’s conclusion, that the Easy Bake Oven is losing its soul, I particularly loved this paragraph:

Toys are not just for kids. As I've spent time playing with my girlfriend's crazy-adorable niece, … I find that much of the joy of a good toy is in adults' eyes — watching this tiny person do tiny person things, almost but not quite like how a grown person would do them. We watch them become engrossed, watch them explore the world of their imagination. We watch them stand or sit or tumble before us, but know that, in that moment, where they really are in their fantasy. It's getting a peek at that fantasy that draws me in, that sense of expansive creativity, of possibility that lives in children.

Many stories have been posted at GTN about the importance of toys. Richard, Ruth and I have written about how toys can affect one’s chosen profession. I’m sure the Easy Bake Oven played a big part in why, early in my own career, I sculpted cakes ala Cake Boss for a caterer. I was all about batters and icings.

I don’t think many of us have written here about the pure joy of watching a child play and our being part of their imaginative world of possibility and losing the adult world for awhile. The Japanese Buddhist terms satori or kensho come closest to describing this – a true feeling of enlightenment.

When my daughter played with her Easy Bake Oven, I knew exactlyEasy Bake 2  where she was in her fantasy. Recently, when she was in college, I sent her a new Easy Bake Oven with all the mixes for Valentine’s Day. She and her friends loved it. I think not just because it was unusual and fun at their age, but because it reminded them that life was not just exams and big decisions looming. The world was full of possibilities and they could be and do anything they wanted. We all need to be reminded of life’s possibilities on a regular basis.

I’m thinking an Easy Bake Oven would look really good in the corner of my office.

8 thoughts

  1. Outstanding post Mary! I remember my Easy Bake Oven, creating cakes with my friends, waiting anxiously while smelling the cakes bake and proudly serving them to the family. I loved that thing and it definitely influenced my love of cooking. Toys influence us in ways we never really consider as adults. Watching children play, create and imagine always makes me smile. Thanks for this post!

  2. Mary
    I don’t remember having an Easy Bake Oven but remember baking in my friend’s oven. I always had a sense that they were dangerous and wondered if cooking by a light bulb was okay. My now 11 year old daughter two years ago really wanted one for Christmas. My mom discouraged it and so I bought her real cake mixes and baking gear instead. She loves to cook and bake still and makes awesome cookies and pancakes. But now I wonder if I should have gotten her the Easy Bake Oven instead! hmmmmm…

  3. Great article Mary. My friend Jill was upset with her mom for years (lots of years) for not giving her an Easy Bake Oven when she was a kid. I think she was just as happy to get one a couple of years ago as she would have been when she was a kid. There’s just some magic in toys that doesn’t translate to other objects. I still fondly remember my Easy Bake Oven! You’re right, it sure would have been great to meet the inventor.

  4. Wonderful Mary. There’s a gap in my childhood where Easy Bake was supposed to be. I’ve reached the conclusion that it is not too late to fill that space.
    I’ve recently been studying Cincinnati’s toymaking legacy. I wish I’d begun my study sooner – I would have loved the chance to meet Ronald Howes as well. His story is another fine example of creative genius rising above a challenging start in life, to go on and do amazing things with his talents.

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