Thursday, January 30, 2014


My metal nemesis on the right.
My oven bit the dust last week.  Actually, my oven has been dying a slow, painful, lingering death for years now.  The thing has never baked evenly, necessitating the turning of every cake pan and cookie sheet midway.  Five years ago the electronic display that shows time and temperature and cooking mode started working only periodically.  My husband assured me this was not an issue and I simply needed to press in the display itself a few times until it lit up.  This worked...sometimes.  Three years ago the display went out entirely.  With no idea what the temperature inside actually was, I had to turn it on and then count by fives as I pressed the arrow, hoping that my addition was correct.  Did I mention my husband didn't see this as a problem either?

Six months ago the beast began crying out in pain.  Fifteen to twenty minutes into baking, the oven would started to beep insistently.  It very well may have been displaying some error code that I could have looked up in our manual, but, see, the display didn't light up...  The Vulcan saw this as no issue and explained, with that look of condescension typical of computer engineers and auto mechanics, that if I pressed the up arrow, then the down arrow, then pushed the display in, the beeping would stop.  This worked...sometimes.  With increasing frequency it didn't.  Last time the heating element was replaced I tried to have the display fixed, but was told the good old Magic Chef was so old they no longer made the part.  Still, my insistence on a new oven fell on deaf (and parsimonious) ears.  Had this been, say, the main television set acting this way or, heaven forbid, a computer monitor, it would have been handled long ago.  Not that I'm bitter.

During the holidays I got hollered at during the baking process and it failed to hush more and more frequently when I used my husband's technique of jabbing the various buttons.  This made for an interesting holiday season, especially when I needed to use it for 40 minutes straight for my candied sweet potatoes.  It yelled at me and I poked buttons and it quieted down...for three minutes.  Then it called me again.  Rinse and repeat.  I found myself standing in my living room, screaming at the ceiling so that my husband above in his office would know just how unhappy I was.  He pretended not to hear.

I've spent the last month with children home more often than not, thanks to snowstorms and arctic temperatures.  The Inmates picked January to decide to binge on cake and I baked them nearly as fast as they ate them.  And my temper got shorter and shorter.  No longer was the oven content to silence himself for a few minutes if I pushed his buttons just right.  Now he refused to shut up at all unless he was turned off completely.  If I shut it off all the way and let it sit for five minutes and then turned it on again, it went ahead and finished baking...sometimes.  And that thick-headed cretin my husband simply said, "It works okay for me." 

I am not saying he resembles my husband...
but you feel free to do so.
Why, you may ask, was he so reluctant to get rid of the oven?  Well, according to him, it was a very expensive oven.  He may be right.  It came with the house when we moved in 14 years ago and it was a well used piece of equipment at that time.  It was big and had a convection oven at the top which we never once turned on.  The former owners apparently lived a much different life than the Vulcan and I because after they left we continued to get their catalogs for $300 men's dress shoes.  My husband has a pair of loafers 25 years old.  So, I have no doubt these fine folks bought a really high quality oven.  But they bought it decades ago and I couldn't understand why that meant that if it stopped working we had to keep it.  I guess if somebody had willed us a 1905 Rolls Royce we'd still have it instead of the minivan despite the fact that it had no heat and had to be hand-cranked.  See, it was expensive...

I finally popped my cork last week when even my method of turning the oven completely off and back on stopped working.  I tried to make my grandmother's Swiss Steak recipe and spent hours running back and forth to the kitchen arguing with the oven to keep cooking.  I finally dumped the mess in a crockpot and emailed my husband asking if he wanted to go shopping on Wednesday or Thursday.  Not if.  I asked when.

Monday the Best Buy guys arrived with my new oven.  As they were preparing to haul the old one away, one of the deliverymen said, "Have you been cooking in this this morning?  The 'hot surface' light is on."  I had to explain that the light always stayed on and I hadn't used it since the night before.  He looked the old Magic Chef over and said, "Man, I haven't seen one like this in ages."  They had a good time trying to get it out as it was abominably heavy and bulky.  As they prepared to bring in my new unit, the guy called me out to the truck saying they unwrapped it and it was damaged.  Damaged?!?  Turns out it had a dent in the rear left portion and since it was going to go between cabinets and wouldn't show, I said I didn't care as long as it was functional.  I'm supposed to get a call from the warehouse about a price adjustment, but nobody's bothered to get a hold of me yet...  Not that I'm bitter.

So, the new unit was put in place.  Since the Magic Chef had an attached convection oven, it was a good 6 feet tall and just made it under the cabinet above.  Last time I painted the room I had no desire to try to move that mammoth thing, so I just painted around it, knowing that behind was off-white paint that would have to be covered some day.  What I didn't expect was the flash from the past that awaited me:

"Here's the story...of a lovely lady..."
Our house was built in 1978 and I can only assume I'm looking at a patch of the original wallpaper.  It's avocado and tangerine colored flowers and it's hideously beautiful.  I can only imagine when my entire kitchen was papered in that Carol Brady-style goodness.  As expected, I have a stove's width patch of wall to paint, but I'm thinking that wallpaper is gonna stay.  A groovy little stripe of history right above my range.  I mean, if you uncovered the foundation to an 18th century summer kitchen in your backyard while excavating for an inground pool, you wouldn't just pull out the bricks and discard, would you?  Well, maybe you would, but I wouldn't.  I love historical little bits and when you find something old and groovy that you didn't even know was there, you're obligated to preserve matter what husband or children say about the disgusting colors.

And to my old Magic Chef, I serenade you:


Anonymous said...

Ah- the background behind the band goes perfectly with the 70s strip above your stove.

steph said...

GREAT story!!! (my hubby got the idea quicker than yours.....i had mixer issues and our 'baking sessions' got increasingly louder--when i'd get ingredients thrown at me or if i turned my back, it would scoot across the counter and right on to the floor. I thought i had had some interesting holiday baking---until i read this!!!) happy endings for both of us.

Marcy said...

It's so cool how the colors in the wallpaper and the video match up! You deserve an award for putting up with that old oven for so long. Do you remember the old show "Bosom Buddies"? I have a vague memory of an episode in which they painted over their strange but beloved duck wallpaper for all but a square patch, and then they framed that patch. That's what I think you should do with this archaeological prize--paint around most of it so that it matches the rest of the room, but frame a patch to preserve.