Friday, January 3, 2014

Ned Ludd His Oven

I was truly warming up to modern kitchen technology, about to embrace the newfangled. And then my oven stopped working a few weeks ago. I have had a love-hate relationship with it since day one. I bought the oven because it fit the space in the counter and because there is no hood, it had to be a downdraft, which means Jennair. The stove top is actually quite good, serious flames, broad burners with decent control. As long as you don't turn the downdraft vent on, it works. The oven beneath, which I will readily admit I rode very hard, even abused, is less respectable. But it too did well, fitted with baking stones, even putting up with my chucking ice inside to make steam. Though the oven light did crack as a result. Still, it did an OK job baking. It even got hotter than the 550 degree limit.

It's the stupid little control panel, basically a clock radio, that is total crap. After maybe a year it would beep erratically, telling me to remove the meat probe. Trust me, I have never inserted my meat probe anywhere near it. I never did learn to program it, mostly because I don't want timers or bells and whistles. Actually the best oven I've ever owned, "flameboy" was discarded on the sidewalk by a friend and I took it home. It had nothing more than dials. Who needs to program an oven?? I should have kept flameboy when we moved about 15 years ago.

Anyway, this oven actually replaced the one that was already in the house, so it's only 5 or 6 years old. Then, out of nowhere, the computer panel stops working. The Sears repair man arrived, and he looked like something out of Mad Max with cyber attachments on his body. He diagnosed it and tells me that to replace the clock radio will cost 600 bucks. Might as well buy a whole new oven, for the same price. Even though everything else on it works fine. All I need it a knob! I hate this disposable culture of ours.

Then suddenly it starts working again. Wonder of Wonders! I used it all day on New Year's Eve. Baking pizzas, various hors d'oeuvres. I thought, ok, just another little touchy spell but everything's back in order.

No such luck. Yesterday the beast started not just beeping erratically, but wildly, maniacally. Trying to start itself on its own volition. BEEP BEEP, BEEP BEEP. Danger Will Robinson! Open the pod door Hal. The thing was truly possessed. I tried pulling it out and unplugging it. Impossible. Tried cajoling it. Tried necromancy. The beeping was driving me mad! Only one thing remained to be done. And let me tell you it was among the most satisfying of two seconds, taking the blunt end of a huge axe right to the little goddamned clock radio face and bashing it in with one swing. Beeping stopped instantly. The oven is dead. Long Live Ned Ludd!

So for the moment I shall be either using the toaster oven or will have to fire up the wood oven outside. Does anyone have any recommendations for a replacement? I'm seriously thinking of getting a vintage stove with nothing more than knobs. 


Anonymous said...

Well, at least you've made this reader laugh really hard!

It is true that appliances with the least number of complications to go wrong seem to last longer, and that's certainly a feature we look for...

Unknown said...

Now, that's a rant! Love it!

Anonymous said...

Ok, that made my day! What a great scene, all hail captain Ludd! I did have an oven with just a lever to control the gas, back in the Santa Cruz days on Beach Hill. Great stove but quite small. Maybe you will find son of flameboy?

Ken Albala said...

I'm going to look at Buckeye Appliance here in Stockton, right now. Fingers crossed.

Anonymous said...

Oh my! You've got me laughing out loud! They have a whole section on eBay for vintage stoves and ovens... and the cost seems reasonable. You can get one for use and 2 spares for the cost of your repair of the clock radio.

Unknown said...

Hi Professor Albala,
Off topic, but I just finished your teaching company course, heard this on BBC today and thought you might like it. Great course!

Ken Albala said...

That was really interesting! Thanks Hilary. I need to read the book now. Ken

Deana Sidney said...

I know people who are on their 3rd panels in 4 years at 300 a pop. they are stupid and so wasteful

I had a Chambers from the 1940s. Worked perfectly every time... even had a well for a soup pot with it's own burner and the best griddle ever. simple flat perfect. I would have one again in a heartbeat.