Before closing down my former blog, I joked that in the new one I might write about toasters. Susan read it and asked "Really?" So why not begin with an essay about my toaster...
This toaster is for me the essence of Italy because: 1. It is very stylish 2. It is quite expensive; and 3. It does not make toast particularly well.
I fell in love with Italian toasters during my first visit there because they are so decidedly non-American. They feature no "programmed settings" or bells and whistles. They are useless for things that should not exist anyway, like "toaster pastries." They do not even pop up: the user removes one of the baskets, inserts a piece of bread (any size or shape), drops the basket into the slot and turns the wheel of the mechanical timer. An Italian toaster is a simple, friendly, happy device.
When we returned to Italy, we rented a villa to share with our kids. To my great consternation, the villa had no toaster. So I went to Stephan's, the Italian discount chain, and purchased one for fifteen bucks. It was a lovely shade of green and it brought me great joy (my children, sad to say, appeared to be underwhelmed by its charms). I brought it home with me, of course.
Problem was, it was a 220 volt toaster. So I had to purchase a step-up/step-down transformer that cost far more than the toaster itself did. The toaster made several pieces of fine toast, then fried itself to death (anyone need a transformer?)
I was now out about sixty bucks and had no toaster. I searched the Internet and found the only Italian-style toaster that ran on 110 volts, one that was designed for sale in art museum gift shops and therefore obscenely priced. At least I got a discount on it.
Please note that it features two lights. The red one on the left indicates that the toaster is plugged in. This light is very important, because the instructions strictly warn that the toaster should never be left plugged in. Presumably this is because leaving the toaster plugged in might burn out the bulb that indicates that the toaster is plugged in.
The light on the right indicates that you are in the act of toasting, important knowledge that is reinforced by the very loud ticking of the mechanical timer. It ticks for a very long time, because it requires a very long time to make a piece of toast: Italians do not believe that anything should ever be done in haste (except, of course, driving).
Not everyone will share my love for overpriced, underperforming Italian toasters. But everyone should have at least one stylish, impractical thing that they love for no other reason than that it brings a smile to their face each time they use it. Just remember to unplug it when you are done.