The toaster is the best appliance ever. Read this, and then prove me wrong.
The first appliance ever gifted to me was a toaster—your basic, everyday, two-slot variety. No frills.
I had just graduated high school and was preparing for life in the college dorms. When I moved to campus, I brought with me a goldfish named Martin, extra-long twin-size bedding, an electric water kettle, and that toaster. My meal-prep resources were limited, but my ambition was not.
I spent the first semester eating way too much pizza and watching way too many episodes of Friends (pre-syndication) and fell into the poor-food-choice trap most freshmen encounter. It became quickly apparent, I had to dig myself out.
By the second semester, on a budget—and now on a diet—I knew I had to become more creative with food preparation and consumption. My roommates joined in, and we set out to redefine college cuisine. It was a challenge: could we turn this around with just hot water and a toaster? Perhaps, but it would take some creativity.
First, we sought out a mix of frozen and fresh foods. Taking advantage of the community refrigerator was risky (thefts were problematic), but we packed it full of frozen veggie burgers, sweet potato thins, and hash browns. In the fresh produce aisle, we grabbed things like avocados, asparagus, lettuce, pears, and bananas. We quickly discovered "toaster bags," which allowed us to smash things together and pop them into burn-proof toasting sacks (who knew these existed?).
Using the bags, we made ultra-melty pizza bread, gooey grilled cheese sandwiches, veggie-patty melts, and smashed PB&Js with bananas. Twice-toasted sweet potatoes, and hash browns served as an ideal base for flat layering avocado slices with cream cheese, pears with honey, and ham and pepper hash topped with spinach or arugula. Even flour tortillas popped in the toaster could be crisped to make taco pizzas or flatbreads for dipping.
With the electric kettle, we made teas, lattes, soups, grits and oatmeal bowls, instant potatoes, and, of course, ramen and macaroni noodle cups. Each served as sides to our toasty main dishes. Had we known then what we know now, we probably would have added a rice cooker to the mix (see next page for other small appliance must-haves).
Did we quit eating take-out? Nope. I mean, pizza night is pizza night. No gadget will change that.
But, we did expand our minds, our appreciation for fresh foods, and our palates (woot!)—and all thanks to a $15 toaster.