Food technology

Toys that really cooked

Turns out you can create a whole dinner menu based on foods made by toys. So we did. Bon appetit!

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    Wow Wee Toys

    Chuck E. Cheese Pizza Maker, 2009, Wow Wee Toys

    First course: Pizza

    We wanted to start our meal, as many Italians do, with a pasta course. But in the interests of good taste, we decided that Play-Doh spaghetti doesn’t really count. So we switched over to pizza, and were going to show you the late-’90s Chuck E. Cheese pizza toy that was clearly, er, “inspired” by the Easy-Bake Oven, in that it was a working oven. A ravenous plastic mouse sat on top, waiting for your pizza-from-a-mix to finish baking underneath. (If you’re curious, check it out on the fascinating samstoybox.com.)

    But then we came across this magnificent specimen of modern-day child-marketing cynicism, the Wow Wee Chuck E. Cheese Pizza Maker. It looks bright, neat, has the familiar mouse wielding a battery of pizza-making tools. But the toy turns out to be … a bunch of envelopes of dough mix you have to cook in your microwave. Your grown-up, real kitchen microwave. No, there is no actual pizza maker in the pizza maker kit, which is so disappointing that even the “sauce packet” (just add ketchup!) isn’t going to satisfy. It does create plenty of entertainment, though, in the form of irate Amazon buyers’ reviews.

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    Sababa Toys

    Snoopy Sno Cone Machine, 1979, various producers

    Second course: Palate cleanser

    To cleanse the palate, may we offer you a refreshing granita of ice, hand-shaved by tender children, and flavored with the finest neon syrups?

    If you’d like, I’ll even make yours myself with my soon-to-arrive Snoopy Sno Cone Machine, because I ordered it the minute I saw that they were still available. I seriously almost cried just seeing this, my head filling with memories of being 4 and getting the kind of toy you love so much right away that you take it to bed with you. (Just stop thinking whatever it is that you’re thinking.) Somewhere in my parents’ house, buried beneath pictures of my mullety middle school years and my first piano recital, there’s a picture of me tucking the plastic Snoopy into my favorite shirt so it would follow me around all day, like I was a real-life Charlie Brown. My parents, meanwhile, were kind enough to let their child walk around with a sno cone plunger sticking out of the collar of his shirt, despite the stares they got.

    (Sadly, I also couldn’t help noticing that the reviewers are pretty growly about this, too, calling it a “worthless piece of junk.” Ouch!)

  • Big Burger Grill, 1967, Kenner Toys

    Third course: Hamburger

    Baking little cakes from mixes in a light-bulb-fired oven is cute and all, but, um, do you really want your intrepid 6-year-old future-dad-in-training to be cooking actual meat on a light-bulb-fired hot plate? Don’t some things just scream “food poisoning” to you?

    Maybe the makers of the Big Burger Grill knew that, though, so they helpfully included packets of powdered maple syrup for the pancakes you might make on it instead.

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    Mattel

    Queasy Bake Cookerator, 2002, Hasbro

    Fourth course: Dessert assortment

    Producing delicacies like the “Mud n’ Crud”™ cake and other “Disgusting Delights”™, the Queasy Bake Cookerator was the stridently masculine, totally non-sissy, fiercely heterosexual version of the all pink ‘n’ ponies Easy-Bake Oven.

    Anyway, here was a conversation had here between one person too smart and one too old to have ever played with a Queasy Bake.

    Aviva: I guess it’s for boys who secretly wanted the Easy-Bake Oven. Oh look, it makes “Dip n’ Drool Dog Bones With Foaming Drool.” And a drink called “Blend-a-Booger.”

    Me: Boys are freaking dumb.

    Aviva: “Sewer Sludge Shake.”

    Me: Boys are freaking dumb, Part 2.

    Aviva: Yeah. I wonder why this toy went out of vogue.

    Me: Probs because boys were like, “This crap is stupid. I’m going to play video games that let me rip the heads of my enemies instead.”

    Aviva: Ha ha, yeah, even boogers aren’t gross enough to compete with that.

  • Incredible Edibles Makery Bakery, 1967, Mattel

    Fifth course: Mignardises and petits fours

    I have to confess that I looked at the Incredible Edibles Makery Bakery for a goodly amount of time before I could even tell what it actually did. I mean, it looks like something that comes standard issue when you enroll at Clown College, but then again, the more I thought about it, the more that seemed fine. Clown makeup, toy food, what’s the difference?

    Anyway, it turns out that the Makery Bakery was a heating contraption that would “cook” and set heat-sensitive flavored goos you squeeze into molds. Yummy! Being far too old-school a toy for me to have ever seen, I found reflections on the toy on the nostalgia site FeelingRetro.com. And boy, am I glad I wasn’t around for the Makery Bakery’s Reignery of Terrory:

    “I had burns all over my hands and arms from the ‘thingmaker’. I would never let my daughter play unsupervised with this! But those were the days of no seat belts, no sunscreen and bank tellers smoking.”

    “I was the only kid in 4th grade with an Incredible Edible Maker, and I felt really popular when the boys at school would beg me to make them bugs. I had a crush on a boy named Jimmy Maxfield and made a whole BOX of bugs for him, carefully wrapping them up and nervously delivering them to his house at Christmas time. I was just sure he would ask me to marry him when he opened it! His mother met me at the door and took the package, so I had to return home and WAIT til the next morning to find out how much he was going to love me. I wore my best dress to school, but when I saw him coming towards me, he didn’t look friendly. He growled out, ‘WAY TO GO! MY MOM MADE ME BUY THIS FOR YOU!’ and he beaned me (hard) with a little wrapped package. It seems his mother made him go shopping and buy a gift for me, which backfired and made him HATE me. Crushed, I took home his little package and opened it anyway. It was a little beaded coin purse, and I cherished it for years. I still have my cooker and all the pans, but no more goop. I wasted it all on Jimmy!!”

  • Vend-O-Mat, 1950s, Tell’s Chocolate Novelties

    For after dinner

    Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any toys that would distill booze for after-dinner drinks, but since we once had a decade called “The Fifties,” we’ve got your smoking jones covered! Yes, friends, this is a toy, meant for kids, that offers them the thrill of going up to buy a pack of cigarettes. Well, I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way!