On Doing Without


Quite a long while ago, back in January, our little toaster oven died. Rest in peace, dear one! It was a Black and Decker that we bought at a yard sale for two dollars. Man, did that toaster oven pay for itself many times over. Let’s just say there was a lot of burnt cheese in its crumb tray. I started looking for a new one pretty quickly. No toast! Whatever shall we do!? I was looking at this Panasonic Flash Express, which sounds crazy, like something I played my Haircut 100 tape on in eighth grade. It actually has a lot of good reviews for a toaster that’s sort of a step up from the run-of-the-mill models but not some Breville craziness. I’m not going to spend $200 on a toaster, for goodness sakes.

As it happens, I ended up sort of letting the toaster oven thing go to the back of my mind. I have commitment issues and buying new products always makes me freeze up. I’d rather not deal with it. So I didn’t. And you know what? It was OK. In fact I still don’t have a toaster oven. I’m not sure if I will. A friend of mine hasn’t had a toaster for as long as I’ve known her, and I always thought: whatever!  But she was on to something.

I started toasting my bread in my cast iron pans, which are always on the stove or hanging nearby anyway, perfectly seasoned with a light sheen of oil. I use an old ceramic lid as a weight. And you know what? Best toast ever. Of course. What was I thinking? Sometimes I’m naughty and pour a guzzle of olive oil in the pan before I cook some nice sourdough toast up. You don’t even need an egg with this toast. It doesn’t even take that long, but just beware of walking away and forgetting you started some toast…

So, I’ve been going with this “doing without” thing. How far can one push it? When we moved into our house ten years ago, there was an old dryer left that worked. We used it for years, until it died. Secretly, I was thrilled: we get to buy a new dryer! When the delivery people came to remove the old one, we looked for a date on it. It was from the late ’70s. The guys laughed, “You’ll never see another dryer this old!” Har, har, but so true, mon frére! The dryer has been pretty much out for a few weeks now. We’ve been drying our clothes on a rack in the basement. (We try to dry outside in the summer as much as we can, but the winter is another story.)

You know what? It’s not that bad! My clothes are wrinkly, so if you have to look acceptable this might not be a good idea. But for my grubby lifestyle, it suits just fine. We will probably get a new dryer, but it’s nice to know that even in the winter we can get by without it. But I’m not sure I’ll be getting a toaster oven too soon! Maybe if I see one at a yard sale…


  1. that toast looks so good! My favorite tool is this immersion blender I got at a yardsale back when I was in my early 20’s. It’s a totally boring white Braun one but it so rocks. I am hoping it goes forever because my sneaking suspicion is that new ones are probably not as long-lasting. When our waffle iron broke, I went through something similar – it took me many months to buy another one (in the end, I got another cheap, simple one for $30 that looks a lot like the one that James destroyed somehow – still not sure how…) and one of the ideas I was most intrigued by was buying one from the 50’s because they last forever and do not have a non-stick coating. But they are rather pricey and also seem sort of huge so I decided against it. BUT IF I EVER SEE ONE AT THE SALVATION ARMY, I WON’T BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR MY ACTIONS…

    1. My immersion blender died–I loved that thing so! I’m pretty sure it was a Braun. But I was gifted a Vitamix (thanks mom!) and it sort of took the immersion blender’s place, even though I still think they’re brilliant. Lucky for me Steve’s family bequeathed us a great vintage waffle iron that kicks ass. If I see one in my thrifting forays, I’ll know to pick it up for you!

  2. For the past four years I have been living with a kitchen that is only 30 years old. Now I have started redoing the kitchen and it should be done in 4 or 5 weeks. I WANT IT DONE YESTERDAY!!! One of my neighbors has taken pity on me and is giving me hot meals for dinner.

  3. Great thoughts on doing without! You won’t believe this, Julia, but I read this post and then HAD to go and make myself some toast on the stove! I don’t know why I don’t do this all the time. We, too, have a very old and crumb-filled toaster oven that is due for a replacement soon. I don’t know if I could give up the ability to heat things up, super fast, in a small space {opposed to a large oven}, but I can definitely give up actual toast prepared in a toaster oven. We don’t have a microwave, and having the small-scaled toaster saves the energy from heating up our large oven. Seriously though, toast on the stove is SO much better! I definitely slathered my bread in olive oil – the crunch is unbelievable! I want some more… We are going to install a clothesline outside this year. The clothes always smell so fresh! And I am ALL about the grubby lifestyle. In another lifetime ago, I used to iron my jeans. Who WAS that girl? :-/

    1. You know, truth be told, I do have a microwave. Heating up leftovers happens a lot in this house, and it is convenient. But I want to get rid of that, too. Steve was stuck on re-heating pizza or bagels, but really I try not to have either lingering in the house! So it was easy on the toaster. You know what else I was worried about? Having a quick snack for my son, but now we just think of other things that are probably more healthy than toast. Now to work on that microwave, which takes up a lot of real estate, btw…

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