Monday, November 4, 2013

Light Bulb Baking: A History of the Easy-Bake Oven, by Todd Coopee - Interview and Review

*Disclaimer - I was provided a review copy from Promotional Book Tours to facilitate a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. Come back tomorrow to read my review.

This first definitive retrospective of the Easy Bake® Oven celebrates its journey from children's toy to pop culture icon and inductee to The National Toy Hall of Fame. The book explores the innovation, history, economics, commerce, advertising, and marketing behind the toy’s 50 year history. This book is a must read for vintage toy collectors, nostalgia buffs, foodies, and anyone who has ever peered through the oven's watch it bake window, eagerly anticipating the moment they will be able to serve and enjoy their very own culinary concoction.

Purchase it on Amazon

My Review:
The Easy-Bake oven is a classic I remember from my own childhood. Before reading Light Bulb Baking: A History of the Easy-Bake Oven, I had no idea there was such a long and rich history associated with this popular toy. From it's creation and through each transformation, Todd Coopee did an excellent job bringing the toy's history to life through photos and stories.

If you think you know everything there is about the simple, yet brilliant little light bulb oven, you will be amazed at how far this chameleon of a toy has come since 1963. Todd Coopee did an amazing job researching not only the toy, the accessories and marketing, but the company that created it as well.

I loved the addition of classic recipes and contest winning recipes in the back of the book. It has inspired me to look into getting an Easy-Bake Oven for my own daughter.

This is a must-have for all history buffs, trivia lovers and bakers with a childhood history attached to the Easy-Bake Oven. 

Author Interview: 
I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to ask author Todd Coopee a few questions about his book and the inspiration behind it. 

Q1- Traditionally seen as a girl's toy, why did you want to write about the Easy-Bake Oven?

A -. My interest was piqued after my first visit to The National Toy Hall of Fame in Rochester, NY. At the time of my visit, the Easy-Bake had recently been inducted in the Hall of Fame and an entire exhibit devoted to the toy was still in the museum. I wasn't convinced there was enough material for an entire book, but the more I looked into the Easy-Bake Oven’s history, the more interesting it became. After some initial interviews with former employees of Kenner – the company that developed the toy – I felt compelled to tell the story about how the Easy-Bake had become a pop culture icon.

Q2 -  In the author's note you mentioned that you were able to participate in your sisters' baking adventures. Did you have a favorite recipe or memorable recipe?

A2 -The best people to answer this question would be my parents. They were usually the recipients of our culinary concoctions! As I recall, we were very much into making traditional cakes with chocolate and vanilla frosting – nothing like the recipes created by the winners of the Easy-Bake Baker of the Year contests outlined in the book.

Q3- Would you consider yourself a cook or baker today? Did the Easy-Bake Oven spark a greater 
interest in food at a young age?

A3 - I’m very much a baker. My parents owned a restaurant and bakery in Massachusetts for 25 years, so I was surrounded by the cooking, serving, and presentation of food most of my childhood. Of course, we also had an Easy-Bake Oven at home. It was stored in our games closet at home mostly for rainy days, so it was always a special treat to take it out and plan what we were going to make.That’s one of the great things about the Easy-Bake. It allowed us to “manage our own kitchen”. We could be creative, use real ingredients, produce something that was editable and serve it to other friends and family. 

4. Is there currently an Easy-Bake Oven in your home?

More than one! All of the photos of the ovens in the Visual History section of the book are from my personal collection – so I actually own over 40 different versions of the toy. Now that the book is published (and to avoid being featured on an upcoming episode of A&E’s Hoarders), I’m going to keep a few of the classic models and donate the rest to the National Toy Hall of Fame so that others may enjoy them.

5. I was impressed with the number of photos and information in the book. How long did your research take you to create Light Bulb Baking? 

It was a two-year project – albeit not full-time. The idea was to release the book to coincide with the toy’s 50th anniversary. The longest part of the process was piecing together the visual timeline – a process that was made more challenging due to the number of mergers and acquisitions in the toy industry during the Easy-Bake’s 50 years. The librarians and resources at The Strong museum in Rochester, NY and the former employees from Kenner that I spoke with were immensely helpful during this process.

6. Anything else you would like my readers to know?

My book is really a celebration of a cultural icon. I hope that readers appreciate the toy’s journey and the important role it played in so many lives. I also hope it brings back memories of childhood and the important of play to both children and adults!

About the Author:
Todd Coopee is a writer, award-winning business owner, toy historian, and pop-culture enthusiast. His affinity for nostalgia, vintage toys, and baking fed his passion for the Easy-Bake Oven, which led to his 2013 retrospective, Light Bulb Baking: A History of the Easy-Bake® Oven. Todd lives in Ottawa, Ontario and has been known to bake tiny treats for his friends and family. 

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