10 October, 2008

Would You Pay $300 for a Toaster?

When my wife and I were married, we got a Black & Decker 4-slice toaster as a wedding gift. It was pretty rugged, and lasted about 6 years or so before whatever thingy in there that pops the toast up decided to go on strike one winter day. The toast caught on fire; I unplugged the toaster, grabbed it while wearing a pair of welder's gauntlets, and tossed it out the kitchen window into the snow.

Then I had a Toastmaster 4-slicer that was kind of wonky. It only toasted well on one side of the bread. You know how many toasters have these wire grabby things that hold the bread steady when you push the lever down? One of those things popped loose from the slot, so whenever we put a slice of bread in we had to remember to push the wire over to the side, otherwise it would grab onto the toast like it had claws and push the bread right up against the heating wires. But we got used to working around the quirks in the toaster and kept using it while we were looking for something better.

And then Saturday, along came something better.

My family and I go to estate sales and church rummage sales on Saturday mornings. We bring my Mom along with us and we have a good time, visiting with each other and poking through the fabulous bargains. I look for collectibles and "smalls" I can resell on eBay, and keep an eye open for tools or kitchen gadgets I can use at home. We were at one estate sale in a neighboring town, and my daughter went off to the kitchen to see if there was anything interesting. The kitchen was small - what they call a "galley kitchen" - but very well-appointed with a large SubZero refrigerator/freezer and a Viking four-burner range along with some commercial-quality cookware and kitchen tools. The range and fridge were marked as "not for sale" since the family intended them to be selling points for the house, and most of the small appliances had already been sold. But Lynn found a toaster standing quietly in a corner on the countertop. It was kind of retro-industrial looking and rugged as hell and it looked like all of the slots would work and not grab my toast with steely claws, so I picked it up, paid the sale administrator for it, and took it home. It said "Dualit" on the side in big, embossed letters.

When I want excellent quality kitchenware, I go to a few local restaurant-supply stores in the area, but I don't shop so-called "gourmet stores" like Williams-Sonoma. So I had never heard of the Dualit brand before. When I got home, I Googled the name for some information, and found that Dualits are highly-regarded toasters which are made in England, known for their reliability, are easy to repair if something does happen to go wrong, and - at three hundred dollars - a hell of a lot more money than I would ever think of spending on a toaster.

I plugged it in and gave it a try. Wow. What a cool toaster. It's easy to see why they last so long. For one thing, there isn't any thermostat to burn out. Just a plain ol' spring-loaded timer knob which turns the elements on and off. There's also a two-slice/four-slice toggle switch that allows the user to only heat up the necessary elements. And when your toast is done - announced with a simple, whispered "click" from the timer dial - you pop the toast up yourself with the side lever.

I am, like, completely enthralled. Everything about this toaster radiates coolness, from its English Industrial design and the spartan use of heavy black plastic knobbery, to its need to preheat for a minute (after which it cranks out perfect, evenly-browned toast like some demonic bread-singeing fire god.) Truly, Dualit is the Steve McQueen of toasters. It took me a few days to figure out exactly where to set the dial for our own personal preference, but once that was done...beauty. I never thought I'd say it, but this really might be the last toaster I ever have to buy.

Would I pay $300 for a toaster? Even one as cool as the Dualit? Well...no. My frugal swamp-yankee nature would never allow it. But I had no problem swapping a picture of Abe Lincoln for the one I have.



Mr. Dave said...

You should take pictures of yourself toasting pop-tarts or toaster strudels in that fine piece of machinery and mail them to Dualit to offend their delicate British sensibilities.

"I say, what are those Yanks up to now? Toasting their horrid pastries in our deluxe unit."

Michele said...

I almost paid $300 for a toaster. I was trying my hands on a toaster like my great grandmother had when I was a child. The beautiful... Toast-O-Lator. But the unit was in such disrepair that I just couldn't fork out the money. Your new (used) toaster is a beauty!! Wanna trade for my Oster combustion machine? I swear that I haven't had a non burnt piece of toast in two years.

Alex Rushmer said...

A Dualit has been on my wish list for almost as long as a Cuisinart. They are such lovely pieces of kit with a great retro look. They do do a 2 slice one as well which costs a little less, probably closer to $200