|Hey good-lookin' ! What's cookin' ?|
It is a recurring fantasy of mine that one day I may get to travel again, at least loosely tethered to central Texas. Pursuant to that, I've purchased a small trailer, and I am slowly improving it in various directions. Unfortunately, it doesn't have an oven. This appliance, which used to be standard on even the smallest RV, is getting pretty rare on smaller trailers and motorhomes. The manufacturers seem to think it an extravagance. Maybe it is. For me to put one in would enrich Camping World by some $700. That might just kill my appetite.
Not that I used an oven all that much when I was gallivanting around the continent. Maybe once a week. When traveling steadily, it was too easy to dine out. But boondocking with a gas oven meant I could eat roast beasts and casseroles, bake bread and cookies, even enjoy the occasional lasagna. Did I mention cookies? I tell you there is something magical about fresh cookies, especially when you are parked in the back of beyond. It fosters the grand illusion that maybe it is possible to avoid the clamor of civilization without real hardship after all. Or even minor privation.
Hey, it's my fantasy, ain't it? A man can dream. And this one has wheels under it.
I thought for a while about a toaster oven. Cheap enough, but they require electricity, and that means running the generator. Who wants to listen to that? Shall I turn myself into one of Pavlov's dogs, learning to salivate to the tune of a mechanical contrivance? Besides, even a smaller oven of that sort would take up half my counter space.
Enter our Hero. The Coleman Camp Oven. Forty bucks from Amazon. A 12 inch cube that sits on top of one of your burners and claims to bake cakes, etc. How could I resist?
It arrived only yesterday, and I've been putting it through its paces today. Much to my surprise, not even once has it failed to please. It folds flat into a 12 inch square for storage, leaving my counters clear. It is all one piece, and folds out into a cube in seconds. You would be clever to make sure Tab A really goes firmly into Slot B before the thing gets hot. I neglected to lock the bottom down the first time, and the burner pooked it up during the biscuit exercise. No bother at all to fix when it's cold.
At full heat you can hold your hand an inch or two away without discomfort, but like any pot on the stove, if you touch it you will get burned. There is a thermometer on the door. I have no idea how accurate it is, but my burner drives it up to a nominal 350 degrees on high and just pegs there. It pays to preheat for baked goods. This takes ten minutes or so, but after that you can expect the cooking times stated on packages to be broadly accurate, just like in your big oven at home.
I got golden brown biscuits in 15 minutes. Perfect. I tried some toast, but it came out like oven toast everywhere: fine on the burner side, merely dry on top. If toast is your obsession, you can use tongs to turn the slices. It does brown up quickly. Crumbs everwhere, of course. Fortunately this oven can be upended and shaken out in the yard. No problemo.
|A Crime punishable only when it's a hundred miles to the next croissant.|
But I did not eat them.
This incident reminded me of an epigram by the Roman poet Martial. Goes something like this:
"Sir? You do not think it fit
to beat the Cook for spoiling the broth?
Sir, I ask you, in all truth,
What greater crime can Cooks commit?"
No oven can perfect the careless cook. But meats are more forgiving. I seldom time them in any case, being more of a sniff and peek sort of cook. I broiled two chicken thighs for lunch. Checked at 30 minutes, a knife test showed they were done, but I took the foil off and put them back in for a quarter of an hour to brown the skin.
|Enough Talk! Let's Eat!|
There was a lot of burbling splatter-sounds going on in there while the chicken browned, and I dreaded the cleanup, but apparently little of it escaped the pan. What little grease popped up on the inside was wiped away in seconds with a spritz of Windex and a single paper towel. O, and this oven cools down quickly. Five minutes after the fire is removed, the metal is room temperature and can be folded up and stored.
I'm beginning to love this thing. I haven't got a thousand words left in me. But I do have a few more pictures:
|Cookies, of Course!|
And finally, the Staff Of Life. In the mortal words of the Permanent Poet Laureate of Texas, Mr. Burma Shave:
|The Dough has Riz|
The Oven's Set
But here we iz
In Texas yet!