The creator of the Easy Bake Oven, Ronald Howes, passed away today at the age of 83. It seems that he lived a full and happy life, being the inventor of a toy that taught millions of children the joys of baking (and the dangers of touching a heating element, before the oven was made more child-friendly sometime in the 1970s). Hundreds of thousands of tiny, tiny, not-very-good cakes will be consumed today in his honor, but we wanted to honor Howes in a different way: reminiscing fondly about all the vintage food-related toys of our childhood.
Food was the subject of most of our childhood games growing up. Not terribly interested in either Transformers or Barbie dolls (except for the Barbie that came with her own vanilla-scented kitchen and accessories -- we can still smell them now), our playtimes revolved around activities like creating restaurant menus from manila paper and crayons, making mud pies and trying to convince our granddaddy to eat them or setting up plastic food items along the bookcases in the house and pretending to go grocery shopping with our molded plastic shopping cart. (It was orange and yellow and was basically cooler than 50 Little Red Wagons put together.)
A striking memory from childhood is going to the old Children's Museum of Houston with our mother and getting to hit up the most exciting exhibit there (to us): The child-size grocery store that mimicked a regular grocery store in every single regard, except that it was stocked with plastic foods and no adults were allowed inside. It even had wee, working cash registers and conveyor belts at the cashwrap. We were in heaven -- until the museum volunteer working the entrance tried to hand us a "shopping list" that had pictures of the food items we were supposed to pick up instead of a list with the names of the items. Our incensed, epic, four-year-old tantrum at this indignation -- "I can read, THANK YOU VERY MUCH" -- is legendary in the family to this day.
Below are five of our favorite food-related toys from our youth. What are yours?