In SA, many of the PCVs have a toaster oven/2 plate burner combo, which we call a stoven. It’s very convenient, and usually only a few hundred rand more than the standard 2 plate burner, so a lot of PCVs choose to get one. Regular size stoves are too expensive for us, and given our often small living quarters, rather impractical. Having a stoven gives us the freedom to do baking, not to mention making toast, and so most PCVs develop a strong affection for their stovens.
For me, it’s sort of a love-hate relationship. If you’ve ever tried to bake in a toaster oven, you might understand my frustration. Add to that the unreliable nature of both SAfrican electronics and electricity, and you’ve got something you both love and hate to cook with. Oh yes, and it’s in Celsius, and half my recipes are in Fahrenheit.
After two years, I’ve developed the artform that is baking in a stoven. It’s not as simple as turning it on and cooking….it takes constant readjustment of the heating elements and temperature, and an almost supernatural knowledge of whether something is actually cooked all the way through.
I’m making some banana bread now, and to preheat the stoven, I turned both the top and bottom burners on. However, I had to turn the top burner off when I put the banana bread in, or else I would end up with a burned top and raw inside. In a little while, when I sense the bread is nearly cooked through, I’ll have to turn the top burner back on, and possibly the bottom one off, to make sure the top is browned and the bottom isn’t burned.
Sound exhausting? It is. But the joy of delicious banana bread is reward enough. Plus, knowing that I’ll return to the ease of cooking in the US someday is something to look forward to.