It ain’t over ’til it’s oven

PHOTO: Thomas Hawk, Flickr CC
Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range blogger, author, radio producer and columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

I’ve cried when people died. I’ve cried when dogs died. Heck, I’ve even misted up when my favorite pen died.

But no tears fell when the oven died.

You rusty SON of a TIN CAN piece of JUNK from the SCRAP HEAP how can you DO THIS TO US!?

I have a theory. We’re most frustrated by unexpected expenses that resemble a paycheck from our first full time job. My first full time job was in print journalism so I’m on a hair trigger.

See, when an unfortunate event costs less than that first check it’s just a mild inconvenience. (“Oh darn, there’s a hole in my shoe.”) Much more, and it’s categorized as a crisis (“We’ll have to scrimp each month to replace the minivan; but we’ll pull through. Together.”)

But when the unexpected expense clocks in at $698 plus tax and delivery it’s a real kick in the pants. Not a killer, just a steel-toed boot in the soft parts. Just enough to ensure pain without eliciting meaningful sympathy from anyone else. In fact, the death of an electric oven is so common that other people’s expletive-laden stories roll in once you start talking about it.

Here’s ours. Christina was making brownies as a special Friday night treat after a long work week. She went to preheat the oven. The heating element turned bright white and caught on fire, igniting old pizza toppings we didn’t know were down there, too. We turned off the breaker for the oven.

That’s all. It’s a short story. The stovetop’s been acting up, too, and the whole thing’s 20 years old. So it’s time for a new oven. Doug, 11, gave a touching eulogy.

“We have gathered here to say goodbye to the oven, and to thank it for the many pizzas and chicken strips and cookies it has given us,” he said. Like I said, I didn’t cry, but I felt something there.

Anyway, the new oven must be “bisque,” a color I wouldn’t be able to identify if it weren’t the color of all of our other appliances. “Cream,” I guess we’d call it. The store doesn’t keep bisque in stock, which means we’ve been going without an oven until the new one gets here.

I’m not saying we’re a pair of gourmet chefs here. We empty as many frozen bags of “dinner” onto cookie sheets as the next family. But we do use our oven a lot, and often for some of our healthiest meals. And also our unhealthiest meals. Point is, we miss the oven.

How do you get by without an oven? At one point I pulled the eggs out of the fridge, put a pan on the stove, and turned the dead burner to “medium.” Wait a minute. This thing that doesn’t work, ACTUALLY DOESN’T WORK? In the words of Joni Mitchell, you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.

I suppose it could be worse. In the 1800s, your stove not only cooked your food, but heated your home as well. Surely the Minnesota winter would have snuffed us out had this been the case.

And you can craft a surprisingly diverse array of mediocre foods in the modern microwave. Enough to keep your blood sugar in the danger range for as long as you can stand. Or sit. Or lie down.

In truth, we’re fortunate to be able to replace our oven at all. It’s hard out there and at least we’re part of America’s shrinking middle class. The kind of people who have a savings account for fun vacations but who end up spending the money on stuff that breaks. Yes, it could be much worse.

I’m looking at you, bisque refrigerator. No funny stuff. 

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, March 10, 2019 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.


  1. We all know I was hoping to legally put something in the oven. Republicans just ensured the existence of third parties in Minnesota, as did the Democrats. I looked into it. Gerald was right. Kind of actually looks like the threat of third parties may have been the reason the legalization bills seemed so prevalent.

    Beyond that, my childhood up there in taught me some things. You didn’t ask adults what they were eating or smoking. You still shouldn’t.

    Which leads me to this fact: The type of person that lives in say Nisswa is not normally the type to take a political job in Saint Paul. Most people in any rural area don’t want anyone telling them how to eat or smoke, Republican or not. That’s the truth.

    So bring on the third parties.

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