Improvements in technology and in manufacturing processes meant that the seventies and eighties were a time when lots of so-called “labour saving” devices were introduced to our homes. The kitchen was one room in the house that saw quite a few new gadgets come along, and one of those was the toasted sandwich maker.
The toasted sandwich maker, also commonly known as a “Breville” in the UK (because that was the name of the biggest manufacturer of the devices, just like Hoover has become another way of saying vacuum cleaner) or simply a “Toastie Maker”, was basically an electric hot plate cooker, but instead of a flat cooking surface it was moulded with triangular indentations that could accommodate slices of bread.
To use the device you basically made a sandwich, except instead of arranging the bread so the buttered side was next to the filling, the buttered side faced outwards towards the sandwich maker surfaces. You dumped your sandwich into the toastie maker and closed the lid. The two sides of the sandwich maker compressed the bread around the crusts, creating a seal but normally leaving the crusts poking out the side. Once cooked you carefully extracted the sandwich from the machine, and waited for it to cool down before having a good munch.
Toasties could be made with all kinds of yummy fillings, but cheese was always a favourite ingredient simply because it melted down so nicely during the cooking process. Cheese and ham was a particular favourite of mine, and another was egg, which was quite fun because you simply laid your bread in the maker and then cracked an egg on top of it.
Whilst I enjoyed making and eating toasted sandwiches, cleaning up the machine afterwards was a different matter. Quite often the bread would be slightly too small for the machine, so the edges would not get crimped properly and that lovely runny melted cheese or egg would seep out the sides onto the cooking surfaces, where the would then adhere like glue. Cleaning this lovely mess was a chore that meant you gradually lost interest in using the machine because you couldn’t face cleaning it afterwards. So much for labour saving, eh?