When my farmer and I wed some thirty plus years ago on a Wednesday night, it was like Christmas in June with all the gifts marked ‘Mr. and Mrs. Vander Schaaf’. Back then, the toaster was a popular wedding gift – but to our amazement, not one toaster was in our gift pile. One of our first purchases as man and wife was a toaster, and in hindsight, I think we should have invested in two or three more.

That first toaster we bought lasted just shy of our silver anniversary. While we mourned just a bit, we were ecstatic to update to a four-slot toaster because during BLT season, one toaster just couldn’t keep up. That toaster lasted all of five years.

We then invested time shopping for what we thought was a top-of-the-line toaster. That imported toaster, shiny and new, looked like it could do the job. Instead, it turned out to be a miserable excuse for a toaster. It did not toast evenly, and it didn’t like to release the bread. And no one even cared when one morning, after toasting enough bread for two people, it outright refused to put out any more toast. After it was properly examined, it was determined no amount of resuscitation would make it useful again. We added another toaster to the recycling graveyard.

Because of all the shoddily made stuff, like that toaster, a huge pile of scrap keeps growing across America. (So much for reducing garbage, footprints and consumerism!) Like most families we don’t like replacing mixers, electric frying pans, washers and other appliances. We like to think we paid the money once and said purchase would last a reasonable period of time.

We decided our next toaster would be American-made. We found one, but at $285, its price was a bit prohibitive. The toaster has not been replaced, and I have no intentions of doing so. Yes, we still eat toast with our eggs, but the homemade bread is toasted in a cast iron pan on top of the stove or in the oven. Both methods work wonderfully.

American industry once made high quality products – stuff companies were proud to put their name on. And when you found a brand you liked, there was customer loyalty because it had ‘proven itself’. Now, too often a brand name doesn’t necessarily equal high quality. Most everything we buy these days claims to be made according to company specifications.

Really? Then why are toys recalled because lead is found in the paint? And who knows how many farm equipment fires were caused by imported bearings?

Now the USDA says its okay to import chicken, and Smithfields is now owned by the Chinese. Are we being led to believe that chicken will always be chicken, raised on American farms, and pork will never come from Chinese pork? I’m not buying it.

We have already lost our manufacturing and textile industries to overseas. It might not be long before we have outsourced growing America’s food.

What will our food quality and safety be like then?


Essays from My Farm House Kitchen | Renae B. Vander Schaaf

Renae B. Vander Schaaf, freelance writer, lives on a real working farm in northwest Iowa.

To Contact Renae B. Vander Schaaf, please email her at [email protected]