Breakfast Sandwich Makers are Tools for Mourning
A ridiculous analysis of a ridiculous kitchen appliance.
The Breakfast Sandwich Maker is a $15 tribute to American economic malaise. It hit the market at a time when the U.S. Department of Labor stopped counting people who gave up fruitlessly looking for work in their unemployment statistics in a desperate attempt to paint a rosier picture of the Great Recession. Well-paid talking heads in big coastal cities were telling average Joes and Janes in flyover country that the new normal was scraping by with a little help from the dole. And as so-called experts sat with garbage smiles and wagging fingers, telling flyover country to check its privilege as jobs went overseas and foreclosures stole homes, this machine made its debut on Meijer and Walmart shelves. And while its utility in the kitchen may be questionable at best, this machine and its generic knock-offs served a greater purpose: to help working-class men and women to grieve the passing of the Good Life.
There was a time when working-class men and women saw the day as worth seizing. Sales had to be made. Assembly lines had to be staffed. And the Working Stiff was surrounded by a predictable yet somewhat cohesive group of fellow workers: the friendly, passive-aggressive secretary down the hall; the IT specialist whose hoodie was equal parts social signaler and upper-body insulation; the water cooler hover-er who invited everyone to share in the details of his third crumbling marriage. And the office Ted, who would always rat you out to the boss if you were ten minutes late. You didn’t want that bastard to snake your proposal mid-meeting, or dropping by your cubicle to tell you about how he’s crushing it in the office fantasy badminton standings. And while one could not always avoid Ted, you didn’t have to face him on an empty stomach. So after dropping the kids off at the bus stop, you’d hustle to work, realizing halfway there that you left your waffles on the kitchen table. It is at this point where Working Stiff would switch off the Top-40 radio station, pull into the closest convenient fast food emporium, and order a breakfast sandwich.
It was egg or egg product with meat-of-choice and a slice of processed cheese, living together in a biscuit apartment. Its neighbors, who tagged along for just 99 cents more, were a greasy fried potato and a cup of Hot Brown. And this hurried, spill-it-on-your-tie breakfast model worked. It may not have been transcendent flavor-wise, but the calorie brick it laid in your stomach was heavy enough to give you the strength to finish that report before lunch. Those widgets, after all, weren’t going to make themselves, and now you were fired up for blisters on your fingers and swapping inappropriate jokes with your fellow Working Stiffs. And that token, that memory, was what the Breakfast Sandwich Maker tried to give back to its buyers. Because one thing these machines don’t give is a ready-to-go breakfast.
The major issue with the Breakfast Sandwich Maker, echoed by review after review on Amazon, is that the egg never cooks all the way. In fact, the machines are designed to squish the English muffin down onto the egg while it’s still liquid. This gives an impression that the top of the sandwich is not so much to accompany the egg but to absorb it. So if you don’t want a side of food poisoning, then you have to cook the egg separately. And the meat has to be cooked separately, too. At this point, one may be wondering what the damn point is of having this kitchen appliance. But it's pragmatic failings are not the reason for its purchase. It was a token of normalcy for the recently unemployed. This machine, while it makes itself redundant because it can’t properly function, was the last piece of the socioeconomic stability that its purchaser once enjoyed. While calories aren’t a substitute for perseverance or zest, it tried to resurrect just a piece of that routine in which so many placed such importance.
It's been eight years now, and the economy is bouncing back. This should signify a decline in the appliance's sales. But at the time, it provided a little glimmer of hope akin to a pop star penning a body-positive song. So maybe function isn't everything, and maybe that's alright. Such is the legacy of the Breakfast Sandwich Maker.