An ode to the oven as they disappear from Toronto condos

By: Lisa Coxon on June 11, 2019

We live in a rapidly changing world. We’re busy, we’re stressed out, we’re working two, sometimes three jobs. And amidst all of this, we’re being confined to smaller living spaces than ever before.

And in this crazy world, the latest victim has been the oven.

Showing us what the future of cooking will maybe be like, Minto Communities Toronto, the developer of the condo building at 576 Front St. W., has decided to build 162 of the suites in this building without standalone ovens.

These suites, all under 480 square feet, are instead equipped with convection microwaves — a cross between a microwave and a convection oven. And even though they lack a crucial appliance, a small studio that boasts a “gourmet kitchen” will cost tenants $1,650 a month. Prices go as high as $2,100 for a one-bedroom.

“As part of considering a diverse market and lifestyle preferences in our designs, this appliance was selected as a smart solution that offers space saving efficiencies and functionality within the living area,” Agnieszka Wloch, vice-president of development at Minto Communities Toronto, told the Toronto Star in an email.

This hijacking of the oven from our lives is where I draw the line. Sure, it will save space. It will save time. But it won’t save money, given Canadian millennials spend up to $1,000 a month on food, much of which involves eating out and ordering in.

Removing the oven from our living spaces will kill something very important about people coming together around food and making meals at home. If developers keep shrinking the urban kitchen, they’ll also shrink the chances of people actually wanting to use it at all. And for those already averse to setting foot in there, it will only drive them to spend more money on takeout and delivery.

Now I’m well aware that you can still cook meals in smaller appliances like the microwave or the Instant Pot, for which there are countless recipes and positive reviews. Hell, the Instant Pot lets you braise short ribs in 45 minutes versus four hours in the oven, and that’s pretty magical.

But the Instant Pot is no replacement for the oven. While a brilliant time-saving invention, it can't cook a large volume of things the way an oven can. Nor is it intuitive. I can recall my first attempt at cooking a lentil soup in the Instant Pot, hitting the “start” button and timing it for what I thought was 10 minutes. Turns out, I’d delayed the start for 10 hours. I haven’t used it since.

An oven-less world is not the world I want to live in. But some people think this is where we’re headed.

“I don’t think a lot of urbanizers (are) using the ovens these days,” Feng Lu, a salesperson with ReMax Imperial told the Star.

“They depend heavily on the grocery store or they take out food from the local restaurant, so they don’t have to make use of the oven, that’s not really the most necessary appliance in the unit.”

The oven is arguably a millennial’s best friend in fighting the urge to order in. It’s a set-it-and-forget-it type of cooking. Depending on what you’re roasting, it gives you at least 40 minutes to over an hour to do the things you really love, like take a deep dive down a Beyoncé Instagram rabbit hole while your food slowly turns a beautiful golden colour.

Oven-based cooking is, hands down, the easiest and most delicious form of cooking — one that doesn’t invite a ton of stress or preparation, and requires the least amount of consistent attention. It’s hard to mess up a lasagna or an oven-roasted chicken and potatoes. It’s even harder to duplicate the taste using anything but an oven.

Getting rid of the oven is like getting rid of our last shot at taking an interest in real home cooking. That’s why I have no interest in these new condo units and their oven-free kitchens. Whenever my partner and I look for our next place, we’ll look for a home with a full-size kitchen and an actual oven. You’re welcome to come over for dinner.