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Introducing Tovala: The 'Keurig For Food' And Oven For Idiots

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Woman with a scientific miracle and a random small child.


As King Henry (not the real one, but the fake hot Showtime one) said, "I have a great appetite for novelty," which is why the new Tovala Smart Oven intrigues me so. Its story is a humble one:

When our co-founder David was in grad school, he found it way too difficult to eat well. He didn’t have time to cook for himself, and there weren’t any quick or healthy options for him to choose from. That’s when he came up with the idea for Tovala.

Since we started out, we’ve talked to people across the country who are also looking for a way to successfully balance convenience, health, and taste. Our goal is to provide them that balance so they don’t ever have to compromise again.

We’re not here to replace home cooking. We’re here to rethink it.

That invoked all the right "startup narrative" themes to bring in some nice venture capital action and a successful Kickstarter campaign, and a couple years later, Business Insider was boasting about how Tovala was the next big thing that could replace "every cooking appliance you own" (sad face for the loyal yet unappreciated toaster). It was the "Keurig for food," which is really impressive praise because Keurig as a company is totally not tanking in part because it's generally considered a waste-promoting threat to the environment. Business Insider was still pushing the "Keurig for food" angle Thursday with this tweet:

As you see in the video, the Tovala enables this very busy and important person to prepare the oh-so time-consuming and labor intensive meal of salmon and broccoli, as long as they don't need to cook it for two, because the Tovala really only fits one horribly wastefully packaged meal.

Tovala is a "steam oven," which I guess means it uses "steam heat" technology to cook food and maybe press trousers. It promises to save you 10 hours a week of "cooking and cleaning" time -- maybe even more if you add in the dry cleaning.

It's really like nothing we've ever seen before. You can own it for the low (relative to the cost of a luxury automobile) price of $400. If you consider the cost of an average microwave is around $100 and a reliable toaster oven is about $50, then the Tovala is a lot more than that. But if basic Trump-style economics haven't sold you on this product, the simplicity it will bring to your complex, pulling-your-hair-out-from-its-roots days will.

The Tovala Smart Oven, which you can order through the company's website, is a Wi-Fi connected countertop appliance with a built-in QR code scanner. It reads the codes on the $12, prepackaged, refrigerated meals that the company delivers through a subscription service. Then, the oven cooks them according to instructions it downloads from the cloud.

If you're wondering how they came up with that "10 hours of cooking and cleaning" estimate, the Tovala website exhaustively documents in great imaginary, hyperbolic detail how you've been wasting your evenings before the Tovala came into your pathetic lives.

Tovala's non-ridiculous description of how you prepared meals before investing in its product.

Look at you, making cod tagine on a weeknight with no advance prep work! And you were so scatterbrained, it took you forever to find basic kitchen utensils, because in your pre-Tovala existence, you sometimes accidentally stored them with your Blu-rays. But all that's behind you now! You've got your life back! There's even a spare 17 minutes to call your mother while you do laundry. You could call your father, too, but then you'd need at least two Tovalas.

I guess what I'm saying here is: It's my birthday and please get me a Tovala.

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle.

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