I threw away my microwave three years in the past and by no means regarded again – salon
When I was unpacking the kitchen in my new house three years ago – the first place I’d ever moved to alone – I went through a mental checklist. Plates? Check. Cutlery? Check. Rice cooker? Check. A single sauce pan? Check.
I felt like something was missing and I realized I didn’t own a microwave. Microwaves – a staple of my lifestyle and most kitchens – were always conveniently available to me, either through a roommate or in the closets of the place I had rented.
Now I wondered if I really had to drop $ 80 on a reliable machine. Maybe I could do without for a while. Or maybe I didn’t need one at all.
Having relied on microwaves since I was a key kid, I kept pushing buttons after leaving my parents’ house with very little knowledge of how to cook for myself. And over the years, the microwave had become a tool and scapegoat for an endless variety of eating disorders.
The microwave was, after all, the key component to meals that promised pre-portioned sections of the food pyramid, calories carefully measured to help curb your carbohydrate intake, but not your hunger.
When these failed, the pendulum swung to the other side. The microwave quickly warmed up a plate of lackluster frozen goods – pizza rolls, pre-cooked chicken, faux gourmet bags from the containers at Trader Joe’s, and anything that could reasonably be called a hot sandwich.
I made myself a subpar meal and found myself unsatisfied that I was still hungry and falling into a habit that I had not fully identified. And then I would be unhappy, uncomfortable, and sorry, and still not happy with what I ate.
I thought about the alternative to my microwave: the oven. Would life be worse if I had to wait 20 minutes for pizza rolls instead of two? No, I made up my mind – if I really wanted her I would be ready to preheat it to wait for her. In addition, they are better crispy from the sheet pan than moist and stick to the plate.
I didn’t buy the microwave.
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The massive introduction of the microwave and other appliances in American households helped free women from the kitchen. And with parents on the staff, the microwave left kids like me to fend for themselves after school and fell into a familiar rhythm every day as we closed the door to a bowl of leftovers from the night before and punched in the beeps that the preceded the hum of the machine. But it has also helped create a distance between us and what we eat – sticky amounts of food under frosty film that we poke tiny holes with our forks before throwing them on a rotating glass bowl and for the best to hope.
Like throwing away that DVD player you haven’t used in years, saying goodbye to my microwave was surprisingly easy. I really didn’t need it. It isn’t much more difficult to heat things up on the stove or under a grill than to put them in the microwave and then overcome the uneven, unpredictable temperatures. And it’s been years since I’ve bitten into something so that it penetrates my skin and at the same time finds that it’s frozen inside.
And I learned a few tricks along the way, like pouring water into a hot pan and just covering it for a few minutes to steam my food while it burns underneath and reheats it on all sides. I’ve learned to heat it up on the stove in an ovenproof pan in case I want to finish it off under the grill – that way it’s not even leftovers, it’s a fresh course. I bought a kettle that heats water just as quickly as the microwave does, and at some point I realized that even if something from the grocery store only has microwave instructions, that doesn’t mean it can’t be cooked in an oven – usually you just have to visit the product website for oven instructions.
And I keep learning. This week I realized that the glass IKEA containers I keep leftovers in are oven safe and that I’ve been unnecessarily messing pans for years. Next time I need to refill reservoirs, I know what to look for.
I was never particularly thoughtful about my food when I had a microwave, and assumed that most of the meals I’d picked up at the grocery store had the promise of a pretty photo and an ingredient list too long to be reasonably made of on to be recreated. But as I became a better chef – motivated by a desire to understand what I was eating and how satisfied I was with each meal – it became second nature to reheat every meal the way I originally cooked it. Each serves as well or better than the first.
What if I filled my freezer with frozen ready meals and waited to burn my tongue and leave myself alone in my house day after day? Cooking has been both a way to spend hours and hours in quarantine and a way to control my own healthy choices, even though the year has shown that our own health is not always under our own control.
Since I’ve spent the year watching orders at home and submitting almost entirely to my own cooking and cooking, I’m grateful that while doing so I weaned myself from the microwave and tried hard to learn how, exactly to cook what I wanted and needed.
How would my body feel now, eight months later, if I had never learned to roast vegetables every now and then or to puree them into a nice sauce? Even Thanksgiving leftovers offer a more attractive promise than years ago – filling that has just been heated and roasted a little in the oven instead of a lump of porridge the day after – for me and my roommate as we quietly say thanks in our shared bladder.