I have come to realize that my microwave is the most optimistic of my appliances. “ENJOY YOUR MEAL!” scrolls across its screen to remind me that I put something in there. I can’t actually think of a time when I have cooked a meal in the microwave. I’ve heated up leftovers. I’ve popped popcorn. But primarily, I use it to heat up the milk that I froth for my coffee every morning.
I was 6 when my grandfather bought my mother our first microwave. It was a Panasonic, and about the size of our regular oven. It wasn’t quite as cool as the one he bought for Grandma, hers spoke the words on the screen, but we still thought it was marvelous!
Grandpa was an early adopter of the microwave, which didn’t really start to become popular until the mid-eighties. He bought it out of concern for my mom, who had three children, and was going back to work. This timesaving complex of technology would make her domestic life easier by cooking all of her meals faster than other conventional methods. Grandpa was thoughtful and kind and generous, but he did have distinct ideas about gender roles, so reminding my dad that he would have to pick up some of the slack would never occur to him.
In the newness of this technology, there were lots of theories about reducing exposure to the “radiation” it emitted: “Don’t stand too close to it!” “Don’t stare at the light!” “Let the signal (five beeps for a Panasonic) finish before taking out your food!” I paid no attention to those warnings, because I loved to watch the food turning around and around and around, cooking in what looked like no more than a box with a light in it. Maybe that microwave oven is the reason I only stand 5’4”…
Our first Panasonic remained a part of our family for at least 15 years, which is more than could be said for our pets! I think it was still working when we threw it out (oh yes, tossed it curbside into the regular garbage), but the faux wood paneling on the sides were losing their appeal, and as always, newer versions were touted as much more efficient and less of a health risk.
Microwave enthusiasts have developed thousands of recipes, and like many cult-like followers before them, have produced cookbooks that can apparently turn anyone into a gourmet chef, even me. Seriously, try Googling “microwave crème broulé.” The first recipe I found was a “low-fuss version [that] doesn’t take itself seriously (www.chow.com),” clearly evident by the coffee mug the “chef” used to cook and present the delicacy. The microwave can apparently do anything, even in a coffee mug!
To be clear though, when I describe my microwave as optimistic, I’m not confusing optimism with positivism. While it’s true that welcoming me and wishing me well every time I push a set of buttons is indeed a very positive interaction (for which I thank my Panasonic every morning), that is not the aspect I am describing. What I mean is, I think it’s sweet that microwave manufacturers still hope against hope that I am cooking a meal in their little box that has a light in it and a platter that turns all by itself.
This realization has been cathartic for me. It is reminiscent of the “Little Engine that Could.” Now, every morning while I wait for my milk to heat up in just a “Quick Min,” I think I can do anything! I just have to think like a microwave manufacturer.
BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP
Live within limits without limiting life
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