Life without a microwave takes patience (but that’s a good thing)…
I threw out my microwave four years ago, not out of some pious crusade for health or the belief that those electromagnetic waves distorted my food (though those are things I certainly think about now). I threw it out, but I also never bought a new one, and I don’t think I ever will. I threw out my microwave because of spiders, and yes, it was about as traumatizing as it sounds.
After moving in to an apartment that featured a shiny, gigantic microwave built in above the stove, I stored away the appliance that had traveled with me from Boston to Pittsburgh, anticipating that, eventually, a time would come when I’d need it again. A year and a half passed by, and that time came. I was moving to a new place, with no humungous monstrosity conveniently suspended above the stove. So I sought out the original, buried in the depths of my garage, only to discover that a small but terrifying army of arachnids had already called “dibs” and taken up residence. The microwave was theirs, forever. And I was more than happy to acquiesce. Or rather, I wasn’t going to argue and I practically hurled the thing to the curb. And so began life P.M. (post-microwave). Until that point, I’d never really questioned my microwave use. The appliance was always just there, like the toaster, or the fridge, part of what made up a complete kitchen. When I moved in to my first apartment at 23, I brought a microwave along with me. Why wouldn’t I? It was second nature, and was certainly useful in heating up food and water for tea. It was convenient.
Microwaves are appliances of convenience, and that’s about it. The first commercial-use microwave was developed by a military defense contractor in the ’40s and was dubbed the “Radarange” (as in radiation)… which should be your first red flag. The microwaves we know and love that have been on our countertops since the ’60s? They’re fast… if they weren’t, an entire aisle — maybe more — of food in the grocery store would be rendered useless. There for us when we simply can’t wait for our food to be warm, or when the desire to place a marshmallow inside and see what happens becomes just too strong to resist. But the further I got from my life with a microwave, the closer I became with my own eating habits and my own patience when it came to preparing food. As a former latchkey kid, I have memories of coming home from school and immediately placing a flour tortilla with a slab of American cheese on top in the microwave to make a “quesadilla” (gag), zoning out as I watched the turnstile plate slowly rotate beneath the glowing yellow light. 30 seconds, that’s all it took. Ding! Now, sans microwave — and having accumulated some much healthier eating habits over the years — I’m forced to think every time I wish for that same convenience. Why do I want it so quickly? And why do I expect it so immediately? Am I so impatient for tea that I can’t wait the five minutes it takes for the kettle to boil? In our age of immediacy, even a small lesson in patience is immensely valuable, especially when it comes to the food we consume. These days we focus so strongly on connecting with the farms that grow our vegetables and produce the crops we eat, but the average plate of food still travels at least 1,500 miles to reach our plates… maybe don’t ‘nuke’ it for 30 seconds and call it good.
When I need to reheat my food and I’m feeling impatient, I remind myself of those 1,500 miles, and also am quick to remember what a relatively short few decades it’s been since this appliance has graced our homes. Then the stove, or oven, or even a plate of cold food doesn’t seem that inconvenient and that food actually tastes better for it.
There was life pre-Radarange, and I’m more than patient enough to embrace life after it.
+ What are your thoughts?