You’ll find a microwave oven in most kitchens these days. It’s a handy thing to have.
It is a consequence of the invention of radar, the British technology that gave the good guys a big advantage in World War II. Scientists discovered that the microwaves used for radar, when concentrated, could generate heat in a hurry.
The microwave oven can thaw frozen food, cook our meals, and warm up our leftovers. And as it turns out, it has the power to reveal some quirks of my character.
I’m old-fashioned, you see. And it’s not just that I resist new things (although I do)—it’s more that I am disappointed by the compromises that come from shortcuts.
It’s good to have plenty of food in the deep freeze (which is another newfangled invention, but one that I grew up with). I like to plan meals ahead, and thaw what I need so it’s ready to cook by suppertime. Unfortunately, I’m not that well organized.
So I sometimes find myself trying to thaw hamburger or a block of frozen stew meat in the microwave. And as careful as I am, I always find some of it gets cooked while other parts are still frozen. I could blame myself for not planning supper well enough in advance, but I prefer to say it’s the machine’s fault.
When I’m reheating leftovers, I prefer to use the stovetop or the conventional oven. It’s easier to get the meat, potatoes and vegetables all ready at the same time that way, and again, there’s no freezing cold bits sitting one forkful away from scalding-hot bits on your plate.
I like warm apple pie, but not from the microwave. Pie that is still warm from the oven, that slowly melts a small scoop of ice cream or softens a slice of cheddar, is a rare and beautiful delight. Its warmth reflects the love and care that went into baking it. It rewards you for waiting patiently as it cools in the delightfully aromatic kitchen until you can finally have a beautiful warm slice.
Pie that has been zapped has none of that. It is a lie.
And maybe here’s where I get a little weird: when I buy a cup of coffee, I expect it to be fresh and hot (but not too hot!). But when Sherry and I make a pot of coffee on a lazy morning, I only have those expectations for my first cup. You only get one first cup, one first sip, and I want those firsts to be the most beautiful moment of my whole morning.
Each successive cup is only slightly less hot. But when I’m finally drinking barely-warm coffee, that’s part of the natural order of things. It’s my signal to put the mug down and get on with my day.
Sherry, the sensible one, prefers every cup to be as hot as the first. Sometimes she’ll reheat a cup halfway through. When it’s as easy as giving it a few seconds in the microwave, why not?
But the microwave doesn’t give us anything we didn’t already have. Since Prometheus first delivered the mixed blessing of fire to humankind, we have always been able to make things hot. What the world really needs is a microwave fridge—something that will chill a six-pack of warm beer in 30 seconds.
But that, too, might reveal some quirks of my character.