A Tale of Two Kitchens: Living With and Without a Microwave

The Microwave Oven. Invented in 1947. Described on Wikipedia as a device that “heats food by bombarding it with electromagnetic radiation.” Though it sounds like something out of a comic book, the microwave is in fact a staple for the young professional, the college student, and the lazy cook.

But there is life beyond the microwave oven for these simple folk.

I would know. I lived without a microwave for a year after moving to Los Angeles. And no, I’m not a big cook. If you open my cabinets right now, there is a lot of instant oatmeal. But I had my reasons for refusing to cave for a microwave.

First, they are kind of expensive for an optional appliance. A quick Target.com search puts them at $55+.  After buying furniture, putting down a security deposit, and starting up my electric bill, I didn’t really want to spend that money. When it came down to the Dirt Devil or the microwave, I chose the Devil.

Also, even quick or instant dinners can be made in a conventional oven—even your Lean Cuisine! It does take a bit longer. You actually have to wait for the oven to heat, and it takes 20-40 minutes to cook instead of three. And there were a few times I may have burned my instant dinner because I forgot it was in the oven. (I was too lazy to invest in a good egg timer—okay, I’m still too lazy to invest in a good egg timer.)

In the end, I still found this cooking technique to be better for me. If I came home from an eleven-hour work day hungry, I would throw something in the microwave and wolf it down. But if I actually have to take my time to heat it up, I eat slower for some reason. Maybe my appetite settles during the cooking process. Without the microwave, I would make big casseroles or veggie stir-fries. I could still reheat them in the oven—even egg dishes like Stratta reheat easily.

And don’t fret: you can pop popcorn and make Ramen on the stove. You don’t even need special popcorn! All you have to do is cut open the bag, pour the kernels into a pot, cover it and turn on the heat. If you have a clear glass lid, it’s even more fun! You can watch the kernels ricochet off the sides of the lid. Kernels in the bag should already be salted and oily but for tips on how to pop and season plain old kernels (not from a bag), Recipe Girl has some great tips.

This does not mean microwaves are evil. You might have noticed I said I “used to” live without a microwave. Yes—I have one now. I acquired it when a friend moved cross-country and couldn’t fit it in her car, so it was free. It is nice to have for defrosting things and reheating leftovers. It is also great for steaming vegetables (certain things just don’t taste good when they are grilled in a skillet on the stove).

But I’m happy I had that year to curb my craving to eat instant pizza every day for dinner, just because it was easy and available. And this microwave takes up so much counter space, I frequently consider giving it to someone else, knowing I could live without it!

Photo by Meaghan Morrison

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  1. I’ve been living without one for 3 months, and I’ve learned a few meals that are quick and easy after a day at work without having to look at a recipe. You know, like a real adult! And it’s actually kind of nice to hang out in the kitchen with a glass of wine and actively do something that isn’t your job, rather than just plopping down on the couch as soon as you get home.

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