Thursday, December 4, 2008

Microwave Ovens: a digression

For months now I've been trying to find information that I feel is sound about the safety and use of microwave ovens. There is a ton of shit out there, ranging from: Danger! Danger! Beware! to: It's the safest device ever created!

To be honest, what I wanted was some definitive study that said microwave ovens were horrible, evil weapons of mass destruction. Sadly, none were to be found. At least not scientific ones. I wanted to get to the bottom of why it is I hate them so much. They've never done anything to me personally, I just don't think they are something we need, even though the makers and fans of microwaves say: "It makes our lives easier! We can't live without them!"

I'm all for easy, don't get me wrong.

It's just that I'm a food snob and using a microwave is not cooking. Sure, yes, I know, you only use it to reheat your coffee. Or to help soften really hard ice cream. It's a re-heating/thawing device? You know how when you order pie at a diner and it comes to you so hot you can't eat it, the pastry has gone soggy in an eerie kind of limp way and the a la mode too quickly becomes soup?

Do we need that? Is that an improvement?

One of the articles I came across talked about how you could never cook meat in a microwave; it never tastes "right". Imagine making brisket from scratch for a special dinner in a microwave. What would that taste like? Isn't taking the flame away from cooking somehow taking the flavor away as well? I mean essential flavor; how can something that has been braised and cooked slowly for hours taste the same as something accomplished in, what, 20 minutes?

People seem to love putting complete meals in it, touching a button, waiting a minute or so then opening the door and there, in front of them, is a steaming tray of previously frozen processed product (and I include organic fast food in this as well) awaiting to be devoured, quickly, while Anderson Cooper brings you up to speed.

Do we need that?

Someone told me it ruins all the nutrition in the food. I couldn't find any proof of it. I like that idea, it makes sense to me, but I have an admitted bias. Many people say,”Who has the time to cook? I get home from work and all I want to do is have a drink and unwind. We both work, it would be different if one of us was at home. How could we afford not to both work?” So we work, I mean, we both work, in order to afford the good things in life like a microwave, because a microwave, a fast food meal, bottled water, are all way better than making less money and staying at home and preserving food, buying daily from the market, serving food to the ones you love and sharing time each day with each other?

The food on our plates says everything about our world view: the environment, global warming, torture, fossil fuel dependence, terrorism. It's all there, staring at you from the gloaming of the open microwave door: your spicy chicken and chili bean whole wheat burrito with real cheese. It says everything, don't you think? If we were concerned about any of those things, how can we so cavalierly eat food that destroys the environment, helps create global warming, keeps us dependent on imported fossil fuel, and tortures and mutilates the animals their entire caged life? Don't blame it on the microwave, mister! Basically what I really hate about microwaves is that for me they represent the worst in our culture. We have been sold a bill of goods, happiness through consumerism, but are we happy now? We buy new things that do things we don't really need, yet which somehow become essential.

Why don't we have the time?

Somehow over the last, what, 30 years or so, we've decided to cuddle up to our microwaves and TVs and computers and forgo the very time-consuming activity of sustaining life. (Full disclosure should be made. I love my computer and spend way to much time attached to it. and DVD's are my winter rescue remedy.)

I grew up in a single parent home for many years and I understand what it's like when there is no money and you buy what ever is cheapest. Still I guess as I sit here, I wonder about these things. Have we really gotten so lazy that we'd rather sustain Kraft Foods, Mobil Exxon and LG instead of sustaining ourselves and our planet?

But we saved $2.99!

It's hard and it's a struggle. You can't help but feel that you are on the outside of the world looking in at people who are all happily eating their frozen, recently reheated food product and wondering, Why I can't be happy doing that as well?

When ignorance is bliss, a shred of information can destroy everything you believe in and what has always given you comfort. I also wonder why, given the opportunity with all the time I find myself with, in my unemployed and seemingly unemployable slump, I don't revel in it. Why I don't embrace it and become a super "housewife". Partly because I don't want to be one, because I'm a man and I think and have been told all my life I need to "bring home the bacon," but in lieu of that why not change the structure of our lives? Why not explore what it would be like to live in a manner that reflects what I believe in?

That's where I find myself, in the limbo land of having the knowledge and having to decide how to proceed. I started by not having a microwave. The rest I'm making up as I go along.

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