Microwave Maladies and Magic

Early one morning our microwave broke. I ordered a new one. A delivery date and time for installation were set and that was that. No big deal, at least not for me, but for others, life without a microwave was a challenge.

Misery and Woe
That evening …

“How did you do it? my daughter asked as we sat sipping tea.

“Do what?

“Make the tea. I mean, make the water hot?”


“How did you get the water hot?”

My techno wiz, super-smart kid was genuinely clueless about the seeming “lost art” of boiling water on the stove. At last, the wisdom of a middle-aged mom was of some practical value – knowing how to boil water on the stove!

Her Kingdom for a Microwave
All week long as we waited for the new microwave to be installed, my daughter suffered and paced and ate cold cereal by the fistful. Without a microwave, my 5’8” eating machine was unable to heat instant soup, make a turkey cheese tortilla, prepare a mushy cinnamon-raisin English muffin awash in butter or zap popcorn. She went through boxes of Cheerios, Honey Nut Cheerios, and Graham Crackers. If Post or General Mills made it, she ate it.

Once I took pity on her and made one of her favorite microwaveable treats – quesadillas. I did it the good old-fashioned way: I used the oven. She was so moved, so sweet, so sublimely satisfied that I thought about skipping Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing and just making my très gourmet quesadillas completed with pre-grated Kraft Mexican cheese mix.

Generationally, it seems stoves and ovens are technologically passé, too slow and somehow uncool. My children like their food the way they like their Internet – fast.

Bagels? Bah!
This is quite a leap from my family’s first microwave, whose sole utility in my mother’s eyes was to defrost bagels.

“$500 to defrost bagels,” my father constantly muttered.

Later, I learned of a second use for a microwave oven, and it came from an unimpeachable, albeit unlikely culinary source, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

My Interview with the FBI
You see, I had just secured a White House Fellowship and as part of the fellowship program, I was interviewing for a job within the Administration. I was a journalist who had covered organized crime in Las Vegas and I had studied in St. Petersburg and Moscow. Those areas of “expertise” made me a person of interest – in a good way – to the FBI as a possible hire. So, there I sat one steamy hot August day in 1985, in Washington, D.C., talking with Judge William Webster, the Director of the FBI.

We discussed many serious topics of national security, white collar crime, and organized crime over the course of an hour. At one point, we talked about the D.C. 24/7 work ‘til you drop ethic. Judge Webster expressed concern that his agents needed to have a life-work balance. Yet, the Director admitted he too kept long hours. That is how the subject of microwave ovens came up. Judge Webster, recently widowed after 34 years of marriage, said he wasn’t much of a cook, but commented that a microwaved baked potato was pretty tasty!

I wound up accepting another job offer during my White House Fellowship year, but that tip about microwaving potatoes came in handy as I logged long hours over at the U.S. Department of State, working for Secretary George Shultz.

Microwave Fun
When I married, Handsome Hubby added something new to my microwave repertory: a party trick, one that’s especially popular among the under-10-year-old set and with science nerds!

Here it is: Carefully slice a grape in half, leaving just the skin connected on one side. Microwave for just a few seconds. The grape will seemingly explode and generate a flash of light and fire. Of course, there’s a YouTube video of this which has been viewed almost 2 million times!

There is a technical explanation for this, but I don’t understand it. You can look it up. This much I will tell you. Exercise caution if you try this. Microwaving a grape generates intense heat and produces a dangerous gas. Again, exercise caution.

This trick/science experiment never ceases to amaze children and grown men. And, in turn, it never ceases to amaze grown women how easily amused – and amusing – grown men can be.

Back to the Now and the Land of Mom
Praise the Delivery Gods! After five days, our new microwave was delivered and installed. Turkey cheese tortillas ingested, paper plate in the trash. My daughter was again content at home … definitely not competent on the oven range.

She smiled as she pressed the microwave’s express button #2 and listened contentedly as the popcorn kernels heated up and did their dance.

Ah, home-cooked perfection in the 21st Century … all in just two minutes.

1 reply
  1. Shannon Verser
    Shannon Verser says:

    Yay! Microwaves are handy, but I still prefer oven baked potatoes and my teapot whistling in the kitchen. Convenience is king! And our generation of offspring are missing the fun of “real” cooking!


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