Technology and the Microwave

About three months ago the light bulb in our under-the-counter microwave in the kitchen burned out. No big deal, just put in a new bulb, right? Well, when the Mad Farmer removed the old burnt out bulb the entire bulb housing came out of the microwave with it. Because the Mad Farmer is just human and occasionally makes mistakes he attempted to just re-insert the bulb housing back into the Microwave without unplugging it first – you can probably see what is coming….

Cue a spark, a flash, a pop, a circuit breaker tripped and a very startled Mad Farmer. After resetting the circuit breaker the outlet tested fine but the microwave was still non-functional. After a quick search of the inter-webs for a repair manual for our particular brand and model of microwave (aren’t the inter-webs amazing?) and after a little time with a circuit tester it was determined that our microwave was kaput. The Mad Farmer was briefly upset for being a Dufus of the 1st degree for not unplugging the microwave. Then came the awkward discussion with Miss Mercy about destroying our microwave (by accident, but definitely not functioning) and what we should do – repair the one we had or get another.

Much to the Mad Farmer’s surprise Miss Mercy went way outside the box and suggested we not replace the unit, at least not right away. The wise wife suggested that we try an experiment and see what it was like living without a device that re-heated or cooked our food with super-excited molecules and could make people sterile if there was not proper shielding in place. The Mad Farmer was open to that suggestion so we decided to give it a try. Right away we noticed two immediate issues: the Mad Farmer started really missing the light for cooking provided over the stove (the actual initial trigger for the entire process) and we both missed the clock/timer function that allowed us to easily discern the time and, optionally, allow timing of dinner preparations.

Eventually we discovered the other downside to not owning a working microwave – you can’t instantly reheat food. Turns out somethings reheat in a cast iron skillet very well, somethings reheat in the oven really well, somethings reheat in a pan on the stove very well. Somethings don’t reheat well at all no matter what method you use. Interestingly this started to change what we decided to cook and eat. Miss Mercy dislikes left-overs for multiple days in a row (unless it’s tacos – that seems to be okay) so we started to try and select meals that are easily reheated as leftovers or not have leftovers. It is interesting how we started to adjust what we cooked and how we cooked to start to take in account how leftovers impacted our future meals, mostly lunch.

The Mad Farmer started reflecting on his history and realized that he could not really remember leftovers growing up. We probably had leftovers, but I don’t think it was very often. We had a family of five, Mom, Dad, two boys and one girl. Breakfast was usually cereal, either hot or cold (Malt-o-Meal was the best), Lunch was often sandwiches, Dinner was the big meal of the day and it was usually on the table at 5:30 pm. If we were having hamburgers I’m pretty sure there were five made. I remember a lot of casseroles so either they were appropriately sized or I’m sure they were reheated in the oven.

My dad was born on a farm and grew up with farm food, hot, lots of it, but not a ton of variety. My country Grandpa had two freezers in the barn, one for beef, one for pork. Grandma raised chickens. Typically we were sent to the barn freezer and told to bring something back. Didn’t matter what, they raised their own animals so eventually everything was eaten. Might be burgers one night, steaks another, chops another and so on. The Mad Farmer’s homestead is a little more adventurous when it comes to food and we’ve been trying to reduce the carbohydrate intake, so we don’t eat a lot of sandwiches or bread. Typically we start the day with Porridge or eggs. Lunch is usually salad (or should be), sometimes leftovers and dinner tends to be either home cooked or leftovers.

The point to this trip down memory lane is that growing up, at least until I was a teenager, no one had microwaves. My city grandparents bought the first microwave we had ever seen. It’s amazing how pervasive the technology has become since the initial introduction. Office breakrooms used to sometimes have a “toaster oven”, rarely, but sometimes they might have an actual stove. Most people tended to bring sack lunches. Now every place you go has a microwave available. We also have vastly increased incidences of cancer and other diseases that did not seem to be around when I was growing up. Maybe those things are showing up because we’ve knocked back all the things that used to get us before cancer. My personal theory is that it coincides with the introduction of highly processed foods and massive amounts of corn sugar (clearly a post for another day).

So to sum up, Miss Mercy and I decided to not replace the microwave. When we removed it we did install a super-cool motion sensitive LED under-the-counter light that has six different color settings so that the Mad Farmer can see what he’s cooking. We are learning to re-heat things the old fashioned way – using a cast iron skillet, pots and pans on the stovetop or in the oven. So far it’s working out okay. It does require a little more planning and slightly more time but that’s not always a bad thing. The upside is the food does tend to taste better. If you’ve never had toast in a cast iron skillet you should really try it – once we did we got rid of our toaster.

What’s your experience? Would you consider giving up your microwave? How much would that impact your life? We’d be interested in hearing others thoughts.

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