Taste of Home
For most folks, a microwave in the kitchen is almost as essential as an oven. After all, without it how can you quickly melt butter, revive leftovers and pop a quick bag of popcorn?
For the longest time, I shared this mindset. However, once I moved into my home, a charming little house with a very tiny kitchen, I found myself cursing my microwave more than I was using it. I’d prep a fabulous meal only to find that I had nowhere near the counter space I needed to work. As I shuffled bowls and cutting boards from the counter to the kitchen table, I’d glare at the microwave, thinking if only I didn’t need that—think of all the space I’d have! And I thought this way for years as I struggled to roll out sugar cookies and pie crusts on a small bit of counter.
Finally, fed up with trying to work around that darn microwave, I decided that it had to go. So I gave it a good clean (here are some super easy tips), unplugged that beast and plopped in the basement hoping I’d never reach for it again. So far, it’s been four months without it. Here’s what life’s been like.
The honeymoon period
A few days after ditching the microwave, I faced my first hurdle as my husband grabbed a few cartons of Chinese leftovers out of the fridge. This was my first challenge. Every other time, I’d pop those in the microwave and call it a day, but that wasn’t an option. Instead, I heated up a skillet nice and hot and tossed that fried rice and chow mein in there and let it heat through. Easy enough! Munching away, my husband said, “This is so much better this way!” And he was right! The rice didn’t dry out and the sauces in our takeout didn’t turn gloppy. Our first week without a microwave and I was sold!
Although I was singing the praises of a microwave-free life when it came to leftovers, I soon started hitting a few walls. When I baked, I was totally loving the extra square feet on my counter for prep work. However, a few tasks proved to be a touch more aggravating to me.
One afternoon I was about to mix up a delicious chocolate tart with a cookie crust. Seemed simple enough: crush up cookies, mix together with melted butter and a bit of sugar. I grabbed my stick of butter from the fridge and turned to where the microwave used to be to melt it. Ugh, I thought. Instead of zapping it for 30 seconds, I had to pull out a small saucepan and melt the butter in there, and then I had to melt the chocolate with a bain-marie over the stove for the filling (just one of several ways to melt chocolate). This wouldn’t have taken any time at all with the microwave, but using the stove for these simple steps really added on some time and made for more dishes—a big deal when you don’t have a dishwasher either!
The no-microwave situation also was incredibly annoying to my husband who habitually microwaved the same pot of coffee all day as he worked from home. Taking out a saucepan to reheat coffee felt silly, but it felt silly to me that he didn’t just make smaller pots throughout the day! Either way, this post-no-microwave-honeymoon phase definitely irked us both from time to time.
Adjusting to the new normal
However, after a few weeks, we began to adjust. My husband started to make smaller pots of coffee, and I started to realize that butter didn’t take that much longer to melt over the stovetop.
Now, after living microwave-free for several months, I’ve come to terms with how much that contraption can ruin some pretty good food. Yes, leftover Chinese food was infinitely better, but so were other microwave-friendly dishes, like nachos. No more soggy tortilla chips!
I also learned that being microwave-less helped me become a better, or at least more attentive, cook in some small ways. Instead of popping chocolate chips into the microwave to melt—where they’d almost always seize up on me—I would just melt them over a double boiler so I could see them reaching the right consistency.
Ultimately, I learned to appreciate a slightly slower pace in my kitchen. Instead of impatiently waiting for the clock to count down, I just sit and babysit my cream as it warms up, ready to become ganache. It’s nice to work a bit more slowly—it makes me think that I’m making recipes, like these vintage ones—the way they were intended to be made.