I recently spent a week visiting a friend in Seattle, a devout gardener and excellent cook with a kitchen overflowing with beautiful, fresh organic vegetables.
We cooked every day, sometimes twice a day. The meals we made were simple and delicious—real food, prepared with love, eaten with gratitude.
It wasn’t until I went to reheat some leftovers that I noticed he didn’t have a microwave.
“What?” I asked, “No microwave? How do you reheat leftovers?”
“In a pan on the stove or in the oven,” he answered.
I immediately flashed back to my childhood, those pre-microwave days when the only way to reheat food was on the stovetop or in the oven. Vague memories came to mind of plates of food covered with aluminum foil and kept warm in the oven for some late-arriving dinner guest or family member. Even now I associate that image with demonstrating love, and I’m certain it’s because of the time and planning involved. Not, “Hey, you’re here, lets nuke you some leftovers!” But, “Hey, you’re home, I knew you’d be hungry so I kept your plate warm.” Feel the difference?
“Ok. But what about coffee? How do you reheat a cup of coffee?” I pushed.
“Well, I don’t really drink coffee, but if I did I guess I’d just make it a cup at a time,” he replied.
Fresh coffee every time? Yeah, I could do that, I thought.
When I returned home, I took one look at the black metal box taking up a huge chunk of real estate on my countertop and wondered, “Do I even need this thing?” Aware of the studies indicating that microwaved food is unhealthy and uncertain how often I actually used mine, I unplugged the microwave and set it in a corner. I figured that if I missed it daily I was probably using it way too much, and if I rarely missed it then I didn’t really need it anyway.
I didn’t miss it at all. In fact, my life minus the microwave almost immediately improved.
The first positive change was the extra space on my countertop, which I quickly filled with jars of gingered carrots happily fermenting under a kitchen towel, and three kinds of sprouting seeds.
The larger, more profound change has been that of my relationship to my food.
Without a microwave to fall back on, I have to think ahead about what I’m going to eat and when. I can’t decide now that I want a baked sweet potato for dinner and be eating in 15 minutes; I have to plan in advance, preheat the oven, and know that it will be an hour before I can actually eat. Of course I don’t want to heat the oven for just one potato, so I bake a couple extra to eat over the next few days. There’s room for a pan of cornbread muffins, too, so I go ahead and make those as well.
Sometimes I forget to plan ahead and suddenly find myself too hungry to wait an hour to eat. In those instances there’s always grilled cheese and salad, or scrambled eggs and fruit. But I don’t want every meal to be a quick fix. “Real” cooking (on a real stove) requires a level of mindfulness that isn’t necessary in microwaving, and there’s a lovely meditative quality to standing at the stove, stirring the slowly caramelizing onions, checking the tenderness of the steaming green beans.
Yes, it takes longer, and that’s not a bad thing.
Faster isn’t always better. Think about making love, listening to a beautiful piece of music, watching the sunset. Some things are better when they’re not rushed.
After a few weeks, I knew for certain I wasn’t going to use the microwave again so I sold it. I haven’t regretted that choice even once.
I feel connected to my food again. The time I spend planning, choosing, and preparing my food nourishes my soul as well as my body. Instead of a radiation box on my countertop, I’ve got a happy little colony of live, life-giving foods growing—Countertop Farming, coming soon to a kitchen near you!
Why not try it yourself? You don’t have to commit right away—just unplug the microwave and get it off your countertop. After two weeks, you’ll know whether or not you want to make the change permanent. Even if you decide to keep and start using it again, you’ll be making a conscious decision and that’s a plus either way.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Assistant Editor: Jane Henderling/Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: Michael Beck/ Flickr Creative Commons