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Microwaves are dying out? Not in my house

Addie Broyles
abroyles@statesman.com

When was the last time you used a microwave? Today? Yesterday? Two years ago?

Last week, I saw a bunch of tweets about this article in the digital magazine Quartz, in which Roberto A. Ferdman argues that the microwave’s days are numbered.

Ferdman pointed out that microwave sales actually increased from 1999 to 2004, when Americans bought nearly 12 million of them, according to Euromonitor. But in the past 10 years, sales have dropped by 40 percent. That’s just shy of 8 million units sold in 2013, which is roughly the same number of toaster ovens that Americans bought last year.

Ferdman argues that rising toaster sales and falling microwave sales mean that Americans have turned their back on zapping food in favor of more “natural” ways of cooking, while at the same time spending more money on products like ready-to-eat popcorn.

“Americans are at once too patient and too lazy to use their microwaves these days,” he wrote.

Maybe it was his use of the word “lazy,” but I bristled at the whole concept that so many millions of us don’t need or want microwaves anymore.

I’ve already been through the phase of not wanting a microwave for the sake of eating more “purely” or “authentically,” and then I had kids and changed my mind about how long I wanted to stand at the stove to heat up that cup of coffee I didn’t get to finish or leftovers from last night’s dinner.

In today’s food section, I dig deeper into the subject about why I think microwaves aren’t going anywhere and why we shouldn’t be shaming people for using them.

I started thinking critically about the last part of that sentence a few years ago when I kept seeing a Facebook post being shared about the “saddest”or most “depressing” cookbook ever made: “Microwave Cooking For One,” a book written by Marie T. Smith about thirty years ago.

Millions of people live by themselves, often by choice, and how they prepare their food has nothing to do with the quality of their lives. Thanks to the foodie/locavore culture, in which I have also been known to participate, a section of Americans snub microwave cooking as lesser than making every single meal from scratch using only more “authentic” cooking methods like a stove, oven or grill.

The microwave, once a heralded time-saver that allowed cooks, especially women, to do something other than work in a kitchen for hours at a time, is now a second-class appliance for second-class cooks.

Well, this cook — who also cans, bakes bread, makes pasta and pickles just about anything that will fit in a jar — still uses her microwave for everything from melting butter and popping popcorn to heating up leftovers and doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon.

Many Americans don’t have access to the kinds of kitchens we see on TV, and a microwave costs a whole lot less than a new stove/oven. I’m not saying I could cook everything I eat in one, but it is a helpful, not to mention energy-saving, tool that we use on daily basis.

What do you think about the argument that microwaves are on their way out? Leave a comment here or over on the Relish Austin Facebook page.

Yellow Cake in a Mug

Mug cakes are single-serving cakes “baked” in the microwave, usually in a ceramic coffee mug. Their popularity has boomed in the Pinterest generation, and in 2013, Leslie Bilderback published an entire cookbook dedicated to them. This basic yellow cake recipe is one of the cakes featured in the book, and she calls it a “perfect blank canvas on which to paint a sweet celebratory picture. Eat it as is, or fold in anything you like — chocolate chips, candies, nuts, fruits — to create a personalized mug cake statement.” Feel free to top with icing, whipped cream, sprinkles or colored sugar crystals.

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 large egg

2 Tbsp. milk

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup granulated sugar

6 Tbsp. (1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp.) self-rising flour

Pinch of kosher salt

Place the butter in a large mug and microwave it for 20 to 30 seconds until melted. Add the egg and whisk it in with a fork. Stir in the milk, vanilla and sugar. Add the flour and salt. Beat the batter until smooth. Divide the batter between two mugs. Microwave separately for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 minutes each until risen and firm. Makes two mug cakes.

— From “Mug Cakes: 100 Speedy Microwave Treats to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth” by Leslie Bilderback (St. Martin’s Griffin, $22.99)