When I was 7 we moved across the state to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It was quite a shock leaving the tiny hometown I’d grown up for a big city.
One of the strange things my mother did was buy a microwave and not purchase a stove. This was in the late 1970s. I suspect my mother thought microwaves were cool and would cook better and faster than a regular stove. Plus she rarely cooked anyway.
We lived there for 4 years with only a microwave and an electric frying pan for cooking. As far as meals went, it truly sucked.
Gray chicken. Soggy hamburger helper. Kraft macaroni and cheese. Disgusting frozen dinners. Steamed French fries. Microwaved scrambled eggs. Blech.
I absolutely loved going back to my hometown and visiting my aunt Es for the summers. She made everything from scratch and didn’t own a microwave. I learned to make omelets, toasted cheese sandwiches, roasts, Irish stews, cabbage, chef’s salads, fudge, bread and much more from aunt Es.
Once I reached 6th grade, we moved into a house with a real stove. It was like a dream come true for me. I was assigned the chores to make dinner for the family. I enjoyed it. I was a decent cook – far better than anyone else in my household. It was because I cared enough to make good tasting food for my family.
I used the microwave only for reheating leftovers, baking potatoes, instant oatmeal and melting butter. I would never try to cook meat, pasta or any kind of decent meal in the microwave.
I haven’t made scrambled eggs in the microwave even once since I got that first stove back in 6th grade.
Yesterday when talking to my mother, she said she had purchased a loaf of bread and had made some toast that she really enjoyed. Then she said, “Well not really toast…I don’t own a toaster.. So I just warmed up a piece of bread in the microwave.”
“Oh my god”, I thought. That sounds like a prison meal.
Why was I shocked? I shouldn’t have been. My mother’s stove has been broken for 10 years. She hasn’t used her oven in at least 25 years.
She likes to eat and frequently ate out at fast food and casual restaurants (pre-covid). For meals at home, she eats hotdogs, frozen dinners, broccoli and bananas. Plus, I suspect, a significant amount of junk food.
She only “cooks” in her microwave.
My way of life is so diametrically opposed to hers that sometimes it’s hard to believe I’m her son.
Cooking to me is an experience to be savored. Of course, I like making healthy, great tasting meals. But cooking is so much more than that.
It’s choosing the ingredients. It’s slicing, chopping and seasoning. It’s browning, simmering and searing. It’s frying, baking, tasting, steaming and sautéing.
It’s the sounds, the smells, the visuals and the rituals.
None this comes by shoving something into the microwave and hitting START.
Cooking for only myself over the past three years has become a bit mundane. As I pared my diet back from Paleo to Keto to Carnivore, cooking requires fewer ingredients and less time. But I still enjoy making omelets, searing steaks, baking meatballs and frying burgers.
In the past month, I’ve had dinner with MGLN several times. I am absolutely mesmerized sitting in her kitchen watching her cook. First, she’s absolutely beautiful. Second, she is efficient and organized. Third, she’s a great cook and a fascinating, engaging dinner companion.
When she cooks, there’s no hesitation as she pulls out ingredients and utensils, chops/slices/dices, preps the pans and cooks the food. When I’m watching her, it feels so…normal. And so wonderful at the same time.
We talked about it and she said, “Cooking (and eating) is one an experience that is better with other people.”