Did microwaves change the world?

Microwaves were as alien as could be when they arrived on the culinary scene back in the forties. But if they disappeared tomorrow, would anyone actually notice?


When I designed my kitchen three years ago I forgot to allow space for the microwave. I remember this fact every time I trudge to the spare room to melt some chocolate or soften some butter as this is where it now lives.

MicrowaveI remember in the seventies when the microwave oven first came onto the domestic market, prices became affordable and it was the must-have piece of kitchen kit. We were told how it would revolutionise how we cook, and render the conventional oven and hob redundant. I wonder how much of this is true in modern households?

When the kids were teenagers and keeping strange hours it was invaluable for reheating missed meals or defrosting prawns to chuck into instant noodles. And the ping of the microwave will be forever associated in my mind with their midnight feasts as they came home starving from the pub with friends in tow looking for anything half edible. But does anyone actually cook complete meals in them?

I remember all the cookery demonstrations in stores and the cookbooks that were published giving us instructions forLemon pudding making anything from sponge puddings to casseroles. But if we are really honest what do we use the thing for most? Top of my list is softening butter for cake making, melting chocolate, warming milk or coffee that's gone cold, cooking a bit of fish or some frozen peas and best of all making a quick bowl of porridge with no cruddy pan to wash up afterwards. And that's about it really, now that relay mealtimes are a thing of the past.

Scrambled eggsConverts swear by microwave zapped scrambled egg, but I find it's a bit hit and miss and prefer to stir it in a pan to get it to just the right degree of creaminess, one second either way and it's ruined for me. So does your microwave earn it's space in your kitchen? Certainly as a reheating tool it's brilliant. Memories of crusty dried up plates of supper kept warm in the oven under a saucepan lid when I was late home from school convince me of that.