Sunday, November 7, 2010

Microwave - Part One

Microwaves, have been around for decades. For a long time, I never really wanted to get one, but did see the benefit of them for convenience. Several of my friends had them and raved about the ease of use and how much they liked having one. I tried using them, but just never really felt that I “needed” one.

After losing so much of my sight in late 1990, I finally began to think about getting one. In some respects, it would be safer for me to use a microwave rather than cooking on top of the stove – especially for heating up leftovers. I could also use it to steam individual servings of vegetables, cook rice and other things. Not to mention the fact that when it came to my Christmas baking, it would be a whole lot easier to melt my chocolate in a microwave than in the top of a double boiler. Granted, I’d still have to do the dipping chocolate on the stove as it has to stay a consistent temperature while being used.

I studied some consumer reports, asked friends and family for recommendations and shopped around for a model that would suit my needs. I finally got my first microwave in the spring of 1994. It was a Panasonic. I don’t recall exactly what I paid for it but I think it was somewhere around $250. I had the CNIB come in and make a template so that I could easily feel where the buttons were on the flat panel.

Over the years, I used it a LOT. Much more than I imagined I would. I never tried cooking meats in it as I preferred the browning effect on the stove or in the oven. I rarely made popcorn, but I still managed to use it at least once a day. I warmed my breakfast muffin. I’d boil water, cook rice, steam vegetables, reheat leftovers and other uses.

Sometimes I used the defrost but generally I was more apt to just reheat or steam something. I tried drying spices a couple of times, but never really liked the result. The spices always seemed to lose more of their colour and more importantly their flavour that way rather than drying between paper towels on the counter for a couple of days. I never really liked roasting almonds or other nuts in the microwave either. They just didn’t seem to get that same rich nuttiness that they did roasting in a low temp oven.

There are countless stories of microwave disasters. A friend recently had a spaghetti squash explode in her microwave, despite punching countless holes in it first. Friends have also had eggs or potatoes explode.

I never really had a big disaster – although there was one mess that I recall having to clean up. I tried doing one of those upside down pudding cake mixes in it once. I followed the directions explicitly but the thing still overflowed and made one heck of a mess! I called the company to complain and they sent me about $5 in coupons for more of their products. I baked the cakes in the oven after that.

I only did potatoes in it when I was in a hurry. If I had the time, I much prefer the crunchier skin of the potato that is baked in an oven. Although I did learn a great trick from an aunt when you are a bit pressed for time. Wash and dry the potato then poke with several holes with a fork. Place on a paper towel and cook on high for about 2 1/2 minutes for an average sized spud. Turn it over half way through. When the oven stops, carefully transfer the hot potato to a preheated 375 oven to finish baking for about another 25-30 minutes – turning again after 15 minutes. The ‘tater is done in half the time and still has that nice crunchy crust!

One of the times that I appreciate my microwave the most is when I’m doing my marathon Christmas baking. Melting the chocolate and various other concoctions for the treats that I make is just so much simpler. I know I wouldn’t be doing nearly as much every year without it!

In the last couple of years, I started to notice that it wasn’t cooking quite as well as it used to. The interior light had long since burnt out but that was minor. Muffins were taking a bit longer to warm. Leftovers were taking longer. Everything seemed to take a little longer. I’d have to replace it eventually.

Then, one day in mid September it happened. I was reheating some leftovers for supper. I’d set the reheat button and start. It should have taken 3 minutes. The machine just stopped after about 90 seconds. No beeps and nothing on the display panel,

Uh-oh! I checked the power bar and it had flipped off. Everything else in the apartment was still functioning and none of the lights had flickered so there wasn’t a surge or power outage. I flipped the power and started the microwave again. It stopped again after about a minute. My supper was hot enough to eat but my microwave was on it’s last legs.

Over the next few weeks, I was only able to use the microwave for things that took less than 30 seconds or so. Anything more than that and the power bar would flip off. I had to relearn to reheat on top of the stove. The first time I tried steaming broccoli on top of the stove again – it was mush. I ate it but I prefer it tender crisp!

I also realized that I needed a new power bar as it would also flip while using my Foreman Grill. I tried another power bar and the grill worked fine, but the microwave still kept shutting off. I was not a happy camper!

Despite having just spent money on a new freezer a few weeks earlier, it was now time to shell out for a new microwave too. Great.

Next: Getting a new microwave.


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