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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Way Back When I Was Young...

The other day, as I was teaching piano lessons, we had a near disaster. Tired of trying to find someone willing to do it for him, C (now five) decided to make his own piece of bread and peanut butter - which he of course wanted to warm up in the microwave like his brothers always do. Always willing to help himself (whether or not he's able), C came in and asked me if how many minutes to put nuke it for.

Yes, a brief thought of caution flashed through my head, but I quickly pushed it aside. I was in the middle of a lesson, and he does know his numbers, so it shouldn't be too hard, right? So I said, "Push nine."

Meaning, of course, nine SECONDS.

Thankfully, the Lord blessed me with a phone call a few moments later, and I had to go into the kitchen. The smokey haze was seeping out from around the seal on the microwave door, and already hanging in an ominous cloud throughout my kitchen.

I looked at the microwave. I have no idea how long it was initially set for, but by the time I got there, it had nine MINUTES and fifty seconds left to go. The piece of bread? A charred chunk of very hard, unidentifiable black stuff. Black smoke billowed out, and my house stunk like burned-microwave-food for two or three days. Nice.

This experience, and conversations with my mother, have taken me back in time to the acquisition of our family's first microwave. I am certain that I am not the only one in the blogosphere who remembers the day/night the modern miracle of the microwave made it's appearance in their life.

It was evening. I must have been about eight years old. My mother and brother staggered into the kitchen lugging a humongous and very heavy box between them. Our microwave had arrived, and boy were we excited. Baffled, and completely clueless as to what we should do with it - but definitely excited.

We all stood around and watched while my brother got it plugged in and settled on the counter. Can I just say that it was HUGE??! I probably could have climbed in there if I'd wanted! I distinctly remember all of us trying to decide what we could put in the amazing new toy we knew nothing about. I think are first experiment was with something really exciting like a piece of bread and butter. Woo Hoo.

For quite awhile, we didn't really do anything constructive with it. Well, not when Mom was around, anyway. When she was gone, my older sister and I would experiment with different things. Some of our better attempts were microwaved s'mores (graham cracker, several chocolate chips, marshmallow, and another graham cracker cooked until just before marshmallow exploded), and microwaved toasted cheese sandwiches (achieved by toasting bread in toaster, while nuking slices of cheese on a plate, and then using a spatula to scrape cheese off plate and onto toast).

Apparently, several other families in the ward were dealing with similar we-have-a-microwave-and-don't-have-a-clue-what-to-do-with-it issues, because it wasn't long before we had a "Microwave Cooking" Homemaking Lesson at our house. I still remember learning how "all microwaves have hot spots where they cook faster," and to find them you were supposed to cut a paper bag to fit the bottom of your microwave (of course there was no rotating plate), dampen it with water, and cook it to see which spots dried up first.

My favorite microwave memory, however, was our first Sunday roast cooked in the microwave. Of course it was Fast Sunday (when we fore go dinner and breakfast, and come home from church famished), and apparently my mother missed the memo about how microwaves cook in A LOT LESS TIME than conventional ovens.

She stuck it in the microwave, set it to cook for three hours, and we left for church.

Three hours later, with my teenage brothers dying of starvation, we pulled into the garage. We could smell it before we got in the house. Devastated, my brothers rushed to the scene of the tragedy, and emerged a few moments later with our dinner. It was roughly the size of a baseball, black, VERY hard, and fit right in with the rocks in the driveway. What a tragedy.

I could go on with stories about "crustless" microwaved bread, and all the special "microwave cookware" everyone bought, but I won't. I am kind of glad, however, that I get to remember things like "life before the microwave." For some reason it makes me feel just a little bit cool - almost like someone being able to say "I remember life before indoor plumbing." It's not necessarily something to be envied, yet it says something about me. I lived before life was as easy as it is now. We didn't used to be able to make s'mores in our kitchen. Wow.

19 comments:

Machen family said...

That was great! I love the homemaking night. Isn't technology beautiful...this post reminded me of when I was making "reese's" with the help of my microwave. This is where I would slab lots of peanut butter on slice of bread, melt choc. chips in the microwave and then drizzle it on my concoction, pop it in the freezer til perfect. mmmm....how the pioneers lived without this is beyond me. Do I hear a Hallelujah for microwaves!

McFarland Family said...

Very funny story. I'm glad your peanut butter was contained to the microwave. I've had it ALL over the kitchen- including the ceiling. My parents still have the first microwave they bought- and I remember when they got it. It's at my dad's office and still gets used. Huge!

Sue Q said...

I think the first thing we did in our prehistoric nuker was melt butter. And I tried the s'mores thing without chocolate or graham cracker.

Ka-BOOM!!!

Marshmallows have a very distinct explosive sound when they get too hot, did you know that? I learned that when I was eight, too! And I kept re-learning it over the years -- I never seemed to get the number of seconds small enough to get a single darn marshmallow to get that lovely, toasty-brown crust without smearing it all over the walls of the microwave.

The Grandpa said...

Really good post, Jen. Unfortunately, or fortunately, actually, I do remember life before some of my extended family (we -- my immediate family--were always part of the civilized branch) had indoor plumbing.

Laura said...

Yikes Grandpa! There are many things I am incredibly grateful for, and indoor plumbing and hot water are DEFINITELY on that list!!

And while I don't really remember life before microwaves, I do remember life before cell phones and email and internet! WOW!!! I love these things, but I sure could live without them.

Toilets, however, I can not.

Claire said...

Hahaha... i remember getting our first microwave. My mum popped a whole chicken in there, and we pulled seats up in front of it, to see it turn round .... and round... and round... for a whole hour. And we thought that was magical.

Natalie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Natalie said...

Wow. I don't have any specific memories of particular dishes. I'm thinking we always just used our microwave for melting butter/ popping popcorn, etc. Nothing remarkable like rock roasts or Reese's. I do remember a babysitter coming over and microwaving something w/ the metal utensil in it and the microwave catching on fire (I want to say exploding) and having to get a new one and my parents being horrified since they were such a new and therefore big & expensive item that replacing it was an unimaginable horror. It was the 80's equivalent of having your baby-sitter break your brand new 46" flat screen plasma Tv or something.

That Girl in Brazil said...

Okay, lady, only you could keep me absolutely riveted about MICROWAVES.

Loved this post!

Nutty Hamster Chick said...

I totally remember life before also. And we had some similiar things happen. Great memories.

Alison Wonderland said...

I do remember getting our first microwave but I was young enough that I don't distincly remember life before that (not that that's my first memory or anything it's just that I wasn't doing a lot of cooking). I do distincly remember that to begin with microwaves were supposed to be something you cooked food in rather than being pretty much solely for warming up like they are now. I remember gross, soggy chicken cooked in the microwave. Good times.

Alyson (New England Living) said...

Those stories are so funny! My family got a microwave the year I was born, so I was not aware of all the fun and potentially dangerous things they did with it in the beginning. I'll have to ask my mom because your microwave stories are funny!

LisAway said...

I remember the magic of the microwave, but I was a little older (we were poor).

I also remember the rare times we rented a VCR so we could watch a rented video. That was AMAZING that we could watch a movie at home that wasn't on TV. A miracle, really.

Shelle-BlokThoughts said...

I don't remember our first microwave, it seems that we always just had one. but that doesn't mean anything, I can't remember last week! :)

So There you go...

I love that your mom set the Microwave for 3 hours...I'm surprised it didn't blow up! :)

SWIRL said...

Really funny thoughts... whenever I am telling a story about my childhood... my kids will interrupt, "why didn't you just call on your cell phone?"
or "why didn't you just look it up on the computer?"

I just laugh... "oh darlings... we didn't have those things..."

Like GPS- soon no one will ever get lost driving! Amazing! ( I get lost on a regular basis.)
We don't have GPS .

Kelly said...

Very funny remembering about microwaves. Now do one on your first VCR, cause that's a classic too!

Debbie said...

That is a great story! And I can just smell that burnt PB from your son now.

Kimberly said...

Bwahahahah! I can just picture it! And almost smell it...

Braja said...

Grandpa sent me :)

Yeah I remember the first micro experiences: tin foil and cutlery, and all the PING PING ZAP!!! noises and scary "TURN THE GODDAMNED POWER OFF!!!" screams from the kitchen. LOL.