Thursday, June 10, 2010

Why I Don't Own a Microwave ...

A lot of my friends are astonished that I don't own a microwave.   How do I defrost things? (In the refrigerator, over night.)   How do I cook frozen vegetables? (In a pot with water, it's just as quick.)  What about popcorn? (Cast iron dutch oven, heat-tolerant grapeseed oil = a lot more fun making popcorn.  Plus, Jiffy Pop if I'm desperate.  Who doesn't love Jiffy Pop?)  How do I melt chocolate?  (I'll admit, the chocolate melting is the best reason to own a microwave - no chance of steam sneaking in from the bottom part of the double boiler - but still, not a good enough reason.)

And then they ask, Why?

Well, I'm happy to tell you why we don't own a microwave, and it comes down to one very simple and clear reason:

I'm not the least bit embarrassed to admit this.  My microwave paranoia began when I was pregnant with my first child.  I'd throw the potato in the oven, slam the door, hit the 5 minutes on full power button then run to the other end of the house quick as I could.  When I became too pregnant to quickly get out of the way of the "dangerous leaking microwaves," I made my husband hit power, once I was safely out of the way.

Many of our friends used microwaves to heat milk and formula for their babies, but not us.  I felt it was wrong, somehow.  Plus I kept reading things about how microwaves don't heat evenly and children were being scalded by "hot pockets of milk".  We didn't use a lot of formula, but when we did it was room temperature for my babies, all the way.  To this day, Mad prefers her milk after it's had a chance to sit around a bit.

Then, in 2002 I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and baby that was the end of it: the microwave was out.  I'd never trusted it, but now, now I felt there was proof.  It became my scapegoat, the source of my illness, and proof that the "fastification" (yes I did just make that word up) of food and food prep were helping no one.  We'd been eating organically grown food, drinking milk from grass fed cows, spending a fortune at Whole Foods and the health food store.  I made my own bread.  I idolized Alice Waters!  I was NOT a candidate for cancer.  I remember telling my sister-in-law about my diagnosis, and her response was, "YOU?!"  I never smoked, I went to bed early, I breast fed my children (the second one until she could talk...), I exercised,  and there was no history, whatsoever, of breast cancer in my family.

Ergo, the microwave.  I threw it away, and when we redid the kitchen, I didn't even make a space for a new one.

I'm sure my family missed it: what with the surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, I don't think I cooked much for almost a full year.  My poor husband.  Lots of people brought us meals, and it probably would have been nice for him to have been able to heat it up quickly and easily with the touch of a button.  But no go.  My paranoia had been confirmed: I had proof positive.  (I also believe that any sports team I actively support will lose if I watch them in  the playoffs.  Proof positive: last night I caught a couple minutes of the Stanley Cup.  Don't blame Michael Leighton, Philadelphia, blame me.)

During my treatment I met a nutritionist who confirmed my fears about the microwave.  She told me that there had been a study in Switzerland by these two guys: Blanc and Hertzel which showed the microwave actively changed the molecular structure of the food it was cooking, especially if you began with raw food.  And that when one ate this food, one's body had to work hard to recognize it as food - which caused your blood to produce more white blood cells, which caused - you guessed it - cancer.

When I came home armed with this new information, my husband despaired of ever being able to eat his Ben and Jerry's with out running it under warm water, or letting it sit out for 20 minutes.  He missed his microwave.

But who cares, right?  Because once treatment was over, I was all fine and dandy.  We kept on with the organic food, grass fed beef and milk, microwave free home.


Except two months ago I go in for my routine MRI.

And then the oncologist calls.

It wasn't quite cancer, but it was DCIS, a kind of pre-cancer which meant, given my history, more surgery.  Which I did.  And I'm fine.  They say it's all gone, that I'm not going to get breast cancer again (unless of course something metastasizes, but who am I to look on the dark side?).

OK, that was a long way of explaining why I haven't blogged since April.  I was tired, and my chest hurt and for two weeks my dear friends brought us food, and after that, I was just too whiney to do anything but cook old standbys. We've been eating a lot of pasta, and the girls are pretty sick of it.

And I thought, well, maybe it wasn't the microwave after all.  And I decided to google that theory about the microwave changing molecules ... and, yeah, it's most likely a bit of bunk.  It kind of depends on which website you choose to believe...

My husband is holding out some slim hope that I might allow a microwave back into our home.  But I tell him, "don't hold your breath," because even though I'm (supposedly) cancer free, and even though the microwave=cancer theory is (supposedly) untrue, one thing remains unchanged:

I'm paranoid.


  1. I am on my way to Best Buy to get a microwave.

  2. If by "Anonymous" you mean, my husband, then you most certainly are NOT.

  3. However, if you are not my husband, well then, you are a much braver person than I am...

  4. My paranoia takes this form: Use the microwave, get out of the way while it's on, yell at my child when he gets too close when it's on, and worry worry worry. It's very stupid. But reading this makes me want to get rid of ours, Just. In. Case. (Michael will commiserate with Smith.)
    We also inherited Michael's family's beautiful old -- but ALUMNINUM -- pots. Crap. Now there's another decision to make. Please, someone, come and steal the pots so I don't have to worry about them. But don't steal anything else!

  5. Hang the beautiful aluminum pots on the wall or use them for plants, but don't cook in them! Target has some really nice pots - and they won't break the bank. I think a couple of succulents planted in some beautiful old pots would look really good....


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