Saturday, May 10, 2014

Let's ruin some homemade goodies in one simple step!

I am not going to make fun of the foods themselves in today's post. Take, for example, this picture. It may not look too bad at first glance:
The more you look, though, the more you should suspect that something is not quite right. The cheese is melty and stringy, but it looks almost poured on. There is no delicate brown crust on top of it like a good, home-baked pizza would have. The crust is oddly yellow, not golden-brown. And wait a minute-- it's not being served from a pizza pan. It's on a glass plate. I'll bet you've guessed the trick by now:

Yes, this recipe is from Betty Crocker's Microwave Cookbook (1981), when microwaves were still enough of a novelty that cookbook writers had to pretend microwaves were great for cooking absolutely everything so readers could justify the cost to themselves. Reheating leftovers was not worth the price they paid, so the thing damn well better do more than that. So yeah-- the cookbook promises they can make a homemade pizza in the microwave.

Of course, we make pizza in the microwave now, but it's crappy frozen pizza that's designed to be microwaved. It's usually pretty bad, but we knew that going in. The draw is that it's quick and cheap. The attraction of a homemade pizza should be that it's good. It will take a little extra time, but the time will be worthwhile. This recipe manages to combine the bad sides of homemade pizza (time consuming, requires multiple ingredients and at least some level of skill) with the bad side of microwaving (poor quality, especially if one wants, say, a crispy crust and nicely browned cheese) to make something that's clearly a waste of everyone's time.

And the pizza is not the only food subjected to this treatment. Try looking at these muffins for a moment:

They're kind of pretty: filled with bright berries or topped with streusel or orange marmalade. They also look kind of sad, though: flat, pale tops and interiors that look less fluffy than gummy. So what goes into making these slumpy wonders?

Again, I have no problem with reheating a few muffins in the microwave. It's a good way to get stale or frozen muffins to taste fresh-out-of-the-oven-ish, if your mouth squints a little. If I were going to take the time and effort to make them from scratch, though, there is no way I would "bake" them in the microwave.

Betty's optimism about the microwave's abilities knew no bounds, though. Microwaving could even work for occasions calling for cake:

Frost them, and these sad, deflated little cakes (which need the frosting just to reach the top of the cupcake paper) can make any grown-up's birthday just a little more depressing. Leave unfrosted, and they are sad, deflated muffins.