Microwave Safe

June 17, 2011

Scientists have now developed microwave meals that whistle when they’re ready. I’m sure the world was clamoring for microwave meals that could do what tea kettles have been able to do, well, as long as there have been tea kettles. Was the world clamoring for this? Not really. Isn’t the microwave beeping enough to tell us that it’s done cooking? Some microwaves even spell out messages when they’re done like "ENJOY YOUR MEAL", even when you’ve just been boiling water or microwaving a fluorescent bulb to see what will happen. Since the scientists were working with microwave ovens couldn’t they have been working on something useful, like making microwave ovens consistent? Every microwave meal I’ve ever had has, as part of its instructions, included a note that microwaves vary and that the cooking time may need to be adjusted. This is why half the time when you follow the instructions your microwave meal will come out half frozen or will burst into flames while it’s still cooking. At the very least they could make microwave meals simpler.

I know the instructions for some microwave meals are as straightforward as "Cook three and a half minutes. Let cool. Eat." but there are a lot that get ridiculously complicated. A lot of full microwaveable meals have instructions like, "Pull back film cover over chicken. Pierce cover over vegetables four times. Heat two minutes and fifteen seconds. Rotate three quarters of a turn. Remove film cover over dessert. Heat an additional sixty seconds. Flip chicken over." By the time you get to the sauce packet that has to be thawed in boiling water you might as well have cooked a meal from scratch. Okay, maybe the scientists discovered how to make microwave meals whistle by accident and decided to put the principle to good use, which happens very frequently in science. A lot of history’s greatest inventions-penicillin, potato chips, Silly Putty-were discovered by accidents. Microwave ovens were invented when a scientist named Percy Spencer was standing in front of a magnetron and noticed that it melted a chocolate bar he had in his shirt pocket. He’s lucky it didn’t cook his heart, but that’s accidents for you. Necessity may be the mother of invention, but accidents are the wacky uncle who fed you whipped cream straight from the can when you were seven.

This is the twenty-first century, though, and I think scientists could do a lot better than microwave meals that whistle when ready. Everything from greeting cards to yogurt has gotten embedded chips that play music, so why not microwave meals that play songs while they’re cooking? Now that’d be impressive. Most microwave meals cook for about three and a half minutes, which is the length of the average pop song. And imagine the potential food/song pairings. Microwave pizzas could play Dean Martin’s "That’s Amore". While your prepackaged sliders are thawing they’d play "Cheeseburger in Paradise". Breakfast sandwiches would play "Good Morning" by the Beatles while gas station burritos could belt out Wall of Voodoo’s "Mexican Radio". At the very least a microwave meal could, while it’s still cooking, play Queen’s "Don’t Stop Me Now". Until it bursts into flames.

Bonus: This week’s Freethinkers Anonymous, with deleted scenes and an alternate ending, can also be seen here:

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