Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dancing Through the Cookbooks

In an effort to reduce my footprint a bit (and to have less to move when I actually do a. find a buyer for this place, and b. find an apartment for myself), I have been culling my cookbooks.

Boy, I sure do have a lot of useless junk around the house. Admittedly, I'm addicted to cookbooks, but still...for instance, I have about eight books by James Beard. I don't even LIKE James Beard. I split up with him when I discovered that he thinks chicken should be pink at the bone, which nauseates me. So (with the exception of his hors d'oeuvres book, which I love), out they went.

Then I got rid of all the Gourmet and Bon Appetit annuals, which I'd been slavishly buying (at the Strand, of course), because it occurred to me that I read these damn magazines every month and cut out the recipes I want - why do I need them in books?

At any rate, you get the picture.

However, one of the things I came across was the first microwave cookbook I ever bought (the second was Barbara Kafka's wonderful one, which I'm keeping because it's the best reference ever for the microwave). This would be around the time I bought my first microwave, which would be when Matthew and I got married in 1988, because we had a gift certificate for Zabar's. In case you don't know this, and few people do, the second floor of Zabar's is an absolute wonderland of cooking equipment at wonderful prices...if you cook, check it out.

At any rate, this little book was evidently published in the first wave of America's fascination with the microwave, and you would not believe the things it tells you a microwave can do. Which, by the way, it can't. Matthew and Sarah and I once went to dinner at the home of an old friend of his whose wife (who departed in the middle of the night for greener pastures, leaving him with the baby, quite shortly thereafter - although I don't think we had anything to do with it) cooked us perhaps one of the worst meals I've ever eaten...beef stew cooked in a microwave. Unseasoned, even to salt and pepper. This book is just chockfull of little gems like that - such as the page I'm looking at now, which tells you how to make an omelet in the microwave. It takes 3 minutes. Making an omelet in a pan takes 30 seconds. Why are you screwing around with the damn microwave?

Another page I just got to has "Tips for Roasting Meat in the Microwave" - which is an impossibility. They also suggest you make meatballs in the microwave. No, again.

But my favorite is a "recipe" for "Boiling Water in Bulk." According to this, boiling 6 cups of water takes 7 to 8 minutes in a microwave. Why on earth...

What a microwave does: Reheats anything (leftover pasta that doesn't stick together! yay!)
Vegetables! Artichokes and asparagus in more waiting 45 minutes for an artichoke, and no more screwing up the damn asparagus when the phone rings because it gets one second beyond its allotted time and goes all soggy and gray. Melting two sticks of butter fast, and reheating same when you get tangled up in something else and let it get cool. (I need timers in my kitchen - timers that reach out and grab you and yell "Get back to the stove, bitch, and quit running your mouth!") It will heat bread that has been in the freezer so that you can butter it and eat it (though you have to be careful with this one - two seconds off with the bread and you get can be done, though).

What you can't do in the microwave: Cook a large meal. Do the vegetables in it, yes (but NOT baked potatoes, which taste vile microwaved no matter what people say). Cook on the stove for anything else, for heaven's sake. That's what it's there for.

Boiling water in the microwave (except for a middle of the night cup of Sleepytime tea). Sheesh.

Love, Wendy

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