Really, Really, Really Simple

I love to cook, and I don’t think it’s any secret that I’d really enjoy writing for a living if the opportunity ever presented itself. It’s daunting to think of transitioning to something an industry with such low barriers to entry and such a high level of competition, though, and I’m not in a position to try it and just eke out a poor artist’s level of compensation.

That said, I think I’ve encountered an article that gives me encouragement beyond my wildest hopes that magazines will buy anything. I can’t remember exactly how I found this, but I’m thinking about proposing that this particular publication rename themselves to “Real Obvious.” Real Simple published an article called “Cooking Uses for Your Microwave,” and I’m not linking to it because 1) it’s stupid, and 2) it’s a top-whatever-style list where every item is on a separate page so they can jam fresh advertising pageviews into your eyeballs. The point is, someone wrote this and then someone bought it and published it.

In sum, here is Real Simple’s list of helpful tips for things you can do with your microwave:

  • Soften Butter
  • Melt Butter
  • Melt Chocolate
  • Soften Cream cheese
  • Soften Ice Cream
  • Soft Brown Sugar
  • Warm Tortillas
  • Warm Maple Syrup
  • Toast Fresh Bread Crumbs
  • Toast Coconut
  • Toast Pine Nuts and Sliced Almonds
  • Cook Bacon
  • Steam Asparagus and Green Beans
  • Steam Carrots
  • Steam Artichokes
  • Cook Winter Squash
  • Make Applesauce
  • Bake a Potato
  • Cook Corn on the Cob
  • Poach Salmon
  • Make Polenta
  • Cook Rice
  • Make Popcorn

Where do I start? At the beginning? Butter melts with heat … microwaves apply heat to food … holy bernais, Batman. Why didn’t I think of that? And if butter melts in heat, why wouldn’t chocolate? I like what they did next, distinguishing between melting foods and softening them. That’s what, a few seconds different on the cook time? I’m glad the experts are there to help us understand that you can partially melt something, rather than cooking it until it’s a greasy spot on the rotisserie.

Actual picture of maple syrup from the article, in case you didn't know what it looks like or that you should remember to put it in a ramekin.

Lest you think that melting and softening are the only ways you can affect food with heat, it turns out that warming, toasting, cooking and “making” are also possible with this radioactive technological marvel. To be honest, I don’t think it’s capable of “baking” a potato, but I’m so happy to have a delivery vehicle for my bacon, cheese, sour cream and chives that I’m not inclined to quibble.

I’m wildly curious how some items made the list and others did not. Are carrots and artichokes such popular foods that explaining to people the effect of heating water under them is a public service, while broccoli falls by the wayside? Are asparagus and green beans a common combination? I didn’t know. All told, though, I’d like to know why it’s not enough to explain to people that a microwave can heat water beyond 212 degrees Fahrenheit, at which it becomes steam. Steamed water can “soften”, “warm” and “cook” various foodstuffs.

Don't tell ME what I can and can't put in a microwave. I'm creative AND practical.

Make popcorn? Really? Now that we have all this newfound knowledge about the power of the microwave, I kind of think that Reddenbacher doesn’t need to waste ink marketing their product as “microwave popcorn.” That probably wasn’t obvious enough. After all, the produce section doesn’t sell “microwave asparagus.” People are just expected to read Read Simple and figure out that there is this whole culinary world they’ve been missing out on.

I should probably wrap this up. Someone beat me to the idea of fun things to do with a blender, but I’m hard at work on an article entitled, “14 Shocking New uses for the Vacuum Cleaner.” I have such household scourges as dust, pollen and slow pets firmly in my sights. I’m also polling friends for revelations regarding new users for bathtub plugs and I’m open to suggestions in the comments section!

And in the meantime, I’m going to keep thinking up novel ways to use my appliances. You never know when that’s going to come in handy.

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6 Responses to Really, Really, Really Simple

  1. pithypants says:

    Ah, but a vacuum actually has creative uses: ladybug catcher, clothing shrink-wrap storage, etc. That would actually be a USEFUL article, and thus, outside the bounds of Real Simple.

  2. Kendall says:

    Dude, I fucking love your blog. And I love the fact that you know how to spell ramekin. (Not that it’s all that complicated, just that it’s the kind of word that you might not instantly know the spelling. I would have thought there’s a silent H in there somewhere.)

    Now for the important question of my day: Who’s the pick at #1 overall.

    This is Kendall, by the way.

    • popdialectic says:

      Kendall, coming from someone who writes as well as you do, I really appreciate that. I’m glad you’re taking the time to read it!

      As for the first pick of the 2011 draft, I’m leaning heavily toward Kevin Curtis. I know he’s a little streaky, but he’s guaranteed to go for 243 years and three touchdowns when I play you. 😉

  3. Pingback: Now THIS is Useful Advice | The Popdialectic

  4. Lori says:

    I am a subscriber to Real Simple magazine. I agree that this article seems dumb. But, have you ever read their “new uses for old things?” It’s brilliant! Check it out.

    • popdialectic says:

      I actually got Real Simple for a while when I was married, and I don’t remember that column, but generally liked the magazine. There’s a point below which they don’t need to stoop to give us helpful tips for life, though, right? I expected to see the pointers footnoted with reminders not to stick your head in the oven and to remember to breath while your chocolate was melting … 😛

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