I don’t remember my family’s first color television set, I don’t remember our first eight-track tape player and I don’t remember our first touch-tone telephone.
I do remember our first microwave oven. It was the size of a 1974 Ford Pinto. However, it had more power than a Pinto and, unlike the Pinto, the threat of an explosion caused by a rear-end collision was minimal.
I thought of that old oven recently when I tried to cook a bowl of oatmeal in my microwave oven and accidentally turned the innocent bowl of oats into something I could use to patch concrete.
That brought back memories.
I can still see Mom standing in the kitchen the day Dad hauled in the new microwave.
“I can cook bacon in this,” I remember her saying as she held up a beige plastic tray that came with the oven. The tray was molded into neatly cordoned off sections where you could place individual slices of bacon for cooking. There was also a little pocket on the tray that would collect all the bacon grease she’d later put in a coffee can under the kitchen sink. I don’t know why she did this.
“And I can bake a cake,” she said. “And cook a turkey.”
Dad unpacked the box to unveil a big oven with wood grain decals that looked every bit as real as the oak paneling in our living room. There were no LEDs, no space-age sensors, and no selection of nifty soft-touch pads depicting images of snack foods the oven would turn into rubber anyway.
But there were dials, two of them. Big, ugly dials like those on our Magnavox TV. I was positive we could pick up UHF if I overcooked the popcorn just right.
These first microwave ovens were, hmm, how should I say this? Complete junk.
Early on, Mom tried to bake a cake in our new futuristic oven and quickly discovered the cakes my older sisters had made in their Easy-Bake Oven years before had turned out much better. Even if we still had the cakes my sisters had made in 1971, those cakes would have been far superior to the Beast from 20,000 Fathoms Mom had tried to spread icing on for my birthday.
She even once tried to cook a small turkey and, much like Dr. Victor Frankenstein, discovered it’s best not to meddle in the realm of God.
Mom did find she could boil water with some success. The defrosting capabilities of this early generation microwave oven were openly suspect, but, by golly, Mom defied the British to boil a pot of tea any faster than she could.
I still use the bacon my Mom first cooked as bungees when I haul furniture.
There have been technological advances to microwaves since Mom got her first oven, but the only thing you can still successfully produce in one is hot water.
Jason Offutt writes this column for The Examiner.