Sunday, June 10, 2007

Microwave Dinners

Have you ever considered how unfair the movies are to microwave dinners. Anytime you see a character in a film eating one it's a sure sign that he / she has hit emotional skid row, is depressed and lonely and living out an empty meaningless existence [1]. Maybe they've suffered a bereavement and haven't found the mental strength to get over it. Maybe they're just losers who can't get laid. At any rate, it's pretty clear that microwave dinners are cinematic shorthand for a meal worse than death.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not a fan of microwave meals. (No, mom, I don't eat them all the time. Honest.) But I can't help feeling this is being a bit hard on them. They have their uses, you know. They're quick and convenient and while it's tempting to think of the alternative to an instant meal being delicious pasta made with interesting sauces, served with delicately chilled white wine and followed by a delectable little souffle, the simple truth is that most of us don't cook that well. I'll take grilled chicken breast and mashed potatoes over charred vegetables and partially cooked rice (which is the best I can manage in five minutes) any day of the week thank you. And I mean, the companies that make these things sell millions of them everyday. You can't tell me that there are millions of people staring into their dinners and realizing (often to the plaintive though inexplicable sounds of jazz) that they're in deep existential crisis all across the country every day of the week.

So here's the scene I'd like to see. Hero walks in from a day at work, all excited because he's managed to get his hands on, say, the new Haruki Murakami novel. Suddenly he realizes that he hasn't thought about dinner. He could go out and eat but that will take ages. He could try to cook something, but that would also mean significant amounts of time in the kitchen, plus given that his head is all full of Tokyo diners and conversations about jazz (he's read the first chapter of the book in the New York Times) he'll probably mess it up. In desperation, he opens his freezer and smiles with relief. Yes, he still has a microwave dinner in there. He pops it into the microwave and starts on his book. Five minutes later the microwave beeps. Two minutes after that, and in between chapters, he whisks the tray out and grabs a fork. He eats absently, barely looking at his food (except the occasional glance when his fork doesn't come up against anything solid). By the time he's done eating he's already on page 46. Throwing the tray away he sighs with contentment. That was efficient.

It's only in the middle of chapter 9 that he remembers that he shouldn't have thrown the fork away.

[Based on a true story]

[1] Though usually in a spotlessly clean kitchen. Which is the other thing I don't get. What sort of psychopath eats a microwave meal for dinner, but takes the time to polish the knobs on his / her microwave?


Anonymous said...

ummm... you mean 'they have their uses' perhaps.

Space Bar said...

you have the new murakami! consider this the first of your hate mail!

Falstaff said...

anon: Sorry, fixed now.

space bar: Correction. I don't have the new Murakami - I've read it and returned it.

Oh, and it's brilliant, btw. As my review on Momus today says.

Kits said...

Oh man, loved the bit abt existential crises and listening to jazz...nice

Anonymous said...

Liked this "based on a true story" story. :)

But "mashed potatoes over charred vegetables and partially cooked rice"? Whatever happened to all the cooking lessons you took back home in Delhi? Or were you evicted from the kitchen right after the chappatti making attempts?


3inone said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
3inone said...

:-) Found your blog through Rama.
Love it. Love it.
Now I can eat microwave dinners and not feel homicidal/suicidal/spermicidal.

Anonymous said...

Marriage. Lunchboxes. Weekends. Stuff in fridge left for you (and neatly put into bowls so you don't even have to tip them into plates or whatever).

And all you can do in five minutes is grilled chicken over charred rice? Fershame!

The Murakami from our library? Aaahsome!


Falstaff said...

kits: Thanks. Though personally I like my existential crises with Beethoven, thank you.

N: Oh, I can do much better than charred veggies and undercooked rice. But not in five minutes. And you don't seriously think I'm going to put in any more effort just for myself do you.

3inone: Thanks. Why would microwave dinners make you feel homicidal / spermicidal though?

n!: Nah, the Murakami in our lib has gone mysteriously missing. This one was borrowed from another lib.

On the whole I think I'll take microwave dinners over marriage - at least no can expect you to raise children with a box of Stouffer's finest.

rs said...

for me, this post comes second to kripya prateeksha karen (though a distant second) :D
i love microwave dinners mostly coz i am too lazy. so the day i have to make the least effort to get a meal is a super cool day

Kronoskraor said...

'inexplicable sounds of jazz'?really?
bloody hell man!weigh what you say!

Anonymous said...

True, it is awfully boring to cook when you have to eat alone. But it doesn't help matters either if that meal you have to eat alone is overdone or undercooked...esplly when you know how to cook better.


Anonymous said...

Too much sodium in the damned things...perhaps water retention isn't your greatest worry, but still I'd feel sorry for the poor sod who has to eat such highly processed food.
Microwaveable meals deserve their pathetic rep.

Anonymous said...

Children with a box of Stouffers finest. Yummy! Where do I stand in line?


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