On Microwave Meals

They seem a little too good to be true, don’t they? While I don’t need to mention any particular name brands here, I’m sure you all know the ones I’m talking about. The meal-in-a-little-box microwave cuisine meals in the freezer section. They’re all around 400-600 calories. Promising to be a perfectly-satisfying, perfectly-proportioned meal, that hits on most of the major food groups (except their version of protein is some brownish, whitish rubber and their vegetables are some version of colored tidbits that I’m not sure even coordinate with the vegetables their hues imply).

But, taste completely aside—because I will admit not all of them taste too terribly bad; they’re all perfectly edible after few (dozen) shakes of salt—I think the main reason these did not work for me was a lack of investment.

Sound strange?

Let me explain, because I used to eat a TON of these.

Back when I was a single gal on the city (as they call it, although it would be better termed: A barely-functioning adult living alone for the first time), I did not cook for myself. There is no excuse for this other than laziness and ignorance (in how easy cooking well can truly be) coupled with a lack of confidence (that I, which means anyone, can easily be a rather good cook with very little effort). And, this turned out to be a very unfortunate shortcoming on my part.

[…] I lived on microwave meals for years, to my detriment. And I only discovered the detriment aspect once I began cooking my own meals and made peace with food.

Without the knowledge or motivation to cook actual meats, veggies, or grains for myself at night, I had to either order and buy meals carry-out, which can get pricey (and unnecessarily buttery). Although fast food is not that pricey, it is not at all healthy. So, my last option was cheap make-at-home ready-made meals, the easiest “make” quality of these being a simple several-minute pop in the microwave. For this reason, I lived on microwave meals for years, to my detriment. And I only discovered the detriment aspect once I began cooking my own meals and made peace with food. This was when I realized why those little microwave guys never did it for me.

It was because I didn’t put anything into them.

They are heartless little boxes of mush that I didn’t pay much for and didn’t put any time into preparing. I didn’t spend much time at the store selecting them; I just threw a half dozen chicken-ala-whatevers in the cart and checked out. I didn’t read the ingredients to learn what xCR14, or red dye #57, or xyranium and other foreign substances went into them. I didn’t cook them in a pot or even wash the dish afterward; I just threw it away.

The reality soon became obvious why they were not “filling” me up: There’s no love in them!

Seriously, if you cook a meal yourself by selecting all of the awesome ingredients, herbs, and spices that go into a meal, smelling the tantalizing aromas that waft out of the pot while it’s cooking, taking pleasure in plating the meal in a pretty display, and then savoring the meal—one you prepared from scratch—you just get so much more out of it. And, often, you get a heftier portion for the same calorie quantity because your ingredients are so much better. The meal is actually far more satisfying because of the time you put into it. Because of your … investment.

Does that sound silly?

I see now one of my main problems when I was struggling with food was that I had an overwhelming disrespect for it. That cheap microwave box kind of made me mad because after I ate it, I felt nothing close to satisfied, as the package had promised. I felt I needed five more of those in a row (or in a combined heap) to feel anything close to satisfied. And I see now, a part of that is because—yes, the lack of good ingredients in the meal and unnecessary preservatives and sodium—a lack of the love that food brings from the earth, to the cutting board, to the pan, to the plate, to the mouth. I found it harder, later during my recovery, to dismiss food so easily as unsatisfying when I had put so much into it. I honestly believe there is a “love” factor that, when added to home-cooked meals, makes them more filling calorie-for-calorie than microwave meals.

I found it harder, later during my recovery, to dismiss food so easily as unsatisfying when I had put so much into it. I honestly believe there is a “love” factor that, when added to home-cooked meals, makes them more filling calorie-for-calorie than microwave meals.

Anyone else feel that way? If you do, or just have a hankering to find out, I urge you to try cooking more meals at home—made from good, fresh ingredients—rather than microwaving them. And, if you want to scream, “But I don’t have time!” let me ask you: How many times have you eaten because you were bored? If you can find time to be bored, you can find time to entertain yourself by cooking.

More on that topic to come. In the meantime, give “home-made over microwave” a try and let me know how it turns out for you.

–Callie

 

 

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