Anyone who has the chance to visit Elizabeth’s Grand Antique Co. in Elizabeth, Illinois, not too far from Galena, should absolutely do so. It’s a can’t-miss spot: an entire schoolhouse that’s been loosely converted into a series of display areas for dealers from far and wide; visitors can browse through old classrooms, wide hallways, and a parquet-floored gymnasium complete with the old auditorium stage. It was within a kitchen display upon the stage itself that I recently found a thick, bright yellow volume: the 1981 edition of Betty Crocker’s Microwave Cookbook. At just $5, I was sure it had wisdom to share with me.
Even if I never end up making anything in the book, it’s so useful to be reminded of all the things you could theoretically prepare without any type of stove, oven, Instant Pot, or air fryer. The idea of preparing entire meals from scratch in the microwave has fallen out of fashion, but that doesn’t mean people don’t still do it, and that companies don’t still encourage the notion; in 2021, Betty Crocker’s website still features a robust list of microwave-based recipes, with some blessedly updated photography—the 1981 cookbook features that traditional mid-century sort of food styling where forkfuls of chicken a la king hover seductively above a pitch-black background, as if the power went out in the kitchen halfway through the shoot. Now, it’s all natural sunlight on marble surfaces, and I have to say, some of the recipes look and sound downright delicious. Who would say no to some chili-coated chicken or sweet and salty microwave fudge? For me, the microwave is the kitchen appliance whose endless utility hides in plain sight, and I could always use a reminder of all the wonders it’s capable of.
What do you use your microwave for, if you have one? Maybe you’re a fan of Freshly meals, or you like cutting down the time it takes to blanch vegetables or temper chocolate, or you have a passion for popcorn. However you put it to use most often might be helpful for other readers to know about, so we invite you to share your favorite recipes, tips, and hacks in the comments.