The Deadly Garden


So...I'm always like, "Damn, Lileks, why don't you update the Gallery of Regrettable Food anymore?" And then I pick up some stupid old book at a used bookstore for a couple dollars and I'm like, "I should scan some of these pages and recipes and put them on the Internet! With hilarious commentary! Yes, that is exactly what I should do!"

And then FOUR HUNDRED MILLION HOURS LATER I realize exactly why Lileks doesn't update the Gallery of Regrettable Food anymore. This shit is a pain in the ass. Also, the Gallery of Regrettable Food will always, always be funnier.

Anyway, I picked up this stupid old book this weekend and scanned some of the pages. At first glance, it's your typical Old Dated Cookbook, where the presence of tomatoes instantly means the recipe is called "Colorful Something-Something," where the inclusion of three atoms' worth of chili powder means it's "Mexican Something-Something," and "Oriental Something-Something" is code for soy sauce. But the gimmick -- and you gotta have a gimmick -- is that absolutely everything, from the Bacon Poles to the Maxi-Burgers to the Wiener Bean Pot, has been made in the microwave. Also known as the Greatest Innovation In Modern Cooking Known To Man.

So kick your stove to the curb and flush your pots and pans down the toilet and get ready from some super-groovy MICROWAVERY.

(Click to enter the gallery.)



Megan@Blueberry Scones

Hilarious! That pork chop...thing...looked horrific. Seriously, what IS it about the '70s and bad food pictures? Was the goal to make you so turned off from food that you decided not to cook, thus never getting to see how crappy these recipes really are?


Oh My Lord. My mother has that cookbook for her microwave that she JUST replaced last month. Yes, her microwave was over 25 years old.


that one know the one i mean...has put me off food for the rest of the week. my pants thank you.


Wow, those images triggered the morning sickness like nothing else!


That Brown'n'Sear Steak just made me throw up in my mouth. I just wanted you to know that.


Next time you run out of posting ideas you could always try to make that microwave souffle and let us know how that turns out for you.


Heh heh. Probe a ham.


Don't microwave popcorn? WTF?

But you know what's sad? I can't microwave popcorn, because we don't own a microwave. After the last one tried to burn our house down, we said NO MORE. So no more microwaving lobsters (or booze) for me.

Dawn B

I should get a copy of this for my MIL (I know if show this to my husband he is going to laugh hysterically and then have bad memories of eating during childhood)
His mom cooks Thanksgiving turkeys in the microwave.
mmmm rubber meat!!!!


Whoa. That shite blows my mind. I wonder what technologies now will end up like the new fangled microwave of the 70's. Cell phones? I dunno. The whole concept of cooking an entire meal in the microwave makes me gag—microwaves suck for this purpose. Reheating and defrosting are about all they're good for.

Love the gallery babe! Righteous.

C @ Kid Things

Who puts a 25 pound turkey in the microwave? How big would the microwave have to be for that to even fit?


The 'not the same old chicken' certainly SOUNDED special. blech. at least you can use the microwave for good....or, you know, booze.


OMG, I think we had that same book when we got our first microwave. We SWORE by that thing. It was always located right on top of the micro for easy access.


I saw that same episode of Real Sex too! I'm not sure what to make of the fact that THAT is what sticks out in my mind after looking at all the pictures.


What's so bad about reheating fried chicken in the microwave? I don't get it...


Thanks for the great new ideas for dinner! I'm not sure what to make first. The clear lobster was appealing, but the brown and sear steak will definitely surprise everyone. Better get those Irish Coffees going...


Heh. My mom's first microwave was enormous - bigger than our TV at the time - in order to be able to accommodate a whole turkey. Why????

bethany actually

Popcorn is too dry to cook in the microwave? That's hilarious. Wanna know how I cook popcorn all the time?

1. Throw a couple handfuls of popcorn into a brown paper bag.
2. Roll bag tightly closed.
3. Stick in microwave and cook on high for about 2 minutes.

Done! Next, I'm off to conquer microwaved lobster.


Actually that not-the-same-old-chicken thing is delicious if you leave off the mayo and do it in the real live oven. Sort of a sweet and sour kind of thing.


I originally found from that company cookbook. Which I still look at now and then and laugh at the batshit crazy everything.

"Microwavery" kicks the company cookbook's ass.


I think my mom had that cookbook, too.

My dad is an early adopter, so we had a microwave before anyone else we knew.

He would boil water in a paper cup to astound guests.

And, early on, my mom tried to cook an egg. I think she cracked it, but did not break the yolk.

It was not a pretty site.


My grandparents had a similar cookbook at our cabin. They're both dead, but the cookbook is still hangin' on. Yikes.

Every once in a while "Everyday Food" does a "microwave meal" section of their magazine. It always makes me cringe.

(PS: Woot woot for James Lileks! He is one of the few reasons I still have a Star Tribune susbscription.)


Er, "subscription". Oy.


Now we know what to blame for our nations's failures and higher rates of colon cancer.


Haha oh dear. My parents were married in '77 - wonder if they got this as a gift ;)


Oh My God.

Microwaving an entire lobster = bad. Wrong and bad.

Also, pancakes microwave just fine, thanks.

Megan Lynae

I knew a guy who tried to microwave whole eggs, so as to get hard-boiled eggs without any pesky boiling. They actually exploded and left tiny needle shaped bits of shell stuck to all sides of the interior, glued down by marginally cooked egg. Horrifying.


just ... wow
I am deathly allergic to shellfish and as such, have never cooked a lobster and EVEN I KNOW you can't microwave a lobster


Dude! My mom has that very cookbook on her shelf right now. I can't say that she's ever made anything out of it, but it's still there. I just looked through it the other day.

Suzy Q

Ha! This brings back memories because this is how I first found you, Amy. You did this to some godawful church cookbook and someone sent it to Dave Barry.

So, yes! One of us is still here reading you.

I loved the foily things on the turkey. Wonder how many microwaves blew up from that one. It's like they never even tested these recipes, ya know?

I also love Lileks' "Mommy Knows Worst." I highly recommend it, especially to parents.


That was fucking hilarious.

We only use the microwave to defrost and reheat.

However, my MIL likes to make many things in hers...including a whole chicken. When she was visiting in April she wanted to know what we would like for dinner the next day. I said "how about a roast". To that she said "is chicken ok?". When she added "you don't mind if the skin isn't crispy, do you?", I knew I had to put my foot down and insist she cook it in the actual oven. I'm not sure what the big deal was, having seen her cook a chicken in the microwave I actually think it took more work than putting the thing in the oven.

Jennifer Lanehart

wow!!!! that gave me the best laugh i've had in a while.... thank you so much! but i bet it was a pain in the @ss scanning those pics, still... thank u very much! your time & effort are appreciated :)


What? You DON'T microwave lobster? You just don't know what you're missing.



The weird thing about this is none of it seems a whit easier than actually using an oven.

If you have to stand by your cake and turn it every 10 minutes, why not just pop it into the oven and LEAVE IT for 30 minutes.


Oh Amy, this is f-ing HILARIOUS! The lobster bit almost killed me. Thank you for sharing with us!! :)


Well I want to see that Real Sex episode, that's for sure...
And I only ever want the same old chicken. Ever.


Oh gawd....reminds me of when we first got ours and my dad insisted on making scrambled eggs. Not so bad except he took to heart the instructions that said food continues cooking after heating and just imagine how yummy gooey eggs are. blech.

Danielle microwave is mainly used for reheating Chinese food. Where was the entry on how to reheat lo mein?


My mom had this same microwave cookbook forever. Literally. As in we just donated it to Goodwill LAST WEEKEND after the Yard Sale of Useless Items You've Kept for Thirty Years, Purge Already, Mom, Geez!

Miss Grace

Are you going to test out the recipes??


I went to see "Julie and Julia" last night. This provides quite a fascinating counterpoint.

Good stuff.


That Brown & Sear Steak looks like mah liver...drink!

Just Me

We had this book when I was a kid! Probably the 2nd edition since we didn't get a microwave until the 80s. My mom still has it, simply because there is ONE recipe that we still use. Something with country ribs that she's modified a bit. They are good, although I know that sounds gross to do in a microwave.


This could totally be YOUR Julie & Julia. I can see the blog/book/movie title right now.... Amalah & Diana!


Blech. Just the words "microwave" and "cookbook" in the same sentence turns my stomach. Very funny--and the comments, too. :)


How big were these first generation microwaves?! I can barely fit a small dinner plate in mine, much less an entire casserole dish. The only thing my microwave does is vent my stove and reheat my coffee.

ccr in MA

I love "Fried chicken! Drink!" I'm sorry it was such a pain to do, but I laughed so much, I must thank you for it.

Sprite's Keeper

I will never microwave popcorn again. Thank you Amalah and GE for showing me the wattage.


I had to laugh when I saw my grandmother's plate in the "reheat" picture. Grandma was all about microwave cooking too. Bless her heart, but we didn't eat there very often.


Holy childhood flashbacks! My mom had that same book, and she USED it. A LOT. The cover was all faded but I still remember that roast and the corn with the melting pat of butter on it like it was yesterday. *Shudder*

Pinkie Bling

Brown and Sear (The Eyeballs Right Out of My Head) Steak FTW!!!

Thanks, Amalah - this was hilarious!


Omg. That popcorn comment followed up by the turkey with the metal and foil - nearly killed me.


We TOTALLY had that book-- it came with our first microwave! I covered it in the makings of microwave fudge once when I was a kid. My Mom may still have it at her house.


I was trying to think what my microwave gets used for... and it took me a while to realize it's pretty much JUST for microwave popcorn and the extra butter I melt to put on it. (muaahahaha)


Hee. I, like SuzyQ, also first was introduced to you via the Company Cookbook when it was linked to Dave Barry's blog.
This is also fabulous. :)
I also really love your other entries like this, especially when you made fun of the Victoria's Secret catalog.


Dude. The lobster thing... it might make some movements for a few minutes. I feel sick.

So... anyone else wondering if anyone has ever put a live lobster in the microwave? Did it explode? Do you cook it to the just runny stage and let it solidify after sitting for two minutes?

Also: crikey, those cooking times were long. Are we sure this isn't lightblub over cookery? Although it makes our first family microwave story seem less outrageous - my grandmother decided to use the new-fangled microwave thing to cook a pizza. She followed the instructions to the letter, which told her to put the pizza in the OVEN for 45 minutes. You can imagine the brick-hard wafer than ensued.

We used it as a frisbee. IT BROKE THROUGH THE ROOF OF THE SHED. Our granddad only let us off the hook because he enjoyed teasing gran about her cookery, I think.


Holy crap. Can aluminum foil really be used in the microwave? I mean, really? I'm so confused...


I refuse to buy a microwave until I know for certain I can cook a 25 lb turkey and a dozen potatoes in it.


You are getting dangerously close to humor-saint-hood. You incorporate or value all my favorite funnies.

Head asplode.

That is all.

Beyond Alice

I think this book came with my parent's first microwave. Klassy.


The very, very rare third edition includes "Not So Standard Poodle"

cindy w

I'm going to chalk this up to one of the MANY byproducts of the 70's that seemed like a good idea at the time, due to the excessive consumption of cocaine and quaaludes.


Thank you! My aunt purchased one of the first microwaves ever and I was 8. The thing was so bigger than 2 TV's put together. Our first meal out of it was microwaved chicken legs. They went in 4 inches long and came out 1 inch long and tough as shoe leather. We never cooked popcorn in it. Instead we melted the butter in it, in a metal bowl of course!


I was JUST telling my husband TODAY that I was a LITTLE freaked out by my kids' obsession with the play microwave to "cook" their pretend food. "Shouldn't we be encouraging them to 'cook' with pots and pans??" Well, thanks to you, I have my answer. YES. Ha! (and my stomach is queasy...)


We totally had that cookbook! My dad was also an early adopter, and it was thrown in when he bought our first microwave. That microwave was so big, you definitely could cook a turkey in it. It also had a metal rack...but never blew up. Huh.


Too funny! Even funnier, I'm pretty sure my mom has that book, in all of its 1st edition glory, somewhere amongst her cookbook collection.

I may have to seek out the recently released 5th ed. I'm single and I use the microwave a LOT! And I totally just gave up fast food for 20 days. The book could come in handy.

samantha jo campen

WIthout sounding creepy let me just say how much I love you.

OMG this post was perfection.


OMFG my MIL could have WRITTEN that book!

I peed a little I laughed so hard at the lobster page.


That totally is one of my Dad's cooking bibles. The scientist in him loves the microwave.


Oh my crap.


Gos. We had a microwave cookbook that my mom "swote" by. Meaning she had to consult it as to what not to put in the microwave. Did anyone else have the "special micorwaveable cookware?"
One thing about our original microwave (Litton, circa 1983, LATE adapters) was that it cooked stuff FAST. It was almost as big as the TV, but it warmed the heck out of hot dogs, egg rolls, nachos and Lean Cuisine. You just don't get that kind of wattage anymore.


Oh mah, that steak is FOWL looking. Kind of like the fowl recipe... Hehe. OK, dumb. And to think all this time I've been using the oven, grill and stove. I'll never get back all that time that I could have been cooking in the microwave.


My CURRENT workplace has signs on every microwave saying "Do NOT microwave popcorn. It is a FIRE HAZARD" - I'm just happy because unlike every other workplace I've had, it doesn't smell like microwave popcorn at 3:15 every day. In the comforts of my own home, I actually prefer another feature of the 70's, the hot air popper.


Oh, and at the last Pampered Chef show I attended, we made a cake in the microwave.


I love the posts about your children. I really, really do. But this is the best post (perhaps on any blog?) I have ever read. I threw up twice while reading it. Partly because I was laughing, but mostly because that cookbook is disgusting.


I was 24 before I realized that most people cooked bacon and hot dogs on the stove top, not the microwave. Thanks, Mom.

mrs. q.

WOW! I heart old cookbooks, but this one takes the cake. A chocolate microwaved boxed cake. Hilarious. Especially the lobster. 8.99 a pound and let's nuke it. Are you kidding?




I have a Betty Crocker cookbook from the 70's in which everything is cooked with back fat, lard, or shortening. Every dish has bacon in it and the cuts of meat are 90% fat. Yuck. It's great!


What? No photos of the Weiner Bean Pot? I smell a sequel!

I had a microwave cookbook for children growing up. I remember trying to make the scrambled eggs once while my parents were sleeping since I wasn't allowed to use the stove. They were hideous. So, I melted a whole bunch of Andes chocolate mints for breakfast instead. Melted chocolate > microwave eggs. Duh.


Awesome! Those folks back then were just plain wacky, microwaving anything they could find. Whole chicken...yes, steak...oh yeah, rack of lamb...hell yes! Probably tested whether you could microwave a baby dry after you gave it a bath.


My parents got our first microwave in the early 70s when my dad built one from a Heathkit. No one had ever heard of such a thing before. Neighbors came over to watch it boil water. Seriously.


So glad they warned us about the evils of microwaving popcorn... whew!


LOLOL, just saw that my sister Whozat already posted about our parent's microwave. Told you I was serious about boiling water for the neighbors!


That question about the late 70's? We didn't fucking give a shit.

My husband bought me that microwave when we had our first baby. And I am still married to him!


So on the cake page, there's mention of a "Tube Cake...see left"

WTF is a tube cake?


Wow. This microwave cookbook came with the microwave when I got married at 18. It was falling apart when I donated it last year.
That was an awesome post.


Oh yes... my mom was an owner of the microwave cookbook as well, though I don't know that we had any of the recipes. I had to laugh at the bit at the cake... no they didn't have any time in the late 70's, they were all too busy doing their microwavery cooking. Don'tcha remember, they had to stop their lives every 3-5mins to turn the dish and start the microwave up again.


Yep. I grew up using that book with our first microwave oven.


I wonder what Ms. Hansen did before she became the guru of all things microwave. Not sure which is worse the Black n'Scare Steak or the directions on the lobster: remove the intestinal vein and the small sack below the brain, if desired. If desired? You mean I desire to remove it? Just plain old ewwwww.


A++ for the 30 Rock reference!


To respond to your question, I really thing they didn't give a fuck. Seriously! The photo of that steak makes me want to never eat meat again.

Thank you for taking the time to do this. It's quite funny.


It may be a pain in the ass, but I appreciated it, because it was very funny. Foil, in the microwave, really? Also the idea that someone would do some deep fat frying in a microwave is slightly terrifying.


The lobster, dear god the lobster.

I shrieked so loud my cat is still pissed off at me.

die Frau

So if you microwave the lobster, does that mean you can eat the shell as well? For extra...shelly goodness?

Eep. I don't even HAVE morning sickness for real, and that may have induced it.

Seriously, hilarious. And thank God for Dustin Diamond. Can you imagine living in a Screech-free world? I know I can't.


I loved the photos and commentary but what I'm getting a kick out of even more is all the people who have suffered from the effects of this cookbook! People really had this? And used it??


I haven't looked at the gallery yet but can I just say that my mom got that cookbook with our first microwave many, many years ago.


It's a conspiracy! "All foods were microwaved according to the recipes and photographed exactly as they came from the oven." OVEN? What oven? I thought we were MICROWAVING?! And I'd like to object to the "exactly as they came" statement because, duh, that Brown N' Sear Steak was OBVIOUSLY dressed up a bit. Liars.


And. AND (!) I'd like to see a lobster crap out fresh parsley and lemon slices while he's dying a slow, hot electrode death.....

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

Beth Camp

My grandmother loved this cookbook!

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