Ezra 3:16
One Year, Take Two

Microwavery in Action


Oh, come on. You knew I was gonna do it.

So last night I made the infamous spinach-cheese souffle. In the microwave. MICROWAVED SOUFFLE. BECAUSE WHY NOT. Would you like to see how it turned out? In painstakingly over-documented, un-retouched, high-res detail? Yes? Then keep on clicking, baby.


The first thing to do, in the interest of historical accuracy, was to remove our fancy rotating turntable. I wanted the full, real experience of two-minute cooking intervals and constant 1/4-turning. This is like the culinary equivalent of visiting Historical Williamsburg.


The recipe explicitly calls for chopped frozen spinach, just so the very first step could involve defrosting the spinach. I mean, sure. You could buy and chop fresh spinach, but where's the microwaving fun in that? You don't even get to hit any buttons!


While the book says to microwave the spinach in its package, Jason insisted that I heed modern advancements and follow the directions on the bag, which call for a separate, covered container. Boo! This throws the validity of the entire experiment into question!

However, by this point I will say that I already learned something. My microwave does indeed have a special "defrost" setting* that helpfully beeps at you halfway through the cooking time so you remember to turn your food over, JUST LIKE IT INSTRUCTS YOU TO DO IN THE BOOK. OMG.

*I know. Duh. I'm sorry. I only ever hit the Add 30 Seconds button. It's so handy!


While the spinach is defrosting, go ahead and throw a lot of white crap in a casserole dish.


A half-teaspoon of dry mustard and an ENTIRE EIGHTH OF A TEASPOON of paprika (oh God, no more than that! be careful! you might actually almost taste it!) temporarily send this dish into LSD-levels of colorful, groovy craziness, but don't worry...


As soon as you stir it up they'll never know that you dared leave the realm of comfortable whiteness.


It's "success ingredient" time! The recipe calls for one 13-ounce can. Which...

Hmm. Okay. If anyone has any recipes that call for 11 ounces of evaporated milk, let me know.


It was very, very difficult to resist the urge to grab a whisk and go to town on this lumpy sucker, but the recipe explicitly says to stir. So I stirred. Then it was back into the 'wave to thicken.


Thicken, congeal, coagulate, whatever.


Adding the spinach and cheese made it look even better.


Six eggs, separated. I did not use our beautiful free-range organic farmers' market eggs for this, but instead made a special trip in my gas-guzzler to buy cheap, paper-shelled eggs from inhumanely-factory-farmed caged and diseased chickens.

I dunno, it just seems like 1977 would have wanted it that way.


Apologies for suddenly getting fancy and inaccessible on you here with the KitchenAid, but I don't actually own a hand mixer. Frankly, I'm a little disappointed that the book's author didn't find a way to stiffen egg whites in the microwave.

Because I bet she TOTALLY TRIED.


If you've ever wondered if the KitchenAid stand mixer is worth the price, look no further than these glorious egg whites. Perfection. Effortless, easy, almost...microwave-like. I admit I almost abandoned the souffle at this point to make a lemon meringue pie. But according to the recipe on page 237 I needed to first make a microwaved pastry shell (recipe on page 233) and it turned out that I didn't have nearly enough Crisco. (Which is to say: any at all.)


Now it's time to "pour" the spinach/cheese/success ingredient in with the beaten yolks.


Although I think "dig and hurl clumps of gravity-defying goo from one bowl to another" would be more accurate.


In Europe they call this Swamp Thing With Cheese. 


Pour over your noble egg whites; crush hopes, dreams; fold gently.


God, enough of this actual baking horseshit. Back to the microwaving!


The cooking instructions say to "Microwave at Medium 20 to 23 minutes, rotating dish 1/4 turn every five minutes." I snapped this picture through the door, as I watched one edge rise and puff and then deflate, in sync with the microwave's...noise? Fan? Power level? Gamma ray? It almost looked like it was breathing, and I suddenly found myself rooting for the damned thing. Come on, little Swamp Thing! Rise! Riiiise! I believe in you! You are full of cheese! You have the deliciousness inside you, I swear!


Side note: Look at how much easier this was than stupid old "conventional" cooking! I'm totally getting rid of our stove like, tomorrow.


Five minutes in. It's alive!


Ten minutes in. It's a bundt!


15 minutes in. It's...in trouble.


20 minutes in. It's dead. 


I think it was a goner after that very first door slam at the five minute mark. Or maybe sometime before then. Like back when I was defrosting the spinach. Or buying the spinach. Or thinking about buying the spinach.




Here. I saved you a slice.


It would make an excellent hockey puck, as well.


Jason, right after I told that yes, he did have to eat it. DO IT FOR SCIENCE, JASON.


He took one bite, put the plate down and walked away. He says he doesn't want to talk about it.


I don't know. I mean, it's DIFFERENT. If you've ever wondered what crunchy, carbonated eggs tasted like, you might want to give this a try. It manages to be both dry and slimy, both unbelievably bland and aggressively terrible, both texture-less and bizarrely, alarmingly fizzy. It's all that, AND MORE. 


The recipe says NOTE: Center of souffle will remain creamy.

NOTE ON THAT NOTE: Center of souffle will not technically be "creamy" as we mere earthlings know it here in 2009, but instead is a texture so futuristic and outer-space-agey that the proper adjective doesn't even exist yet. It's like Jell-O made from eggs and a kitchen sponge! All wrapped up in a packing-peanut shell!

Microwaves, maaaan. Microwaves.





I am so impressed with the great lengths you go to for science. And your readers. Kudos! :)


I knew the microwave was evil. This has confirmed it for me.

samantha jo campen

I am in awe of your mad skillz. Gamma ray away! WOO!

Courtney D

crying...actual tears. And, yet, I can't quite tell if the weeping is for the funny or the abomination that is your "suffle!"


What does it say that I think this kinda looks yummy?

Hey You

I am wondering if you did not really have a stomach virus as much as a stomach revolt.


that's just scary

Jamie the weinerdog lady

Oh lord girl....read this on my lunch break and I just about spit my chicken strips and gravy across the room lol. Of course my dogs wouldn't have minded that. Can't wait to see the pie crust!


Will you marry me? Jason clearly doesn't appreciate your culinary skills. Hee.


Oh my God, I LOVE that you did this! (poor Jason). Also, I too only ever use the "add 30 seconds" button. I don't even think I know how to program my 'wave to a specific time. Need something nuked for 2 minutes...just push-push-push-push and there it goes.


I noticed you anticipated the ending, and prepared with a chilled bottle of white wine to wash it down!


LMAO, but that's beside the point. I think you need to look up the average wattage of an old school microwave, find one, and repeat the experiment. That microwave looks pretty similar to my GE Spacemaker XL1800, & indeed it is an 1800 watt microwave, which must be 1100 more watts than anything in the 80s. Maybe THAT would improve the results.


I am alarmed by the fizzy.

Our first microwave was ginormous and you set the time by turning a dial. It's exactly what you needed to make this experiment the most scientific possible.


Kinda gives new meaning to 'hot mess', dontcha think? And I love the picture of Jason holding the plate! I'm pretty sure that look promotes him to a whole new level of food snobbery.


Haaa. It is worth mentioning that I once exploded egg yolks in the microwave. I had the brilliant idea, after making myself an egg-white omelet, to boil the yolks for a nutritious baby-food addition for my toddler. So OF COURSE I turned to the microwave.

As soon as i took them out of the 'wave, they blew up RIGHT IN MY FACE. Because I was peering down at them. Because I am smart like that.

My toddler, who was calmly eating his oatmeal while Mama screeched and ran to the bathroom to assess potential cornea damage, had this to say the next morning, after he asked for scrambled eggs and then heard the microwave ding after it reheated my tea:

"Mama, are you cookin' mah eggs in the microwave? No? Good, 'cause you really shouldn't do that."

Eggs + microwave = epic fail, in my book.


Actually, at 5 minutes in, it looks pretty edible.


Ooooooooooooh lemon meringue pie.


First of all, my husband is going to kill you for making me yearn for more - in other words, jonesing for the Lileks site. Which I then make him visit. Even though he has no sense of humor and doesn't get what is so. darn. funny about it. Sigh.


Agree: if you're going to get all MICROWAVERY on your loyal readers, then you're going to have to scout out the free-standing gargantuan microwave from the 80s! Would LOVE to see a pic of Jason's face when he comes home to find that behemoth in his kitchen!
Sadly, I was more interested in figuring out what kind of wine you were serving with your "souffle." :) Great post!


I dated this guy in college who refused to hit more than one number on the microwave. If he needed two minutes, he hit 2:22. If he needed one minute, he hit 1:11. As if it was JUST SO HARD to move his finger TWO INCHES DOWN. It made no sense why he would refuse to punch exact numbers into the microwave but not the remote. Also, he was a jackass, so there's that. Which is why we broke up.


Surely you forgot that step 1 was actually "Scrub the inside of your microwave?" Or is yours *always* that clean?


Makes sense that it failed since you cannot open the oven door when you cook regular souffle and when you do you have to be really careful any jarring will make them go flat. Sounds like an interesting experiment though.

Sprite's Keeper

It turns out there actually used to be 13 oz cans back in the 70's, but standard bulk weight shipping was too expensive so by reducing the volume of each can by 1 oz, Carnation saved money... I bet that explanation was almost as bad as the souffle...


but see? you were even tempted to TRY this.... which is what makes you such a damn good blogger!

can't wait for the next recipe. maybe it'll involve some sifting. i hear they did that a lot in the 70s.

Parsing Nonsense

I had to read this post in pieces because I was laughing too hard to fly below the radar at work.

Thanks for taking one for the team, and you can extend that thansk to Jason as well.

Hey, do you think this could be the one thing on Earth that Ezra will NOT eat?


You have been unbelievably funny lately. I keep cracking up wildly while reading your posts. Thank you for this- it was so entertaining!


Using up leftover evaporated milk: I know you like Indian food, have you ever tried some of the desserts? One really easy to make one is Kulfi, or unbelievably rich Indian ice cream pops. A good recipe here: http://www.chow.com/recipes/10612 and it only calls for one weird ingredient, cardamom, little green seeds of deliciousness. I could mail you some. Or bring some by. If that wasn't totally weird to suggest, which it is, so nevermind!?


Must. breathe. Can't. Breathe. Laughter. hurts. ohmy.


deep breaths. don't go back up page to look again. post and close window, or I will never breathe again because I will be laughing too hard.


My parents just got rid of the microwave they got at approximately the same time that cookbook came out, because it finally, officially died. Then my mom put her soup in the new microwave and hit five minutes. She was amazed when she burned the s*&^ out of her mouth. I had to explain how these things are more efficient nowadays.

(I'm still crying with laughter just thinking about it. I'm a horrible daughter.)

Thanks for trying this. It made my day.


I don't think I've ever microwaved any single thing for half an hour. That seems very very wrong.

Bachelor Girl

What a gip! You went to all that trouble just to be historically accurate and the damn thing was practically inedible!

That Microwave Cookery lady better WATCH OUT. She's likely to get an angry letter. That'll learn 'er!


This may have been the funniest thing I have ever read on the Internet. Since 1996. Oh wait, there were only drawings of frogs on the Internet then.


Well, at least you had wine, which I'm certain made the whole experiment that much more fun!


My mother is a retired home ec teacher. She collected cookbooks for years. Recently bequeathed to me-entire set of microwave cookbooks. I believe there's 30 volumes in the set. Each has a different theme. (Desserts, Ethnic, Holiday)

Amy, if you want these, I will happily ship them to you as I have lacked the motivation and courage to take them to Goodwill. What if they laugh at me?!


p.s. great wine choice. Big hit in our house recently.

Kailee Maguire

So, is this the cause or byproduct of the stomach virus you twittered about?


Because I bought my first microwave in 1982, I actually have that cookbook. The difference is, I have never actually used it for anything. That 1982 microwave was almost as big as my kitchen stove, and it lasted almost 20 years. It was AMAZING, if a little space consuming. I could actually fit a 20 pound turkey in it. Although you wouldn't actually want to eat a turkey you might cook in it, but it was great for defrosting!

My little over the stove model pales in comparison.


omg, I'm sitting at my desk crying I'm lughing so hard


It is a shame it didn't taste better because it looked like it had potential for a little while there.

Could you get Ezra to eat it? He'll eat anything, right? Doesn't even need to be technically "food"...

College At Thirty

So, they're painting my office, and all I can seriously think is, "Dang, that look gooooood! I could totally go for something savory right now."

Jen O.


When you first said "spinach", I had a Vietnam-esque flashback to my microwaveable Palak Paneer experience of October 6, '09. I nearly ducked under my desk to puke in my garbage can.

Turns out, my fears were founded.


Yeah but would the baby eat it?


I am sure someone is going to be upset that you "wasted food" in this experiment but O.M.G. This is one of the funniest posts I have ever read anywhere. It is amazing. Please, please, nuke something else for our amusement!


OMG Take Margot up on the offer of microwave cookbooks! OMG!


it's like a science project, right?


Now THAT is commitment and dedication to a bit! Putting yourself and your loved ones at risk for our amusement and enjoyment! I am dying to try this-well, not eat it-just make it. Would that be wasteful???


re: the wattage thing. While it wasn't necessarily funny enough to make this entry, I actually WAS a huge nerd and tested out a few other instructions from the cookbook to see how the cooking times and power levels lined up (water, sauces, basically stuff that I wouldn't totally ruin or didn't care about). And surprisingly, none of them were that off! Particularly the lower power levels like Defrost and Medium -- only instructions for High need to be drastically scaled back (which I did in this case) I let the souffle go for the full 20 minutes mostly because it was so obviously toast after like, 7 minutes when the center collapsed.

So, I maintain my original hypothesis: this recipe failed because 1) you can't open and close the door three to four times to manually turn a souffle 1/4 turn, and 2) YOU DON'T MAKE SOUFFLES IN THE $*#$ING MICROWAVE.


Oh, and the baby was already in bed during this whole experiment, so I do not know if he would eat it. He probably would, but there was NO WAY I was going to put That Thing in the fridge. I'm pretty sure it would have sprouted hooves overnight.


Also, Margot, HOLY HELL YES.

Jessica (@It's my life...)

Well that cured me of any desire to ever cook anything other than water in the microwave. Which I guess means I could just get a kettle and free up all that counter space...
That souffle is the stuff of nightmares. Ugh.

Plano Mom

I'm impressed by the pristine condition of your microwave. Screw the souffle, can you come over and clean my wave?


I don't know what they call it in the rest of Europe, but in Sweden we would call it Ost-Spenat Geggamoja. This was great! I hope you'll do more!


Stop being so danged funny...my stomach, sides, lungs, etc. simply cannot take it.

Bill McNutt

Hey now! My Mama had a copy of that cookbook. I think it came with the microwave that's still sitting in her condo while we renovate.

Go ahead. Try the microwave spaghetti recipie! I DOUBLE DOG DARE YOU.



You have mad skillz yo. I only use add 30 seconds and popcorn.

Leslie M.

In the interest of fairness, this recipe would probably have been very successful in a lower-wattage microwave. I bet if you reduce your power by an appropriate amount and repeat the experiment you would be totally successful! :)


Hey! We have that same microwave. We're microwave sistahs!


Okay, Google Reader has basically turned me into a lazy, noncommenter, but I had to hop over here and congratulate you on this bit of hilarity.

Soufflé my ass.


Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc 2008: Intense nose, well balanced flavorful palate, long finish with hints of grapefruit, pairs especially well with crunchy, carbonated eggs.


My mother-in-law cooks this stuff and all sorts of high jinks ensue during the dinner hour. She wonders why so many of her potted plants die after family dinners, well, she should dig down a bit into the pots and the roots!

She had one of the very first microwaves on her street and is STILL proud of that fact. I won't even have a microwave in my kitchen (it's in the pantry strictly for popcorn, sometimes and it was a gift, from you guessed it. MIL.

You're so brave.


I seriously can't remember that last time I laughed so hard. I am crying!! This has got to be my favorite post ever.


I made microwave brownies once. same result.


Was the dish salvageable? My only concern is for the dish, now that I've moved into my circa 1890's apartment sans dishwasher.


You made me snort coke zero up my nose. :)


oh my dang, jason looking at The Thing is cracking me up!


OMG!!! I have tears streaming down my face I am laughing so hard. Jason's face is priceless!!!


I still like the color of your kitchen walls. As for the souffle? It scared me.


That looks disgusting. Uh, thanks for sharing?

In a related incident: we rarely, if ever, use our microwave, so we moved it to our covered back porch; a few weekends ago found us staying in a cabin at a resort near Santa Cruz, CA where our 6yo son was astounded to find "an indoors microwave! They have an indoors microwave here!" I can't wait to see his reaction when he finds out people actually use their (indoors!) microwave to make souffle.


Poor Jason.



Also: what did you do with the egg yolks? Enquiring minds demand to know!

(PS: I hope it was chouz pastry. Mmmmmmm... can you make that in the microwave?!)

Jasie VanGesen

This is insanity, I say!


I'm mostly impressed with how clean your microwave is. Ours always looks like a lasagna exploded in it. Even if we never have lasagna. I clean it often but I think it's programmed to soil itself when it senses soap or bleach has been applied to it.


This one time when I was a kid, and was hungry and desperate because I was staying at my aunt's house and she was a hippie and her kids were allergic to everything and she only had stuff like grainy 80's soy milk and alfalfa sprouts, and her stove was broken, I tried to bake brownies in a microwave. Using oat flour. And carob powder instead of chocolate and soymilk instead of eggs, milk, or butter.

Yeah. Just think about that for a minute.

I think my "brownies" and your souffle should meet up and breed to create the ultimate biological weapon.


And, OMG, the memory of that brownie totally just caused me to put my apostrophe in the wrong place on '80s. IT WAS THAT BAD.


Okay, so I got stuck at the "discovered defrost setting" part. Really? I mean, I know you guys, like, COOK. You mention here and there the kind of stuff you (or just Jason) have made for dinner, so I mean, I know cooking is going on in that house. So is it that you're so fancy that you never use frozen chicken? Because I'm not even sure what I'd do without a big Costco bag of frozen, boneless skinless chicken breasts in my freezer. So I've been using the defrost on my microwave since I started cooking. So what is it? You only cook with fresh and never need to defrost anything? Or you always plan ahead and defrost in the fridge? I'm intrigued.


I love you for this post.


I'm pretty sure I have that cookbook in a box somewhere... and had the microwave it came with until just a few years ago when my mom noticed something had caused the door seal to melt a little and freaked out. That microwave lasted 23 years. In the 4 years since then I have been through 3 new microwaves. *sigh* they definitely don't make them like they used to.


Abso-frickin-lutely hysterical. I can not believe you actually tried this. The look on the hubster's face is priceless.


My 13yo son came in while I was reading this and exclaimed, "What is that thing? WHAT IS IT????"

Indeed, dear son. What is it indeed.


I think I would have taken it out at 10 mins. Were the microwaves bank then as big and as powerful as they are now? I remember in my first flat I had a crappy little 900watt microwave and things would take AGES to cook. Now I have a super fancy high-powered one and things cook a lot faster.

Could be that…


oh DANG.

i was hoping it'd work so that i could be super fancy and make it for people and then be like ta da! microwave!


I just laughed out loud - thanks ; )


In the late 80's early 90's I used to make brownies in the microwave with my "Microwave for kids" recipe book. Then one day I thought I would try the oven, forgot my mom left the broiler pan in there all the time, took it out after preheating and ended up burning a nice square in the carpet. I stuck with microwaving until high school...


You have curred me of ever wanting to "cook" in the microwave.

And inspired me to go give it a good scrub!


I think it was your FUTURE microwave that was the problem, it's so darn efficient and whatnot with its crazy fans and add 30 seconds button. In order to accurately make this, first procure a gigantic brown microwave made in 1974. It might be as big as your stove and give you cancer, but it's what WORKS for these culinary delights. sheesh. you call yourself a micro gourmet...


just kidding :-)


ugh, sorry, one more -- I have never defrosted anything in a microwave IN MY LIFE. so to the reader that wrote "really?" under the comments about not knowing there was a defrost setting -- er, I defrost things in the fridge or a cool water bath if I'm in a hurry. There's just something too - weird - about cooking it at a low power. So - yeah, microwaves to me are for 1. popcorn, 2. leftovers. I actually went without one for 4 years, but when the baby came I thought - standing over a hot stove heating up leftovers in a pan was not going to work out so well. I even used to make popcorn in a pot with a lid. Ain't I all olde-fashioned! But I did miss microwave popcorn so so so much. (yes I know I can pop kernels in a paper bag, but I live in a country where the term "brown-bagging it" is actually met with ??? so there are no such things as small kraft paper bags.) My husband is still dismayed at the purchase.


Oh, poor Jason. In the first shot, he's like, ewww... And in the second, he looks about to cry. Anyway, this confirms my suspicions that my parents are out to use bad food to guilt me back into staying with them. They just gave me 3 of these books from the 70's.

die Frau

I see I'm not the only one who noticed one of your tags was "wine". It seemed necessary.

I tried to make a hotdog in the microwave when I was a kid once. ONCE.

die Frau

p.s. I love your kitchen countertops and I also love my Kitchen Aid mixer. I may go home and make fluffy egg whites right now just because I can.


Dood. You are the next Iron Chef. Cuz, serously, your guts are made of iron.


Is Jason still alive? And without a food poisoning? If so, this was A Success.


DYING for the Margot-inspired Holiday Microwavery Post Series!

Katie Kat

"Fizzy" Ha ha! Jason's face in the second pic is priceless - hopefully you'll save enough money with all yer fancy microwaving-gamma ray food that you can afford Foodie therapy for him!



I'll never forget the Christmas my mom got a microwave. We were all so excited. "How many seconds til dinner Mom???" Now, I think it's the most overrated appliance and could pretty easily live without one. For the space it takes up, it's probably not worth it to reheat leftovers a couple times a month. But the point I'm getting to here is: Don't microwave food in plastic! It will kill you. Really, it releases evil chemicals.


Hmmm, looks gooooood. I'm tempted to hop in my car and drive several hundred miles to be there for your next winning meal.


Love this! I'm thinking this could be a new thing for the blog..:)


oo, don't waste the condensed milk! It will be tasty in coffee or chai-like teas -- you'll have sort of a Vietnamese coffee taste going on.

you can also make mango khulfi with it in an ice cube tray, if you get yourself some mango pulp, and that's good too - my mother used to even serve it to suburban caucasian ladies sometimes, and everybody was happy - but that might take you googling the recipe because alas i don't have time to type it in.


You know, Amy, if you would have removed the beater from the mixer, it would have been a lot easier and less messy to dump that stuff into the glorious eggwhites.

I learned this the hard way.

And, yes, a KitchenAid mixer is worth every penny you pay.


One of my most favorite posts of all time! microwavey in its awesomeness.


I nearly made an ass of myself at work laughing so hard. Thanks for that!


i was totally cheering the little bugger on. i was afraid to scroll down for fear that it had gone tits up. i was excited to scroll down in the hopes that it had not! sadness prevails, microwave souffle is a disaster. aww.

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