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microwave ovenMicrowave Ovens: Who Sent Them Here and What Do They Want?
by Marjorie Dorfman

How does a microwave oven know to heat the coffee in a cup and not the cup as well? Are these aliens conspiring against the human race? Read on for the answers to these and other hopeless questions.

I am not afraid to say that I am afraid of microwave ovens. According to Franklin Roosevelt, I have nothing to fear but fear itself, but we all know that he wasn’t referring to microwave ovens (not even those made in Japan). Everything about them frightens me, especially their bland and normal appearance. They have no mutated thumbs or odd appendages to hinder them from blending into the unsuspecting oven world. The special dishes bother me as well. Why is it when you warm a cup of coffee in a microwave, the oven warms the coffee and not the cup? What I really mean is, how does it know? Do these ovens receive coded messages from far away places with strange sounding names? These and other questions abound. Shall we seek some answers?

I have learned that the reason the cup does not heat up with the coffee is because the microwave oven is always at room temperature. If this is as clear as wading through mud, please join the club and try to follow along. (I’ve always supported the blind leading the blind and other fine organizations.) How can an operating oven remain at room temperature? Well, it has to do with things beyond my understanding, but I will try to explain. The oven heats only the food by utilizing microwaves that are really radio waves. These waves are absorbed by waters, fats and sugars and converted directly into heat, but cannot be infused by most plastics, metal, glass or ceramics. This is why metal pans do not work well with microwave ovens.

If you sometimes put your clothing on inside out, the microwave is your perfect accessory. This is because it cooks food "from the inside out." In a conventional oven, the heat migrates by conduction from the outside of the food towards the middle. Dry, hot air evaporates moisture, providing an exterior that can be crispy and brown (like bread in a crust) while the inside is moist. The microwaves penetrate the food evenly and there is no movement of heat towards the interior via conduction. Heat is everywhere at once, preventing the formation of a crust on anything except the outer recesses of your brain.

One of the worst microwave stories I ever heard happened in Oklahoma City back in the 1960s. While working for The Federal Aviation Administration, my boy friend saw on a hilltop a receiving station for microwave transmission which travelled in a narrow beam through the sky between sending and receiving antennae. For a lark, he threw a large twig up into the air and into the direct line of the beam. The twig was transformed into instant ash in less than a heartbeat. Today’s microwave ovens work on the same principle, but the energy is less intense. Somehow it all seems safer because it isn’t happening out in the open air waiting for some poor, unsuspecting bird to fly by and become ash à la mode.

microwave ovenWhere did these ovens come from and why are they here aggravating us? The first ones were developed by the Nazis and were used for the invasion of Russia. (It’s too bad they didn’t do more experiments on the effects of the microwaves on other Nazis before pawning them off to the Russians!) After the war, the Allies discovered the research done by the Germans and these documents were taken over by The United States War Department and classified for "further scientific investigation." In 1946 an engineer with the Raytheon Corporation, Dr. Perry Spencer, discovered a way to harness microwaves through a metal box which caused the temperature of food to rise very rapidly. His idea was further refined for practical use by other engineers. By late 1946, Raytheon had filed a patent proposing that microwaves be used to cook food, and in 1947 the first commercial microwave oven hit the market.

It was called a "Radar Range," came housed in refrigerator sized cabinets and cost between $2000-$3000. In the 1950s Tappan introduced the first home model which was priced at $1,295. The first counter top cost just under $500. It was smaller, safer and more reliable than previous models. Today over 90 per cent of all American homes use microwave ovens for food preparation. They are popular because they are more convenient and energy efficient than conventional ovens. In general, we as a public believe that whatever a microwave oven does to food cooked in it doesn’t have any effect either on the food or us. Well, we are wrong. It does and we better all listen up.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if I kept what I have learned a secret, I would be a traitor to the human race. What was originally meant as a tongue-in-cheek survey has turned into an expose´ and transformed me into a combination of Vance Packard, Betty Furness, Ralph Nader, Paul Revere and The Lone Ranger. How many of you out there know that in 1991 there was a lawsuit in Oklahoma concerning hospital use of a microwave oven to warm blood needed in a transfusion? The patient, Norma Levitt, died during the transfusion process because the microwaving somehow altered the blood. Microwaves do something to the substances they heat. Put that in your oven and cook it, if you dare.

And there’s much more, my friends. Swiss, Russian and German scientific clinical studies have come up with the following reasons to throw your microwave oven out the window (or give it to someone you don’t like). Hold on. This is an upsetting as well as a bumpy ride. We cannot metabolize the unknown by-products created in microwaved food and these unknowns remain within our bodies. Minerals, vitamins and nutrients are so drastically altered by the microwaving process that the body derives little or no benefit from them. Worse, the minerals in vegetables are modified into cancerous free radicals when cooked in microwave ovens. The prolonged eating of microwaved foods causes cancerous cells to increase in the blood and stimulates the growth of stomach and intestinal tumors. (This may explain the increase in the rate of colon cancer in America.) Eating microwaved food can cause long term brain damage by shorting out electrical impulses in the brain, loss of memory, concentration, emotional instability and a decrease in intelligence. Nice, huh?

If you wish to keep your microwave oven, it seems to me that there should be a sign somewhere near it that reads: "Proceed at your own risk. Cooking in a microwave may be hazardous to your health." (I stopped smoking because of a sign like that. It only seems fair.) No one has warned us about how dangerous this product can be and that makes me mad. Microwave oven manufacturers are more concerned with studies on what happens if the door on a microwave doesnít close properly than they are about what happens to food cooked inside. I donít know why this is so, but Iím going to find out. I wonder what the Lone Ranger is up to these days. Maybe heíll come and ride with me in my new crusade. Then again, maybe heíll just loan me his horse. Wanna join me on a midnight ride, nowhere near Boston?

Did you know . . .

Check these reviews by Marjorie of interesting kitchen gadgets:

Now you really have s-t-e-a-m heat!
Sharp Steam Oven

For lovers of both temperatures who cannot make up their minds.
Whirpool Polara Refrigerator Oven

A wonderful pot, no matter where you call home.
The Dutch Oven

The perfect food transport for those on the go-go with no stop-stop in sight.
Pyrex Portables

For those times when you might want to set your own little world on fire.
Dessert Micro Torch

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"Technology has enabled man to gain control over everything except technology."

"Never trust a computer that you can't throw out the window."
Steve Wozniak

Don't miss this excellent book:

Troubleshooting And Repairing Microwave Ovens

Troubleshooting And Repairing Microwave Ovens

This book is the most detailed, comprehensive guide to microwave oven repair on the market today. It is filled with illustrations and step by step instructions to indicate just what needs to be done for the repair of your microwave oven.

Click to printClick for a printer friendly version of this article.