Microwave ovens, which can thaw food in minutes and substantially reduce cooking time, are changing the eating habits of a new generation—along with the mealtime routines of millions of Canadians. Over the past few years the speedy and convenient microwave has come into widespread use, and, according to Statistics Canada, more than 40 per cent of Canadian households now own one. And as their numbers have grown—to the relief of busy cooks, impatient eaters and working spouses—so has the number of convenience foods made expressly for the microwave.
Microwave popcorn, which accounts for nearly half the sales in the pace-setting U.S. market, is the most notable example. But recently, such food conglomerates as the Pillsbury Co., General Foods Corp. and McCain Foods Ltd. of New Brunswick have begun pouring millions of dollars into developing new products and improving old standbys. Said Marilynn Small, a test-kitchen expert with General Foods Inc. Canada in Toronto, which over the past six months has introduced microwave instructions for rice, bread stuffing and chicken coating mixes: “People are starting to look beyond using the microwave to reheat a cold cup of coffee or a hotdog.” Some new products include crisp-crusted pizza and fish sticks, crescent rolls and cakes, complete hot breakfasts, twominute linguine with clam sauce and a hot-fudge sundae that is ready in 30 seconds.
Alan Surpin, president of the Toronto-based Canadian Microwave Cooking Bureau, said that members of the food industry are conducting more thorough research and tests and that, as a result, the products are getting better. But Joanne Kates, food critic and author of The Taste of Things, a collection of essays on food and culture, said that she is skeptical. Generally, she said, microwave cooking “is grotesque. It turns food into little rubber erasers.” She added that the spate of new and improved products will not likely change her opinion. Still, Kates predicted that microwaves will remain popular. And the growing number of food products specifically designed for the microwave suggests that it is the wave of the future.
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.