The Mighty, Magnanimous Microwave

The most essential appliance in the American kitchen has quickly become the microwave. This small but powerful machine keeps many American college students from starving, helps save working parents priceless time, and gives children the ability to make macaroni and cheese whenever they so desire. Even though food is universal the world over because humans live all across the w­­­orld and all require food, the method by which it is cooked varies drastically. Although things might be simpler if everyone cooked their food the same way, it would not be as interesting and not be able to tell us as much about the culture in which the food is being prepared in.

If we had Franz Boas with us to talk about this widespread phenomenon with us, we could explore historical particularism with him. Two regions of the world may use microwaves in their everyday lives, but the reason why they integrated this technology may be completely different. The North American region may use the microwave because they invented the technology and it helps with their busy lifestyles. The region of Southeast Asia may use microwaves to conform to changing global standards and may be attempting to “modernize.” Regions such as Africa and South America may reject the use of microwaves in their everyday society for the same reason, such as the fact that they are impractical in a non-sedentary lifestyle. This gives us insight into the rationales of a culture.

Instead, if we were to view this from the perspective of a Cultural Evolutionist, there would be a very different approach.  This Cultural Evolutionist would be sitting in an armchair and use their own culture as the standard though which to compare others to. Let us presume that this anthropologist is from the United States. Countries and cultures that have integrated advanced cooking technology like the microwave would be viewed as industrially developed and hence culturally superior. These cultures would be culturally superior to cultures that do not have microwaves at all or cultures that have not used the microwave as long as the United States has. While traditional, this approach is faulty because of the high bias behind it. This Cultural Evolutionist is not going out into the cultures and learning more about the people’s views and thoughts on the microwave. Instead, he or she is making a harsh judgment without all the information. They are especially missing that which could be attained by talking to the people of a culture.

With the diversity and specialty that there is in anthropology today, the relationship between cultures and microwaves could be viewed in almost an infinite number of ways. These are only two possible ways to look at this issue. Even though we can look at a culture as a whole, there is variation. More developed parts of Africa may have microwaves and perhaps some Americans refuse to use microwaves because of the decrease of culinary effect. Microwaved food is often soggy and diminished in taste. While the cultural relationship with the microwave is fascinating to ponder, making sure that people are getting and adequate amount of nourishment through food is more important.

— Micah O.

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90 Responses to The Mighty, Magnanimous Microwave

  1. Elizabeth Myers says:

    I think the whole concept of the microwave culture is really interesting. I wish you would have talked more about how the microwave has influenced our culture in other ways, such as “microwave friendly food.” I have met people who only use their microwave to cook food, and use their oven for storage. This influences their purchases at the store to packaged items that can be prepared only by microwaving. Consumers choices at the store influence companies that make food. The popularity of their food goes up if they can make it microwaveable.

    • Dana Melby says:

      Elizabeth’s comment on people using the oven as storage reminded me of Sex and the City in which the main character uses her oven as shoe storage. Since the mid twentieth century there has been a devaluation put on preparing your own food and although this is beginning to shift back with the slow food movement. It is still a major social statement of simply not having the time or desire to prepare your food. This is shown through such pop-culture phenomenon as Sex and the City. It would be interesting compare the rise of microwave culture and takeout culture.

      • Tanya Fink says:

        Dana,

        I found your comment relating microwaves to a social statement really interesting. It reminded me of my high school environment science teacher who would preach about the terrible effects of microwaves and how she doesn’t trust them. That statement alone doesn’t mean much of anything, but when you look at it as a piece of her, and what she stood for, it meant a lot. In this class I have learned to never take anything out of context. That everything is interconnected and related to something else.

        She was a definite “hippie” stereotype. Being an environmental science teacher, she rode her bike to school each morning, always packed her lunch in a paper bag, and wore chacos and tye dye on a regular basis. These things, and her passionate stance on microwaves were her way of pushing back on the mainstream culture of consumerism. That while she was constrained by culture, she was also changing it.

      • Kathryn Pitman says:

        I think this can be taken even further, perhaps by applying feminine anthropology. The kitchen, in our culture, has been constructed as the woman’s domain. That’s her area of expertise, her office space, her job… However, I think it would be very interesting to examine how this trend in microwave use has corresponded with the rising trend of a female workforce. As more and more women are refusing to stay at home as a mom or are seeking professional careers over motherhood, perhaps the kitchen is in a slow transformation from a gender specific zone to a gender neutral one. I could see how the rise of the microwave might facilitate this, as it becomes an easy appliance for either gender to operate. This is not a zing at men, because I am also arguing that these women themselves are not fully educated in the kitchen as female generation before them was.

      • Rebecca Oliver says:

        @Tanya, I grew up with a best friend whose family was very anti-microwave based on the environmental effects and the idea that the radiation was bad for health. It was always really interesting going over to her house and having to wait longer for quesodillas, and I am still taken aback when I can’t “zap” the ice cream to soften it. There is definitely a subculture of families that go out of their way to avoid microwaves and that way of cooking. Like all other symbols, there are multiple interpretations and meanings of the microwave in American food culture. There is alos something to say about the comfort level of using a microwave for so long and then being without it. People in the united states are definitely conditioned to a certain lifestyle that caters to the advantages of microwave cooking.

    • Courtney Antone says:

      To pull your comment in a different direction, Elizabeth- the supply and demand concept of people buying microwavable meals out of convenience and then the food companies increasing their microwavable meal products as a result also really affects our habits of learning about food culturally. What I mean by this is that, unlike a few decades ago, instead of depending on our parents, our grandparents, siblings, you know people who help raise us, to teach us how to cook, we are now learning how to heat things up from a cardboard box set of directions. We now, as a culture, value quick, easy to read, convenient meal preparations instead of tedious, from scratch, spoken or hands-on-teaching from our families. We depend on large companies and put our trust in their products instead of learning to find our own ingredients and prepare our own meals. It’s kind of creepy to think that we put our trust in to these huge companies that sell these crusty little boxes of food-ish product, but those bagel bites and a little plate of Tyson chicken nuggets… so fast… who could resist!

    • Stephen Fleming says:

      Elizabeth,
      I understand what you’re saying with the only microwavable options. But on most of the food I buy there is usually both the oven and the microwave option, but sitting in the kitchen at my dad’s house, where there are both options (I don’t have an oven in my dorm so ill use my dad’s house as the example) but I have the moral dilemma of making my food faster in the microwave, but if i use the oven it will taste better and take longer to prepare. but if we lived in a culture that microwaves did exist we would probably be eating healthier and better tasting food.

  2. Alyssa Paylor says:

    I think it would be really interesting to look at how the invention and proliferation of the microwave has altered nutritional frameworks of various communities around the world. We all know that argument regarding fast food: as it has spread across the U.S. and around the world, the world’s population has steadily gotten less healthy. I would bet this might be the case for microwavable foods as well. How has the way we have chemically structured and processed our foods to be microwave friendly affected the health of our population? How does owning a microwave in order to be considered “developed” or “modern” change to food consumed by populations around the world?
    As a child, a microwave meal was a treat similar to getting Fruit Loops or candy; it was a rarity in my household. I wonder how my nutritional experiences growing up are similar/different from other people my age, and how that translates to our generation’s health today.

    • Jodye Whitesell says:

      I like that you brought up the influence of microwavable foods on health. As I was reading this essay, I was thinking about how microwavable foods tend to be inexpensive, easy-to-make alternatives to slow-cooking options (Kraft microwavables v. home-made mac and cheese). So while the microwave is a sign of development, it may also be a practical way for low-income regions to feed their families, especially those who cannot afford a stove or oven or other “modern” means of cooking. Microwaves are relatively portable, easy-to-use ways to produce hot meals that require few ingredients and typically come pre-packaged, reducing the amount of time and energy needed to prepare food. This saves money both by reducing food expenses and increasing the time available to work (thus producing income).

    • Sam Eggleston says:

      The idea of shaping nutritional frameworks based on owning a microwave or not is very interesting. It seems that indeed someone with a microwave would tend to use it and thus eat more ready made foods compared to a person who didn’t eat anything from a microwave. I think that it is common to believe that the person who does not eat microwaved food would be healthier than the one who does, but then you have to consider where each person is coming from. Could a person in Africa, where food is scarce in general, let alone nutritional, benefit from owning a microwave and consuming cheaper microwaveable foods? Could a person in America, where microwaveable food is outrageously common benefit from eating the minimal foods that people in Africa depend on? In both directions it would almost appear that either gaining or giving up the microwave could be a potential solution to eating healthier.

    • Casey Shea says:

      I grew up in a household that sounds sort of similar to yours, Alyssa. We had a microwave (I think…) but didn’t really use it that much. That was probably a function of the fact that I had a stay-at-home parent. For most families who rely on the microwave to generate their family meals, it’s probably because both parents work, and get home late enough to not have the time/energy to create a home-cooked meal from scratch.
      Logically speaking, the health effects of instant-gratification microwave cooking vs. using organic, locally grown produce etc to create a meal from scratch, are obvious. Microwaves aren’t healthy, but they are convenient. They free up time for more consumption of media, electronics, and the constant feed of stimulation that has become the necessity in contemporary “modern” life.
      I bet that a lot of the families that rely on microwaves to produce their daily bread consume it in front of a television.

  3. Robin Fiore says:

    I liked that you brought up how the microwave fits into our current busy lifestyle. Americans tend to think of modern and more technology as always being better, but this might not be so everywhere. You said that the microwave might not fit into the lifestyles of people in other culture, and I think that’s very true. In many places cooking is a social and symbolic act. A symbolic anthropologist could not doubt argue for important symbolism and ritual involved in the cooking and serving of food. Familial relationships and relationships with guests are subtly but surely refined and/or supported in how people are served at a meal. Taking away these symbolic acts and replacing them with popping something into a microwave could take away a vital part of culture and how relationships are negotiated.

    • Veronica Vang says:

      I agree with what Robin has said about the microwave being an important fit in the American lives and the effects on other cultures.

      I think other cultures who haven’t been exposed to a microwave might find this appliance useful but also a way to modernize themselves. However, I could see some cultures not preferring to not use it because they are so used to their original ways of producing food, that they wouldn’t need a microwave. Using a microwave might loose cultural practices within some cultures. On the other hand, I also like in other cultures aside from American culture, obtaining a microwave might also be a status symbol of wealth and privilege among some people.

    • Maddie Sweeney says:

      I agree with Robin that many cultures do not use the microwave because making meals, such as lunch and dinner, can be considered an art to some. The microwave does not just stand for “modernism”, but it also shows that some of our culture has been taken away by the use of the microwave, instead of spending time on creating meals to share with the family.

      • Hannah Limov says:

        I loved your idea about how the microwave may be even going so far as taking away a part of our culture, the creation of food. I think it would be interesting to look at not just how the microwave may be taking away part of our culture, but instead morphing it to an entirely new one. The introduction of the microwave allowed the introduction of such delicacies like TV dinners, and instant foods. From different perspectives, the change brought on by the microwave is most certainly seen as either good or bad. Even more so, though, is simply the idea that the microwaved has changed our culture. For good or for worse, I think we are still to see.

    • Anastasia Turner says:

      I love Robin’s comment. American culture compared to most cultures is extremely fast paced. In order to fit this lifestyle we have evolved into, an item like the microwave is of course going to have a greater importance. I also agree with Veronica though about how the microwave possibly being a symbol of wealth. While traveling in Mexico I did a home stay with a middle class family. My house mother handmade every meal for us, but for ease used the microwave to quicken the process for some food. The microwave was a novelty for many of her family members who visited, and in a way was a symbol of her financial position.

  4. Alex Bayer says:

    If a cultural ecologist focuses on looking at cultural practices and adapting to there environment; what might they have to say about the microwave and Americans love of this device?

    • Veronica Vang says:

      My believe of this American’s love for having a microwave is that without it, some might find it hard to function in society. By this I mean that life would be difficult without a microwave because cooking would take more time of American lives to prepare and make.

      With the microwave, American lives have become well adapted into society because they are more able to manage thier time by not having to worry about coooking more food rather than just reheat it with the microwave. American life in the present have been well better off than life before the microwave was invented.

      • Cristina Gannon says:

        I recently moved into an apartment without a microwave. Because I am a poor college student buying one is out of the question. What a reality check I have gotten living without a microwave. Although I have always loved to cook, it is time consuming and not that beneficial when cooking for one; you end up wasting so much food, as it is difficult to save “leftovers” for reheating without a microwave!

        This truly has forced me to re-evaluate what I was eating, why, and how I prepared it. I am now having to buy items that can be prepared without a microwave, so far this has saved me money, as instant foods, although convenient tend to be more expensive.

    • Courtney O'Rourke says:

      Alex-
      In response to your question about how a cultural ecologist might explain the microwave within American culture, the microwave could be a way to adapt to the speed, ease, and practibility that has come to define our lives. Most Americans don’t grow their own food, but instead we buy our food products at local stores and grocery chains. Microwaves allow for the ease of heating up a quick dinner. Even the act of eating is no longer leisurely but is a quick activity, usually scheduled between other aspects of our life, like school, work, and sports. In a feminist perspective, the increasing use of microwaves could also be linked to women working outside the home. With less time to spend cooking and grocery shopping, the microwave provides an easy and fast way for working mothers to prepare food, especially in such a time concious society.

    • Ariane Robertson says:

      The microwave, and subsequently microwave dinners, were invented as a way for American families to have a hot meal in a matter on minutes. This technology was developed right after World War II, a time of great social change in America. A large middle class was born out of returning veterans starting families. This lead to a significant baby boom, which left American parents with more mouths to feed. This left young American mothers with large families that need to be both tended to and cooked for. When one considers these factors, the microwave really is a logical solution to preparing a meal when one is too busy to actually cook. A cultural ecologist would probably consider the increase in the responsibilities of daily life to have been key to the popularity of the microwave that exists even today.

    • storegrove says:

      I think an evolutionary anthropologist would understand the modern microwave to be an abbreviation of the historically inconvenient if not arduous task of cooking or otherwise warming foods to consumeable temperatures. In the case of college students, the understanding may be that they adapt to their often newfound freedoms from parental regiments by eating foods previously restricted explicitly or through implicit means (dinner times, eating ettiquette, etc.) For Americans in general, I think a cultural ecologist can conclude the microwave’s success to stem from national preference for quick activity and a wide variety in dietary favorites.

  5. Kate Barry says:

    As a college student, I am a big fan of microwaves. I do rely on them for majority of my food because it is faster and microwavable prepared foods are cheaper than buying all ingredients for a single meal. However, I have noticed that the nutritional values of the food I have been consuming has worsened. It would be interesting to examine the health benefits or hazards that microwaves induce in certain cultures. I know for me, it has definitely worsened. While I know this is not the same for everyone, it would be cool to see general information cross cultures.

    • H. Innes says:

      It is unfortunate that microwavable foods are cheaper than buying all the ingredients for a single meal. It can affect the nutritional values. I, however, tend to use my microwave after I make a large meal and have leftovers for several days. It is quick and efficient, as well as significantly healthier than prepackaged foods. An interesting study could be done with demographics (age/location, etc.) to see who uses their microwaves for what.

  6. Everett Warner says:

    I love how you brought up historical particularism and pointed out that while two different regions of the world may use a microwave, they might do so for different reasons. While in America and I’m sure this includes most of Western Europe as well we simply use the microwave due to convenance. But in Asia and other developing parts of the world they use the microwave as a symbol of modernity and class. This made me think of how the girls in Tibet would wear toothbrushes on their necklaces simply to show that they were wealthy enough to have a toothbrush. The toothbrush symbolized the modern and advanced western world and I would imagine having a microwave would do the same. If you owned a microwave in Tibet it would show your visitors that you were high class. The funny part about this is that just as the girls never actually used their toothbrushes, the microwave would probably never be used. It is simply a symbol of development. So while we use our microwave for convenance many people in other regions own a microwave to show status.

  7. stephanie ahlgrain says:

    Another characteristic of the microwave that could be changing cultures that have them is the fact that they cannot cook more than one thing at a time. This makes it harder for a diversity of foods to be included in each meal. I have heard many nutritionists say that a healthy meal consists of lean protein, fruits and veggies, and whole grains. In a microwave it may be easier to cook just one food, like mac and cheese, instead of preparing a dish from another food group in addition. With a stove-top or traditional oven several foods can be prepared at the same time, and therefore it is easier to include multiple food groups in one meal.

    Also, microwaves do not allow large amounts of food to be cooked at one time, so meals become more individualistic. I think this may be interesting for family dynamics. One way this may affect a family is that no one has to agree on what to eat for dinner. If children do not agree, they can simply cook two different things. Children are not encouraged to compromise with one another because everyone can eat exactly what they want. Also, the microwave allows kids to easily prepare meals for themselves. Parents can trust their kids to cook because there is relatively little danger involved with using a microwave compared to a conventional oven or stove top. This also changes family dynamics because it lessons the amount that parents care directly for their children. Of course there are other ways in which parents provide for their children, but in this one way it makes children grow up faster and be more independent at a younger age.

    • Kelsey Ross says:

      You bring up a good point with how many different foods are cooked at once. The overall amount of food and people you can feed at the same time is decreased by using a microwave. However, this does not necessarily decrease the variety of foods that can be cooked at the same time.

      While you can obviously heat one thing at a time in the microwave (like mac and cheese), you can also heat a well balanced meal. Especially for Thanksgiving leftovers, my family will pile turkey, a roll, green beans, sweet potato casserole, and cranberries onto a plate and heat it all up at once. Obviously each family member will have to do this one after another, but it is just as easy to heat dishes from all food groups as only one.

      Now how does what and how much you put in your microwave depend upon culture, region, religion, upbringing, etc? Even the microwave itself might be a factor. Our microwave heats up things pretty evenly, but a lower quality microwave might make multi-dish heating not turn out as well. Just an interesting though for further development.

  8. Katie Legge says:

    In the begining of the essay you mentioned that microwaves are sometimes used as a time saver for working parents. I think that example could be a good way to look at microwaves from a Feminist Anthropological perspective. One could say that microwaves increased in populatiry along with the popularity of working mothers. With the American gender bias, women are supposed to be the nurturing parent within a marraige, so they of course are supposed to cook dinner for the whole family. When mothers started to enter the work force, the bias did not change. This means the mothers had to come home and create quick and easy meals for the family, which is where the microwave probably became such a life-saver.

  9. Luke Nelson says:

    Like others have said, I think it would be interesting to look at the cultural advances that have created the need for microwaves, from changing attitudes towards work to even gender roles, as well as our desire to cram activities into every spare moment created the need for instant food. Its also interesting to look at who microwaveable food is marketed to, usually these busy people with little time for cooking. I also really liked your point about how anthropologically, sometimes certain cultures abandon time tested practices in favor of modernity, and that while modernity does have positive aspects, it can be really detrimental on valid cultural practices.

  10. Jordie Karlinski says:

    I like how you used microwaves and applied them to cultures and food. Microwaves fit well when examining cultures and their development. They do save time for working parents and allow for kids and teens to start making their own food. But on the other hand, microwaves can take away from the meaning of family meals and coming together after a long day. Now that there are many individual meals that are microwavable, family members may take this advantage and have their own meals when they please.

    • Rob Peixotto says:

      I agree that microwaves would detract from family dinners. I think microwaves are a great example of the path our culture has decided to take with the whole notion of fast food. Since the creation of McDonald’s waiting for food has become almost unacceptable in our culture. One of the most important things in the survival of human being, or any organism, is food. That is irrelevant to some modern day human beings in our culture. From time to time people eat only what they crave and nothing more. Not only that, when they crave things they want it now. Immediacy has become a huge part of our culture. Do I want to have more unhealthy rice in 90 seconds in the microwave, or would I rather simmer it on the stove for 30 minutes? Many Americans now choose the 90-second option because they feel their lives are too important to prepare adequate food or even eat with their families. Humans have evolved from hunter-gatherers spending all day looking for food to individuals who hardly have time for a 90 second microwave.

  11. miarizzo says:

    I really like the anthropological approaches you chose to explore your topic. I would have liked if you explained a little more with the historical particularism approach because the last sentence of the paragraph sounds like you had more to say. But overall I thought your paper was pretty great.

  12. Irina Vagner says:

    I agree with Everett saying that in some cultures the microwave would just be there and might not even be used for all this time. Knowing that microwaves are electrical, we should expect that the culture, where we are introducing the machine would have electricity, and it does not experience problems with power outage. I remember when my family gave a microwave to my grandma, after the first time she used it, the whole village where she lived (there were about 200 houses) went without power for the next day. The power stations built in 1917 did not think that in 80 years the villagers would be using high-watt electrical equipment. That would be something the Cultural Ecologist would consider: how it is suitable in some areas, and why other areas (cultures) would not even try to get it.

  13. Erica Edelberg says:

    It would be interesting to look at the cultural changes that took place in America following the invention and implementation of the microwave. For instance, you mentioned that it is helpful for college students, and I think it stands to say that most of us couldn’t imagine life here at CU without a microwave. They are even one of the few things that are provided for students in the dorms. However, what did college students do before this invention. The lack of money was certainly similar, yet food was not as accessible. It is interesting to see how such a basic invention has changed our lives so drastically.

    • celia anderson says:

      I like your idea Erica on looking how cultural practices may have changed after the invention and widespread use of the microwave. Maybe from a feminist perspective would be interesting. As more women are in the work force now maybe the use of the microwave for many women as a time saver to do other things such as making it to work on time and then getting home and having enough time to reheat a meal or through purchasing microwaveable meals the women have more time to do other things as opposed to spending all day in a kitchen cooking meals that they could also make much faster.

  14. Megan Long says:

    As you said, microwaves are something that we have all come to find a part of our daily lives. I really liked how you used Boasian Anthropology to show how a microwave can mean to vastly different things for two different cultures. It really shows how something can seem so simple, but really be very complex. Although it doesn’t follow the topic of food, seeing as the topic you chose was microwaves, it may have been interesting to look into the hazards of this appliance. Many Americans have begun to shy away from this appliance because of the known harmful radiation that is emitted from microwaves, but at the same time, due to their convenience, microwaves are spreading throughout the world. These parts of the world that microwaves are spreading to, I assume, do not have the widespread knowledge of the harmful effects of microwaves, but see it as a “modern” item to have.

    • Kelsey Ross says:

      Interesting how you think that the microwave does not follow the topic of food. The main purpose of the microwave is to heat food and drinks. The only other possible use for a microwave that I could think of would be to heat therapeutic hot packs for sore muscles. I think that how food is cooked is a very key aspect of food, especially in regards to culture which was the point of these essays.

  15. H. Innes says:

    I remember growing up we had a fairly small microwave, as did most of my friends. At the time it seemed fantastic and perfect for what we used it for. As time went on, appliances developed and changed, and now I rarely see a home that has a microwave smaller than twice the size of my family’s first microwave. It is interesting to see the changes in our appliances: for example we can heat larger amounts of food in the newer, larger microwaves than before. As a result, many recipes call for heating the food in the microwave instead of using an oven.

    • Veronica Vang says:

      What you commented reminds me of when my family and I just moved from Argentina and we had never used a microwave before because we could not afford to get one. Reflecting back now, it’s interesting how technology has changed the lives of people who use it because even now my family needs a microwave as a appliance in order to save up time and make life easier. I would see the microwave as a survival tool to some extent.

      • Alex McNa says:

        Your comment is very interesting to me, because I see the development of the microwave and its progressive use around the world as a direct result of globalization. In my mind globalization and capitalism seem to go hand in hand, and in many ways it can be seen as a new form of imperialism and colonialism that takes place culturally rather than physically.

        While many above have said that the microwave is simply a symbol of status for those in “developing” countries. I think that its place really is as a tool that caters to a multitasking life that runs at a tremendously busy pace. In my mind globalization involves the shift increased western ideals where they didn’t exist before including working long hours to make money, simply to turn around and spend it, in turn keeping the wheels of capitalism greased. This cultural imperialism pushes a platform of western dominance in which the microwave is not only a status symbol, but a necessary item to compete in todays global world.

        Women strive to become “developed” and enter the workforce following western examples provided via a globalizing world. They have less time available to cook and prepare meals for their family, because they are seeking education, or trying to work long hours to get by in an ever increasing pricey economy. How might feminist and globalization anthropologists view the microwave in different ways? One example I can think of is it gives women more time to pursue their dreams, but on the other hand takes away from family time spent over meals and nutrition is hurt because of processed foods.

  16. angielarson says:

    Micah- This is a very interesting topic, I wouldn’t have thought to choose the microwave! I think you bring up some very valid points and interesting insight on the reasons different regions of the world would use the microwave, or not use the microwave. For example, I never thought of a country or culture using the microwave as a way to modernize their society. I think that this could also be looked at through the eyes of a Feminist Anthropologist in the way that the microwave became a faster, easier way to cook to fit the American lifestyle, but mostly women’s lifestyles since mom’s generally do the cooking. On a different note, I am sometimes afraid to use a microwave because I’m not confident that they don’t have an impact on our food and can harm us. So it could also be interesting to see if there have been any health changes in societies where microwaves are used and see if there is any correlation.

    • Logan Lynch says:

      I also think it would be really interesting to look at the microwave from a feminist standpoint. The microwave started to become popular and used nation wide around the same time as the feminist movement, as women were working less as house mom’s and working money earning jobs for their families. With the working mom, who came home really late, she still had to prepare and cook dinner for families. It would be interesting to see if the microwave started to gain popularity because of the convenience for the working mom.

      • Holly Z says:

        That’s a very interesting approach to take! I would liken the microwave’s popularity to the popularity of TV dinners and casseroles in the 50s. With the shifting attitudes of housework, housewives, and modern living, chores like cooking had to be fast and easy, and hopefully in the process taste good. With the 9-5 grind encouraged by increased industrialization and prosperity post-WWII, I would argue that TV dinners and casseroles, like our microwaves today, was brought about by the increased reliance and pressure upon the matriarch of the family.

  17. Kaitlyn Clure says:

    Micah- You stated, “The North American region may use the microwave because they invented the technology and it helps with their busy lifestyles. The region of Southeast Asia may use microwaves to conform to changing global standards and may be attempting to “modernize.” I thought it was very interesting and a great idea that you compared the two places and why they might have used the microwave. Today there are more issues with the microwave than I think people expected. For example the man who ate popcorn everyday and loved the smell so much that he would put his head in the microwave to smell it, ended up getting cancer. I believe that people have started looking beyond convenience of the microwave and looking at the health benefits more closely. It would be interesting to see how other places in the world have been looking at microwaves and their advantages or disadvantages today.

  18. Kylee Smith says:

    It is interesting that you feel that a cultural evolutionsist would concider a culture with a microwave superior. This is because I feel that within our own culture microwaved meals are looked down upon, and that homecooked meals are the superior cuisine. If you were cultural evolutionist studying the different sub-cultures of America, would you concider high rates of microwable food consumption the superior to high rates of oven-cooked consumption? When college kids go home on breaks, the thing they are often most excited for is home cooked meals.

    • Ryan Kelly says:

      I agree with Kylee on this one. I don’t consider the use of a microwave to be culturally superior. Maybe more technologically advanced, but this does not mean it is a superior style of living. A culture in which people efficiently grow and consume their food in a healthy way is culturally superior in my opinion.

  19. Ryan Kelly says:

    It would be interesting to look at the use of microwaves in terms of practice theory. Americans have embraced the use of microwaves to support fast paced lifestyles. Many people have transitioned from home-cooked breakfasts to pop-tarts that, when cooked in a microwave are ready in only four seconds! It is interesting how technological advances and lifestyle changes within a culture can directly control the food we eat and how we make it.

    • Ariane Robertson says:

      I agree. Practice theory would provide some very interesting insight into our culture. What does it say about us as a culture when instead of heating up a can of soup on the stove, we just throw it in the microwave despite the two methods having similar cook times? Or even the way some people always have to put a bag of popcorn into the microwave before they sit down to watch a movie? I think this would really be an interesting thing t0 look into.

  20. sam johnson says:

    I lived in a small Mayan town in Guatemala, and a surprising number of families had microwaves. What was interesting to me was that they used the microwaves for different purposes than the average American. Microwaves heat things by agitating the bonds in water molecules, this causes the food to be essentially steamed/boiled by the moisture in the food and surrounding air. That’s why your mcnuggets never get quite as crispy after nuking them. The Guatemalans use them to heat water and drinks. This is partly because there aren’t any leancuisines at their markets, but also because most of the people in this town know the microwave’s place in the kitchen. What I’m saying is that microwaves have been marketed as a jack-of-all trades machine in the U.S., yet people who are only just getting the technology use it for what it really is meant to do.

    • Rob Peixotto says:

      That’s fascinating that the small Mayan town you lived in had microwaves. I know they are on the spread around the world but this really surprises me. What was the pace of the culture in this town? I assume it is a slower pace than the American culture, with more time spent on eating and socializing with family. I commented on another blog about the reproductions that microwaves might have on family dinners. Did this culture partake in family dinners? I know that you said they don’t really use the microwaves for food, at least not yet. Do you know why they use it for water? What other systems for heating water do they have available to them? I wonder what the advantages of using the microwave solely for water are. I wonder if it’s a symbol of development over function. It seems like an expensive device for just heating water.

  21. Michaela Clinton says:

    The way that the microwave has changed our culture and even the very structure of a family is another thing that I think it would be interesting to look at. How has the microwave changed the “family meal time”? Since we are able to just quickly heat up something and eat it, families are having less and less dinners together. It would be interesting to explore how this has effected our younger generations and what the negative and positive results will be.

    • Noah Starburner says:

      Michaela,
      This would be an interesting study. How does the ease of microwave dinners affect family structures and relations?
      It also poses a “the chicken or the egg” problem: are microwave dinners the effect of a faster pace society and individual’s inability to prepare and sit down to enjoy a family dinner? Or, has the easy access to food created by microwave allowed for society to move at a faster pace?

  22. Rachel Nussbaum says:

    I think it would be very interesting to analyze the microwave with a nutritional anthropology approach. Although we have not studied this approach in class, the main controversy of the microwave is it’s effects on foods nutrients. Microwaves use electromagnetic waves to heat food quickly. Although this is convenient, the rapid scorching of food unsurprisingly kills many nutrients necessary for a well-rounded diet. Unfortunately, in our society, convenience typically overrides nutrition. I would be interested to explore the long-term effects a microwave has on our society’s health.

  23. laine smith says:

    From an Applied Anthropological perspective, this could be interesting to delve into. Yes, the microwave provides easy, fast and productive means to food, but, does it to nutrition? Microwaves, although great in the long run if you want to heat up last nights dinner or make a quick potato, it also provides the opportunity for companies to mass produce and sell quick, fortified, nutritionless meals. This is not too great, temptation of easy, quick and cheap food is hard to ignore. Could anthropologists work up a solution? Fast, cheap, healthy food for the common person?

  24. Forrest Jensen says:

    This essay made me think about the comment in class that “anthropology makes the familiar strange and the strange familiar”. I couldn’t help but look over at this little appliance in the corner of my dorm room and wonder how it got to be viewed as such a necessity that it should be included in every college dorm room. I remember first walking in to my dorm and being so excited to have one. Now I realized I have only used it 3 times this semester and its seems more of a comfort than anything to have this luxury at my disposal, even if i dont use it. Then i got to thinking about how many microwaves adorn shelves in homes which dont even have electrical outlets. Its funny to think about but its very pobable that in many regions the microwave is merely a symbol of modernity and status, like the Tibetan man we talked about in class who was carrying a stereo without batteries.

  25. Paige Block says:

    I completely agree with your words on the Cultural Evolutionist perspective. In fact, I’ve found the microwave to be another form of America’s laziness, not a symbol of our technological progression. Cultures separate from our own are entitled to their individual approach to food, a microwave being either unnecessary or even looked down upon in some places. Americans have made the microwave a standard of living, all households equipped with one, which to me is quite disappointing. Not only are the microwaveable foods of lesser nutritional value, but there is a smaller and smaller population with the desire or need to cook.

  26. Hannah Chatelain says:

    Growing up all my mom cooked out of for my family of five was a microwave so this article interested me. My mom worked as above many people mentioned, but not only did she work she didn’t really know how to cook so the microwave was her best bet. She was always embarrassed however when other moms and kids would find out that she microwaved, hot dogs, dinners, eggs, you name it, because there is a social stigma placed on some moms who just cook using a microwave. As if not cooking to feed your kids is somehow neglecting them. From a feminist perspective I’ve seen moms get outed for not cooking a home baked meal, however I have never seen a dad outed for doing the same. The microwave almost seems expected as a norm for men who don’t know how to cook to make their meals. There is no social stigma placed on them for cooking that way, even if it is for their kids.

  27. Hayden Griggs says:

    It is interesting to view the Microwave as a culture-changer. Truly its advent changed american culture; microwave meals, etc. But what is really interesting is that it has sort of defined various groups in bizarre ways. For example, it can be argued that college students are the embodiment of the Microwave mentality. The microwave in the dorms had to have had an enormous impact on what college students eat and how they “cook”. Personally, if it wasn’t for the microwave theres a good chance I’d starve to death. It seems bizarre however that the use of a microwave hasn’t come to be seen as a legitimate method of cooking in american culture… “real” cooking is expected to be done using the oven and the stove-top etc. yet the Microwave itself apparently hasn’t joined its appliance brethren in legitimacy yet. Truly, the Microwave is taken for granted in our culture… I can’t help but wonder if the stigma will ever disappear?

  28. Peter Zwickey says:

    First off I’d like to say that the title and topic in general were extremely interesting to think about. Your paper did a really good job at explicating the microwave in a cultural way. One thing I’d have to play critic on was your paragraph about the Cultural Evolutionist. It was unfair to infer that CE’s only sit in armchairs and are all ethnocentric. Being ethnocentric was just a common symptom of the school of thought. Other than that I thought it was a strong argument. Some thoughts are unorganized but the information is all there! way to go.

  29. Amanda Kim says:

    We, as a society are losing the traditional way of cooking meals and enjoying time spent with the family, which in turn, may also have affected the whole America’s weight issue on obesity. But on the other hand, many of us are working harder and longer hours like never before than the past, and are going to need to consume food for energy, but in a quick manner. It affects on how culture and society has changed; we are a fast paced and are always constantly on the go and rely on convenience. Thinking of it like that definitely makes the microwave sound like a really great invention, but health wise, there has been debate about it of course.

    All in all, how microwaves affect the anthropological world and society: physically, we don’t have to do too much work for food like our past ancestors (we now have fast food and convenience stores). Mmmm … McDonalds.

  30. kelcy schamehorn says:

    To go along with Amanda’s comment, it is very true that you can look in so many directions as to how microwaves have affected our country alone. Although our culture is always changing, and becoming a more fast paced and eager society, i don’t believe microwaves should have been our “go-to” solution. i think we have been taught to think that we need things done in an instant, and not just in food but with everything in general. Just like Professor McGranahan told us in lecture, it is possible to live without a microwave and still get to places on time and eat in a reasonable manner. This fast paced lifestyle has even began to affect other places around the world, which is scary no doubt. we are teaching other cultures to become more like us when in reality, we are hurting ourselves by becoming obese, lazy and reliant on instant pleasure.

  31. John Vertovec says:

    Well done essay! I feel that symbolic anthropology could be used to examine this phenomenon though. I feel that the microwave is symbolic of a fast paced lifestyle. Thick description is the idea that symbols are communicative and constitutive of culture (according to Professor McGranahan’s lecture). Microwaves are communicative that a culture has become focused on quick results. Microwaves are also communicative that the culture in which uses it is less focused on food preparation and more focused on the ins and outs of their lives outside of the kitchen.

  32. Mark Lamberti says:

    I thought this essay was pretty interesting and insightful. I agree that microwaves have changed our culture, and in a negative way. Food is meant to be nourishing to your body and almost nothing cooked in a microwave can be considered healthy. Also I think that microwaves promote general laziness and the end to home cooked meals. Commercials these days on t.v. show microwaves as being cool or modern which is where the craze for them comes from. Everything you can make in a microwave can be made in an oven if you can sacrifice an extra 5 or 10 minutes. I think it would be interesting to look at this through a practice theory or symbolic and interpretative theory to see what it really means to people to have a microwave.

  33. Holly Z says:

    Your reference to Historical Particularism and Franz Boas reminded me of “Invitations to Love” by Laura Ahearn, especially the notion that the microwave represents modernity rather than actual function in some parts of the world.
    Like the use of a toothbrush as a piece of jewelry in Nepal by some younger people, the microwave can be used as a status symbol to represent wealth and affluence, but the actual use of the microwave is questionable sometimes.
    When I was younger, my family purchased its first microwave. This piece of machinery represented a certain status that my family had acheived thanks to my fathers and mother’s recent promotion at work. We were thrilled to have such a fancy machine in the household! This made our house seem finer and richer than ever before!

  34. Rob Irvin says:

    I like the statement saying the microwave provides working parents a way to cook and feed their children in a timely manner. I would like to see some statistics on this statement. Some examples would be the percent of Americans who eat food cooked in the microwave for dinner at least once a week or the number of Americans who use the microwave twice or more a day.
    In a culinary sense who is more developed, the person who cooks their meal in the microwave or the person who has intense recipes using foods and spices found in the areas they live in. Will people in cultures that are generally slower paced than say the United States ever see any reason to use the microwave. If a person’s only concern is taste, I would feel like that person would choose a way other than using a microwave to prepare there food. Americans crave two types of food and they are food that is delicious and food that they can get on the go.

  35. Zoe Anderson Edenfield says:

    Micah, I thought this was a very interesting topic. You mentioned that regions in Africa and South America would probably reject microwaves as impractical. I think this is interesting, and I wonder from a Symbolic/Interpretive Anthropological standpoint how people in these areas would view technology like a microwave. What would it represent to them? Would it represent modernity? Would they wish that they had the ability to use such a thing, or even if they couldn’t, would they keep it around in the way that the Nepalese store kept the empty Pringle’s can? Or rather, would it be something they saw as representing ridiculous American laziness/spoiledness? I think these would all be interesting questions for a symbolic/interpretive anthropologist to seek to answer.

  36. Tim Baker says:

    There are so many ways that microwaves have changed our lives and yet most of us don’t even think about them, at least not as they apply to anthropology. The two theories used in this essay really take opposite approaches to questions of anthropology which is a good thing. The critiques for the cultural evolutionists are especially thorough as they were really basing their work off of accounts of others instead of doing fieldwork. Also, I thought the closing statement was very good. Culture and society really have one main function to accomplish and that is to ensure that our needs are met and we are able to sustain ourselves.

  37. Nick Brownson says:

    I think to take your Cultural evolutionist argument a step further, we might be able find even another hierarchy that the microwave presents us. As college students, I think most contributors to the blog can agree that using a microwave as a major cooking tool relatively often can more or less be equated with being ‘dirt-poor’, for lack of a better term. In a grander sense, a microwave may be an indication of modernity, but within our society alone, it kind of suggests that one is on a lower rung in our cultural hierarchy. To live a life where you have a(shiny, stainless steel) microwave, but are able to neglect it most of the time for more legitimate culinary tools and procedures shows that you have money, and probably have some sort of education that allows you to understand the health and taste benefits of not using a microwave.

    • Tess Porter says:

      I thought your comment was very interesting. I agree with your statement that, in our culture, microwaves can also signify a lower class standing. Microwavable meals tend to be cheap. They might be used more often in a family where both parents need to work to support the family and don’t have time to prepare meals. If one is rich enough, they may be able to afford expensive ingredients for intricate meals that can’t be prepared swiftly using a microwave, as well as having enough time to prepare them because one spouse may spend more time at home. One could even afford a private chef to cook all their meals for them.

      It would be interesting to look at usage rates of microwaves to see if households with higher incomes use their microwaves as often as those with lower incomes. It would also be interesting to look at households with higher incomes to see if they have a modern microwave that they don’t use just because it’s a symbol they can afford something so high tech.

  38. Lucy Lundstrom says:

    I think that what you brought up about Americans and their need for convenience and speed when preparing food was very interesting. As American lifestyles seem to become more and more hectic, things like microwaves are perfect–quick food preparation, and easy for anyone in the family to use. However, I realized the other day while at a friend’s parent’s house that microwaves may be only the beginning in people’s desire for convenience. This house was in the process of being remodeled, and there was clearly huge emphasis on it looking very modern and being high tech in every way. It was the kitchen, though, that struck me the most. Aside from the giant refrigerator-sized wine cooler, what I thought was the most interesting was the stove. Both touch screen and motion-sensored, this stove was clearly about as advanced, technology-wise, as it gets. In theory, a cooking fanatic’s dream, but in reality this just seemed absolutely ridiculous. Every time a person walked by the stove or waved an arm in it’s direction, one of the burners would turn on, and then if a pot was not placed on it within ten seconds of the burner turning on, the stove would beep incessantly. I couldn’t help but wonder if it would really be so much more difficult to exert a little more energy to turn a knob, and therefore not have to sacrifice one’s family’s safety and sanity. This essay was really interesting in the same vein–I wonder if our desire for extreme convenience will actually eventually lead us to some really inconvenient situations.

  39. Morgan Piper says:

    While I do agree microwaves have revolutionized the way that American’s cook their food, I grew up in a household that did not have a microwave. I don”t feel as if it slowed us down or forced my mom to slave away in the kitchen for hours because she didn’t have that aspect of convience, but instead it allowed her to cook healthier meals. I do believe that it may have been easier for her to have taken care of two teenagers and an entire household had we had a microwave but in all honesty its not a necessary appliance for Americans. I think that a Feminist Anthropologist might disagree with what I have to say mainly because the microwave allowed women to begin to spend less time in the kitchen and more time doing more productive things with their time. In contrast to this, I believe that an Applied Anthropologist would place many of American’s unhealthy food habits on the shoulders of the microwave. Had this appliance never been invented, the obesity rates and unhealthy food choices would not be running rampant in America today.

  40. Sara Helt says:

    I think that the author did a very good job of explaining cultural evolutionary approach. Looking at it from an american college student’s perspective in which almost all meals involve a microwave, we would not think about live with out a microwave and some might think that they are superior because of this. In armchair anthropology this is precisely what occurs and I think the author brings up an excellent point if trying to understand the mircowave phenomenon.

  41. Joseph DeMoor says:

    In relation to the above comment, I had a similar experience of going to a newly renovated house recently and being very surprised by how high tech everything was becoming. The most apparent place for this was in the kitchen. From the microwave to the automatic “dust removing system”-where you can sweep piles of dirt, etc. near these suction vents and it magically disappears… my first thoughts were, where does it go??
    When it comes to food however I still believe in slowing things down and making it as natural/homemade as possible. If it were up to me, I would cook on a camp fire every night in my back yard. Living in an apartment this doesn’t seem too practical but maybe someday I will be lucky enough to own an automatic camp fire cooking kitchen deluxe.

  42. Alex Myers says:

    I like how you kind of put two opposing anthropological viewpoints within your paper. You could have used practice theory or numerous others. The topic is a very interesting one. Personally I am pretty freaked out with microwaves. I try to use them as little as possible, which ends up being a lot.

  43. Molly Small says:

    I have had a microwave in the different houses I have lived in my entire life up until this august. In fact, when I signed the lease on my house I just assumed it came with a microwave (like it would a fridge, a sink, etc). But I was obviously wrong and it has truly affected my eating habits. You noted that it is good for college kids or families on the run and I completely agree with that statement. The closest thing I have to a microwave is a toaster oven that takes ten minutes to cooks something that may only take two minutes in the microwave. I must say I do no think I live an inferior lifestyle due to my lack of kitchen appliances. On the contrary, I feel I have developed a much healthier diet and along with that better eating habits. I find myself eating more raw foods, as I can get too lazy or impatient to cook something in the oven. At the same time though, having no microwave has to taught me to slow down a few times during the day and relax while I eat a meal. In class it has been noted that anthropology makes the familiar strange and the strange familiar. I don’t think I would have noticed the effects of not having a microwave would have had on me had I not read this essay and really stopped to think about the importance we put on an appliance.

  44. Kathryn Pitman says:

    I think an interesting thing to look into with the culture of the microwave is how it has affected our social culture, more specifically, family time (I am not sure if this has already been commented, if so my apologies). With the microwave comes microwave easy food, and with that comes a quick solution for Mom after she has been up since the crack of dawn doing everything she does in a day. I feel as though a microwaveable meal encourages either time away from or a disconnection with the family. You can eat microwaveable meals alone, in front of the TV, in your room, etc. I know in my home, on the rare occasion that we had a microwave cooked meal, we never sat down at the dinner table to eat them together as if it were a home cooked meal.

  45. Joe Zimmermann says:

    I fall into the category of people who don’t have nor use a microwave. What would Boas say about my participation? My other question is focused on the use of microwaves in other countries: Could it be possible that it fits for them the same way that it works for Americans? Maybe they use microwaves to save time out of their own busy days. Great topic, it was interesting to read an analysis that for most people is always present but doesn’t receive very much thought.

  46. Alexandra says:

    I like the thought behind this essay. I felt that it was interesting to read about the concept of a microwave from a Cultural Evolutionist’s point of view. An American cultural evolutionist would absolutely view someone who live in a hut in Africa and cooks their food over a fire as someone who is less culturally and technologically less superior. However, a cultural evolutionist from Africa looking at the American technology and culture may feel as if their ways are superior to that of the US. They might feel as if technology and electricity is not needed when using fire and other earthly/ natural materials are just as efficient. Each method cooks food, but they are entirely different. When the attempt to “modernize” other countries is discussed I feel that if we did “modernize” Africa (or any other foreign country) then this country would no longer have the same cultural value that it holds now, and countries would no longer be as unique!

    • Brenna Hokanson says:

      While you make a good point, I think that Cultural Evolutionist thought is a little more unidirectional than you express. Cultural Evolution is based on the concept that different cultures exist at different points on a unilinear time line that progresses from primitive to civilized. While I’m not trying to get into an argument about the relative benefits of civilized vs. primitive life, a Cultural Evolutionist (no matter where he or she is from) would classify any culture that doesn’t use technology and electricity as less civilized than one that does.

  47. Landon Shumaker says:

    I use a microwave for pretty much every meal. You are exactly right, and most college kids, especially boys would be dead by now without one! Good topic choice. I am surprised that you were able to fully incorporate two anthropological terms to describe the microwave. The cultural evolutionists view on the subject is the one most taken by Americans, because we typically think we are the ones everyone is striving to be like, so you hit that term on the head.

  48. Forrest Jensen says:

    I think the last line of your paper brought up an interesting point. Its true, as many other comments have emphasized, that the microwave has made a hot meal fast and convenient for a culture who’s schedule is reliant on instant gratification. It has also allowed children to be more self-sufficient in cooking their meals and prevented college students from starving. However, the increasing perception of this appliance as a necessity may also have some detrimental effects on cultural reproduction and transformation. With the lack of nutritional value, questionable effects of bombarding food with microwaves, and the trend away from the family sitting down to a home cooked meal, maybe the microwave isn’t so great. I lived off microwave food when i was little and both my parents worked. Unfortunately my ability to cook anything that wasn’t microwavable took a hit. If it wasnt popcorn, quesadillas, or white rice, there was a good chance i couldn’t make it. I just hope the microwave does not become a consistent alternative to the home cooked meal and the values that accompany it…like culinary expertise

  49. Nathan Scheidehelm says:

    I liked reading this essay especially because I’m an American that has always practiced the “art” of the microwave. I wonder if this argument could be viewed through the eyes of a culture and personality specialist. One might assign the microwave-industrialized type of personality to Americans, sighting how we use this machine to hurry-up our cooking so we can rush out to work. They might assign a traditional, or less modern, personality to those cultures that do not have microwaves, and would probably find that that particular culture is incredibly healthier that the former because what people usually heat up in their microwaves is seldom nutritious.

  50. maximus1090 says:

    One of the first things that I thought of when trying to separate the microwave from my American, preconceived notions of its necessity in my daily life was the image of a microwave being used for something else in a developing country. Namely, the idea here is that a microwave can be equated in many ways to items such as the Pringles can that Dr. McGranahan mentioned in lecture. To what extent could the very presence of a microwave, or even a microwave box, indicate status within the context of a rural village? Just like many other items of convenience that exist in the United States, such as McDonald’s, are largely taken for granted, McDonald’s is on the more pricey side of things when eating in a place such as China. The ability to even use a microwave might be largely inconsequential compared to the value in simply having one. I hope I am not bringing shame to myself in having an impulsive urge to bring up “The Little Mermaid” only to the extent that Ariel’s underwater collection of trinkets from the “other world” is an uncannily good example of how the value of simple objects that may relate to food in one culture take on the role of a simple status symbol in another.

  51. Keith Jones says:

    The microwave was a very interesting choice of appliance to examine, especially through the lens of a cultural evolutionist. Like you said, the cultural evolutionist would view the microwave as an indicator of a developed society, superior to non-microwave societies. However, within these so-called “developed” societies I would make an argument that the microwave displays an opposite trend. In America for example, I’d say the majority of the microwave-using households are middle to lower class and you would see a significant dropoff in microwave use as you get into the upper classes of American society. This could be due to the fact that most microwave meals and foods are cheaper and therefore more affordable to the average/below average person. It may also be attributed to the time factor, that these lower to middle class people are having to spend more time working and have less time to prepare food than does the upper class. Whatever the reasons the microwave is extremely interesting how in the world view it can possibly show who is and who isn’t and at the same time within a certain culture it can indicate the exact opposite.

  52. Lila Zwonitzer says:

    I think within the culture of microwave users, it is also important to recognize a culture of microwave-refusers. For some people it is a device used for ease and speed, while others view it as a departure from the natural. I know that my bacon tastes better when I cook it on the stove, but the speed of the microwave is what’s so appealing to me. We arent allowed ovens or even toaster ovens in dorms so the microwave is something I must rely on. In a home where the microwave isn’t used, it represents their lack of a need for utter convenience. Let’s be real, how much longer does it really take to cook popcorn on the stove or heat up a burrito in the oven.. Often times, the difference in taste is even worth it.

  53. Katie Carbaugh says:

     The region of Southeast Asia may use microwaves to conform to changing global standards and may be attempting to “modernize.” 

    Reading this sentence made me realize just how ridiculous it is that some cultures are forced to “modernize” when it truly does not serve the people of that culture in any way shape or form. Often times, I believe that it hurts the culture. It forces them to go our of their way to make changes, wasting time and resources. It forces the people of that culture to forgo their traditional ways of accomplishing a task (in this case cooking food). How biased is it that cultural evolutionists view things from a western perspective—that “modern” means “better.” I wonder how a modern anthropologist would approach this and how they would critique the cultural evolutionist. Because modern anthropologists often center their personal research approaches around multiple anthropological perspectives, they can gain a less biased, more culturally relative and etic understanding of what a tool, such as a microwave, does to a culture. I believe that using multiple perspectives, immersing oneself in the culture of study, and being reflexive, all allow for a better insight. We may even be able to use the results of a modern study to help the people of a culture improve their lives—not just “modernize” them.

    • Andrew Matthews says:

      When viewing microwaves as defining modern culture, I believe that this invention has been one of the most influencial and stereotyplical appliances in today’s society. From the uses of making popcorn to heating up an entree, microwaves have been ingrained into the typical American lifestyle. As opposed to a conventional oven, cooking food in the microwave has provided instantly hot meals that did not require any preperation. Anthropologists are extremely interested in how the incorporation of microwaves into every day life have affected traditional cooking procedures. The use of microwaves has affected a variety of individuals including nutritionists, as”healthy” products such as lean cuisine are now microwavable. The fact that microwaves are not the most beneficial wat to cook food causes some skepticism, yet cultures have become accustomed to it’s many convenient uses. I am very intersted to see how much longer there will be a promotion for microwavable foods, as developing technology will influence societal transformation.

  54. Brian Cortese says:

    I agree that many cultures do not use microwaves not because they cannot afford them but because they simply do not want them. Many European socities do not have microwaves I’m sure because people enjoy cooking. French and Italian cultures are known for their cuisine. Imagine if they used microwaves instead of making traditional favorites from scratch. These countries would lose their heritage and culture. Not to mention some very good cooking!

  55. Sophia Kolybabiuk says:

    I agree that having a microwave in your house has to do entirely with culture. Alot of various parts of the world just like making fresh food in general because it is traditional and part of the culture. it has nothing to do with being “modern” i feel like, because you could live a modern life and still have all up to date appliances but still choose to not own a microwave for keeping your traditional purposes. Some people just might not like how the food tastes, pointing out a point the writer has mentioned in their paper, or people might just choose to live life “carcinogen free” and not have anything to do with things that have a risk of giving you cancer. Either way, I believe using a microwave varies in culture and your own personal beliefs. If you live in a more modern society, I think it is more likely you will have a microwave because it is part of the culture you are surrounded by, which in your perspective would be seen as the “norm”.

  56. Jon Mastman says:

    This essay was very informative. It connected many of the topics covered in the text and truly connected with me when she talks about what the society might want from a microwave before they incorporate it into their lives and cultural identity. Since it was invented by the United States, it does reason to think that it makes sense that Western Civilizations may use it most readily to ease their busy lives. however cultures that would have no need for our modern day MRE’s (meal, ready-to eat) would be less predisposed to use a microwave.

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