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(by Christi Clancy)

It’s not that my mother didn’t want to prepare meals, but meal prep required time she didn’t have. She was a single mom who worked on the other side of town as a speech pathologist. She left early in the morning to avoid traffic and returned home late, exhausted from teaching stroke victims how to swallow and communicate. Aside from Sunday dinners, when she’d make salmon loaf or pot roast, we subsisted on macaroni and cheese, bologna, Velveeta, Wonder Bread, and the Little Debby snacks she bought for us at the Sara Lee outlet.

That all changed when she bought a microwave. This was an exciting purchase in the early eighties because microwaves were still relatively new, and they were so remarkably fast that they seemed magical. My mother had wanted one as much as I’d wanted a mini-bake oven when I was six years old, but we were stretched incredibly thin. It took her more than two years to set aside enough loose change to make what was, for her, a major purchase.

At the time, the microwave’s possibilities in the kitchen seemed to be limitless. My mom was optimistic that she was on the edge of a bold culinary frontier, that the appliance had the potential to change cooking, and maybe even change her life.