Given the American demand for instant gratification, the invention of the microwave oven and its resounding success are no surprise. Not only does it provide a hot meal in seconds, but it eliminates nearly all of the labor associated with meal preparation. Chicken dinners, popcorn snacks, and hearty breakfasts of bacon and eggs are all prepared faster than a trip by the drive-through window of the local restaurant.
No more standing over a hot stove in summer heat, elbow deep in sudsy water and greasy pans, or hungrily at the kitchen door. No advance meal planning is required. Stocking up on frozen, canned, and packaged foods ensures a ready supply of instant, hot meals. There’s no need for kitchen company and camaraderie; the time spent there is minimal. The postmodern kitchen can approximate a galley; all that’s needed is room for the appliances, the storage cabinets, and the button-pusher.
No more credit for creativity or presentation, either. Eating from stylish, albeit colorless and disposable containers suffices. Microwaved meal containers won’t burn the skin. There are no leftovers to package. Individual portions of foods are easily purchased and prepared. There’s no setting the table with the family china, soft candlelight, or festive napkins. The companionship of fellow diners is optional and, even, unexpected.
For this reason, no decorum in consumption is necessary. Sitting or even standing at the kitchen counter while eating is acceptable. Silverware and even table manners are unnecessary. Worse, there’s no time to eat. The instantaneous preparation time has reduced mealtime from a cherished family ritual to physical nourishment. The computer screen and the keyboard are the postmodern source of sociability and conviviality. By their pixilated glow and harmonic taps and clicks, we share experiences if not meals with the world.
© Laura Rizzardini, Inc., 2011