Know Your Microwave
Culver City, CA
About six months ago, my mom bought me a Groupon for this cooking class in Glendale called Know Your Microwave. I believe this was about two days after I turned down a blind date with her church friend’s son. It was a masterful play, a gesture so packed with judgment and passive aggression as to be almost elegant. It even came with a healthy dose of my mother’s brand of solicitous love, to make it go down without a fight. I wasn’t really planning to go, but she reminded me the Groupon was expiring when I called her on her birthday. The woman is a genius.
The class met in the back room of a kitchen supply store in Culver City. It felt a lot like a supply closet, with gray concrete walls and shelves holding boxed appliances. Thankfully, some Christmas lights and checkered tablecloths brightened the room, and I was greeted by a smiling woman in a white apron—our chef instructor, Janice. She told me to grab an apron and a name tag, and to make myself comfortable at any open cooking station.
The class was filling in, and I found an open microwave towards the back of the room. I will admit that I chose the spot based on its proximity to an attractive stranger. He was a Korean man, around thirty years old, with a nervous posture that disguised a good face with some fairly intriguing features. His name tag, attached to the lapel of a rather ugly orange corduroy jacket, told me he went by Jin. I spent a few minutes guessing at his life story, and I repeated this exercise with the other dozen or so students in the class. It struck me that we probably all lived alone, and I wondered if that was sad or just kind of normal.
I ended up loving the class. Janice introduced herself and gave us, as humbly as possible, a full account of her illustrious culinary career. She was a pretty accomplished chef, to the point where I wondered why she was teaching a microwave cooking class in the back of a kitchen supply store. In any case, though, I’m happy we had her. She is an excellent teacher. She started the class with a brief lecture on the history of microwaves, then discussed its basic functions. She walked us through some of the subtleties of microwave use, and I found myself learning all kinds of things that I should have maybe known before. For example, I didn’t really understand how or why to adjust power levels, and what combinations of cook time and heat were appropriate for different kinds of food. Even if I never make any of the recipes we learned again, I will at least remember the right way to blast leftovers. I may even feel confident enough to leave the Trader Joe’s box in the garbage next time I forget the exact microwave instructions.
Over the next hour, we made “baked” potatoes, risotto, and chocolate cake with nothing more than our microwaves and a few choice microwave-safe vessels. The prep was all very easy to follow, and Janice walked around the room checking up on us as we went along. This was my first time cooking in a very long time—I live alone, and I never find it worthwhile to turn on the burner just to feed myself dinner. I actually enjoyed making these recipes—they were easy and fast, and I could see myself trying them out again at home. Especially that chocolate cake, which you can straight up make in a coffee mug.
Whenever I peeked over at Jin, he looked very confused and intent, and I finally asked if he needed any help. We struck up a conversation, and it turned out we had a lot in common—both Korean, both single, and incredibly, both sent by our mothers with the same Groupon!
We ended up getting a drink after class and made a date to try microwave omelets next week. I haven’t told my mom about this turn of events—she is not a gracious winner, and I just cannot brook that smugness.
Steph Cha is the author of Follow Her Home, a feminist hardboiled detective novel. She lives in Los Angeles and mothers a basset hound.