Something interesting

Microwave Lasagna

The Apple store used to put assorted inspirational quotes up on the monitors in the stores. I remember at one point looking up at the monitor and seeing

“Everything is interesting if you go into it deeply enough.” —Richard Feynman

That was almost two decades ago that I saw this and it has stuck with me ever since.

I think about this quote every time I make Trader Joe’s frozen lasagna for my kids for dinner. It has steps in its preparation I’ve not seen anywhere else:

Rather than just popping the lasagna in the microwave and taking it out fifteen minutes later, it has multiple steps of heating the food, then waiting, then heating some more.

Some of this is familiar. A lot of microwave food has the instructions to, halfway through the cooking process, stir the food before finishing it off. This is great advice if you’re cooking fettuccine Alfredo, but lasagna is remarkably resistant to being stirred¹. But by giving the lasagna time to rest before heating it some more. This is apparently a time-honored practice in cooking food that I’ve learned about from watching Chopped where the contestants would let recently-cooked meat rest a few minutes before slicing it to enable the heat to spread internally.

In researching this, I discovered that Randall Monroe of XKCD has (of course) already looked at a similar question about cooking food in the microwave. From this, I learned among other things that when you set the microwave to, say, 50% power, it’s not actually reducing the power of the microwaves but turning the microwave on and off during the cooking process. The Trader Joe’s approach above is effectively a manual version of low-power cooking in the microwave. I suspect though, that the faster cycling of on and off power in heating with 66% power for 24 minutes would not give the heat the same chance to spread through the frozen food.

  1. The Michelina version of frozen lasagna that was part of my standard rotation in my 20s got around this by using noodles which were lasagna in name only.

Recommendation

2020 was a pretty rough year for musicians, especially those at the lower end of the pyramid who depend on live performance for their livelihoods. One singer, Eliza Rickman, is someone I’ve been a fan of since I first heard her busking on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, accompanying herself on toy piano released a couple new singles this year, advance previews of a covers album that she’s hoping will finally be out this year. Her music is on all the streaming platforms, but be aware that the money that musicians actually get from your streams is next to nothing. I’d encourage you to instead actually buy music, especially from indie artists. If you buy on the first Friday of the month at bandcamp.com, Bandcamp forgoes their cut of the money meaning the musicians get an even better share. If you’re new to Eliza’s music, I’d start with her first full-length album, O, You Sinners, but you can’t go wrong with any of her music.

Recent publication

My story, “Saint Anthony in West Hollywood” was recently published at The Rappahonnock Review. It’s accompanied by an interview (my first ever).

If you’re new to my writing, a complete list of publications (including links to those stories and poems available online) is available at my website.