9 Recipes From the Saddest Cookbook Ever (Tested)
One day, not long ago, I received a package that contained something I'd drunk-purchased from Amazon many weeks ago and had promptly forgotten about:
Sure, lady, those totally came from a microwave.
"Hahahahaha! That's the best book title in the history of everything! Who would ever buy such a depressing thing?" laughed I, the person who had just purchased a copy. And then, grim realization dawned. In a move that had seemed hilarious at 1 a.m. on a five-whiskey Thursday night, I had acquired this book to try out its recipes for a column.
I don't want to do this. I really don't. There's still a fine corner office in the Cracked building that no one can use because its ventilation system carries the feverish gibbering of the last guy who we made test old-school recipes from the sub-basement storage room that he has shaped based on the image of the strange grocery gods that now speak through him.
On the other hand, I did spend $15 on this thing, so fuck it -- here we go.
Right off the bat, I bump into a problem, as half the recipes require microwave-specific browning skillets and other special equipment that apparently can't be found outside eBay. Since I don't own any of these things and chances are that neither do you, I replace them the best I can with microwaveable roasting dishes and whatnot, and set out to make the first of my many no doubt dubious meals to come.
I choose to start with basic French toast, which A) is simple enough to make, and B) contains relatively few ingredients that will actively attempt to murder my colon if (or rather, when) something goes awry and I end up consuming them undercooked. You'll recognize French toast as basically bread soaked in an egg mixture and fried into a delicious combination of moistness and crispiness. Note the word "fried" there, because this is what happens when you replace it with the word "microwaved":
Cue sad trombone.
Never before have I wanted to become a doctor just so I could prescribe Viagra for a slice of bread, but I guess there's a first for everything. Although the recipe attempts to imitate the frying process with a heavily preheated dish and a generous helping of butter, the lack of Maillard reaction leaves that shit more or less exactly like it was before it went in the oven, only a whole lot warmer and somehow even soggier. It doesn't taste bad, per se, just weird -- because you can taste every separate ingredient instead of the final, cooked product, and their sum is a whole bunch smaller than its parts.
There's also a strange, greenish hue, suggesting the slices attempted
to save themselves by turning into Bread Hulk.
Also, the whole microwave process with its preheated platter antics takes roughly twice as much time as it would to just throw the slices in a pan and sear them into deliciousness, which sort of defeats the entire fucking point of using the microwave in the first place.
Momma's Breaded Fish
There are several dishes with the prefix "Momma's" in the book, which I assume are secret recipes the author's family has protected for ages behind a moat of tears and loneliness. As well as hoarding the secrets of microwave technology. Momma's Breaded Fish is basically microwaved fish fingers with ... well ... breading. Immediately, a problem arises: I am unable to find frozen, unbreaded white fish fillets, so I resort to buying breaded ones and scraping their breading off. Then, I start spreading Momma's breading on them ... and notice that the recipe is only enough to coat maybe a quarter of the fish:
Look, I get that the name of the book is Microwave Cooking for One, but nowhere does it specify that the "one" it's talking about is Ant-Man, or some other entity capable of spreading subatomic layers of breadcrumb mush on limp fish.
Speaking of which, don't microwave fish. Like, ever. White fish shouldn't even taste of anything, yet I'm sure I can detect the peculiar aroma of feet. Then again, maybe that's why she's cooking for one.
Wait, what? R-Roast? Really?
Surely there's no fucking way to microwave a roast. It's a roast -- the preparation method is right there in the name. But there the recipe is, and I realize I'm standing at one of life's great crossroads: I will either live the rest of my life as a man who tried microwave roast, or a happy, well-adjusted person with an undamaged digestive tract. Two guesses as to which road I chose.
It's worth mentioning at this point that precisely none of the book's recipes have pictures, which is always a reassuring sign in cookbooks. As such, I take the time to document the world's most unwise method of meat preparation for posterity. First, I slather the meat in marinade and apply bacon to keep it company throughout the ordeal:
"It's dangerous to go alone. Take these."
Then, I microwave the shit out of it for, like, 20 minutes, turning it after 10. The end. Seriously, that's it. What comes out is this:
"Why did you do this to me? Why??"
I'm not sure what I was expecting, but that ... doesn't actually look super bad, now that I see it. I mean, yeah, at first glance it looks like an old softball that someone found in a drainage ditch, but as I cut into it, the rosy color and texture actually looks like meat. "This might not be so bad after all," I say to myself without laughing.
Note that I did let the meat rest, but all the juices still ran like the fucking wind as soon as I cut into it.
Aaaaaaaand of course it's freaking horrible. To simulate the taste, boil a lump of meat in saltless water for a few hours, then dry it out and season it with the screams of the cow's ghost. It's technically edible, but no amount of paprika or garlic can mask its shame. Even the gravy, which I make from the drippings much as I would with an oven-made roast, has that permeating aftertaste of anguish. What's more, the strange not-quite-recognizable steely odor of microwaved raw beef lingers in the house for a couple of days despite the book specifically claiming that its recipes are virtually odorless. I go through the rest of the weekend with a grim nasal reminder that some things aren't meant to be meddled with.
Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake
Sauerkraut cake is no stranger to Cracked's rampant taste-testing, mostly because someone always sneaks one in company potlucks and then the whole thing devolves into mayhem as everyone tries to lick the tears off the face of the poor intern who accidentally tastes it. However, not once has it occurred to me that this questionable delicacy can also be made in a microwave. Such time-saving terror!
It all starts with a pretty unassuming chocolate cake batter ...
"Just wait until you see my final form."
... which will then be mixed with all the sauerkraut ever! Ahahahahahaha! Hahahaha!! Repent!
WHERE IS YOUR GOD NOW?
The whole thing is then microwave-baked to oblivion. If you predicted that the end result will be a burned-looking disk with a strange, oily hue, congratulations! You're absolutely, skull-fuckingly right:
Edible? Barely! Suitable for coating boats? Absolutely!
There are variations of the recipe that involve different frosting, but out of fear for my mortal soul and functional colon, I choose to sample the cake au naturel, if you forgive my blatant misuse of the phrase. It's sticky, moist, and tastes faintly of chocolate-coated pickled cabbage, which is not as bad as you'd assume but definitely bad enough for me to immediately reshape this unholy thing into a Pac-Man and leave it to forever chase the pill that will finally end its suffering.
"Kiillllllll ... meeeee."
This is how I make a steak: Take a good steak. Show both of its sides briefly to a very, very hot frying pan with a mixture of olive oil and butter on it, then let it rest. If you're into sauces, you can use that time to pour liquid on the pan among the grease and meat juice (I generally use white wine) and, once the sauce is good and thick, add some cream.
This is how Microwave Cooking for One makes a steak: Butter that shit!
That's ... actually my dream sandwich.
Put that shit in the microwave!
The paper is for the tears, either the meat's or mine.
... and try to eat it without crying!
It looks so good, but it tastes so bad.
Microwave steak is so bad, you guys. Actually, I'm not even sure I can say that -- it has absolutely no taste at all. This is the last meat-containing meal people who abruptly convert to veganism eat, and the one they remind themselves of whenever it occurs to them that maybe the occasional meatball sub wouldn't be so bad. Meat may be murder, but microwaving the steak is digging up the cow's carcass and pissing on it in front of its still-grieving children.
Fuck you, microwave steak. I need an adult.
Hot Orange Drink
Drinks? Now we're talking! This is basically just water and flavorings; surely the microwave can handle that. Let's see, the recipe calls for orange juice, some water, spices ... and corn starch.
Wait, what the shit?
Who uses corn starch in a hot drink? Me, apparently, as I warily mix the ingredients of my soon-to-be orange juice-sauce and stick it in the depths of the home appliance that is rapidly becoming my mortal enemy.
My choice of mug indicates the level of my hope to taste something decent during this experiment.
Surprisingly, the end result is a perfectly delightful, if rather mealy drink with a taste reminiscent of summers future and past. Out of all of the recipes in this column, this is the one I'd actually see myself making again.
Though it might be best to keep your eyes closed while drinking it.
I just wish I'd had the foresight to drink it all while it was still warm. Trust me, this particular concoction loses a significant part of its magic once it cools down.
Oh. Oooohhh. NOW I'm starting to comprehend the idea of this book. It's a 1980s equivalent of those annoying folks who insist on wearing Google Glass everywhere. Someone got a new toy and decided: "Fuck you, everything's microwaves now."
As my Exhibit A, here's some fucking microwaved cereal:
This was actually the first recipe in the book, which in retrospect should have tipped me off.
The book doesn't even tell you to blast it until it's actually hot, thus eliminating even the novelty value. You just microwave it until it's lukewarm, which as it turns out is just enough time for the milk to develop that tangy "I'm probably not spoiled -- or am I?" aftertaste. All in all, this is a fairly normal bowl of cereal, just slightly warmer than usual. As such, it was easily the best solid(ish) meal out of this lot.
Chicken and Broccoli
Do you like regular chicken and broccoli? Of course you don't. Multiply that by a hundred and you'll get the tiniest inkling of how much I despise the microwaved version. Granted, it's insanely quick to make -- maybe five minutes of microwaving it for a minute at a time while adding more and more ingredients -- but have you ever tasted microwaved chicken? Or broccoli, for that matter?
Satan's own fast food.
Don't let its surprisingly delicious smell fool you. Microwave chicken and broccoli tastes like the brains of an anti-vaccination activist; it's bland, empty, and you can never be quite sure whether it's completely cooked. Verdict: Avoid like the various plagues that might be on the menu if it turns out the meat was undercooked after all.
Bacon and Eggs
Dear reader: I have committed a terrible sin. I have abused bacon.
I had such high expectations for this one. I didn't taste the bacon I used for the roast, but it seemed delicious enough. I also know that eggs can be cooked in the microwave, if you accept a certain amount of popping and aren't particularly keen on keeping every single particle of the meal on the plate. Ergo, bacon and scrambled eggs should be totally doable in the microwave.
To play things safe, I follow the book's advice to the tiniest detail: I remember to whisk the eggs well before putting them in. I cover the bacon with a paper towel to ... keep the bacony-ness in, I suppose? I microwave both ingredients separately, with the exact instructions given by the recipe. However, the results are ... not optimal.
Is that modern art?
What's the worst way you've ever messed up bacon and eggs? If it was anything short of a grease fire that burned down a puppy orphanage, I'm pretty certain it was not as bad as the picture above. The lighting for said picture, by the way, was exactly the same as it was for the others in this article -- even light is so ashamed of this abomination that it didn't want to be in the same picture.
Let's break it down. That white thing you see coating the bacon is, of course, the paper towel, which soaked up enough grease to fall on top of the delicious pig strips and fuse itself into them, creating one of the few instances of inedible bacon in history. What little I managed to nibble of the actual meat didn't exactly convince me, either -- what I by now recognize as the taste of microwaving (which is actually a complete lack of the kind of signature taste all other methods of preparation bring to the table) rendered even the bacon experience bland.
Not to mention ugly.
As for the other main ingredient, I'm not too particular on how I like my eggs, as long as they're not in the shape of an ocean. I taste them anyway, because of course I do. As expected, they taste like slime that came out of a chicken's butt, because that's what they currently are.
I ... think that's actually a pretty appropriate mental image to end this column with. Pepto-Bismol, anyone?
For more from Pauli, check out 5 Painful Things Everyone Needs to Realize About Themselves and 5 Animals that Survived Shit that Would Kill a Terminator.
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