The microwave’s ‘add 30 seconds’ button offers an escape from cold digital precision

The microwave is a cooking tool designed around precision. Punch in how long you need your food to heat up in a microwave, and that’s what it will do; no more, and no less.

But for all the exactitude that governs the microwave — and that the microwave tries to impose on our food and our cooking — the reality is that things can’t be so neatly stuffed into a convenient digital box. Life isn’t binary, so many microwaves feature an “add 30 seconds” button to give us humans the wiggle room we need within the otherwise unbendable numbers of the countdown clock.

It’s a button that stands in almost caveman-y opposition to the intended functionality. Instead of calculating the perfect amount of time to reheat or cook your food, it turns out that…

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Author: Chaim Gartenberg