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Is there such a person as a "CHOWHOUND" purist?

I have been challenged to conduct a discussion about what is mean't by a CHOWHAND purist in the thread in General Topics; .....The Modern MICROWAVE oven?

I was implying that some food 'affectionados' might abstain from using a microwave oven in their cooking efforts
In what ways, if any, do you consider yourself a purist in regard to modern MW ?

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  1. I don't reallly think there is such a creature as a ChowHound Purist. CH's are, by nature a very opinionated and diverse group who love food and many "off shoots: of the subject of food, EG: Those things related to eating/cooking/tipping, etc, etc,etc
    I don't believe there is any specific 'playbook' and purists love to follow the playbook...
    Without "rules" a purist would have a difficult, if not impossible time of it. Aside from the rules imposed by the 'ChowHound Poilce' there are no rules

    5 Replies
    1. re: Tay

      If you choose not to use one or more of the now available tools and techniques for turning out great food (including the MW), for whatever real or imagined or misguided reason, then that's your choice and I'm sure you will still turn out good food. BUT, do not then place yourself in the category of 'purist' apart from those of us with more open minds. Do you restrict yourself to cooking only on open fires and shun artificial refrigeration using all of these strange chemicals? Do you actually hunt for your protein and grow your own vegetables, or do you rely on that stuff available commercially that's been butchered days ago, transported on smelly trucks, treated with all sorts of chemicals to preserve them. The real food 'purists' tended to die at very early ages...

      1. re: bnemes3343

        "The real food 'purists' tended to die at very early ages..."

        While I like the tone of most of your post, bnemes, I take issue with this statement and lack of substantiation. I THINK I know what you're getting at, but would like some clarification, as it's a pretty broad generalization. Data?


        1. re: cayjohan

          Ok, I thought it was clear (guess not) that back when humans hunted for and grew our own food and cooked on sticks over an open fire, we didn't exactly live to ripe old ages. I would classify them as real 'purists'. I think my point was that embracing newer techniques (and a microwave is hardly 'new'), tools, etc., does not make one less of a food purist. There are actually culinary school grads who use a garlic press (although they will deny this to the death). There are all sorts of 'modern' conveniences that have made it simpler for the average cook to produce really nice results. If you choose to use a food processor to chop your onions, I might roll my eyes a bit, but I would not label you a non food 'purist'.

          Now, on the other hand, if you opened a blue and yellow cardboard box to make a great mac and cheese, I might have to say something...

          1. re: bnemes3343

            Thanks, bnemes, and sorry to poke at you with that meat roasting stick...

            Still, there are those of us who do use hunted game, who do raise veg and buy it from farmers, and we are not dropping dead at age 40( Thank god, as I'm way past that..). I don't really think that's the definition of "purists." I frankly don't know what a "purist" would be (please don't let me mention all my undergrad studies on 1939 Europe...), but I do agree with you that a MW is not going to disqualify one for the title, whatever it may be. My point in reponding to you is that it is not one or the other. Food on a stick-over-the-fire is still good, as is some food in the micro (mmm...steamed veg...). Don't get me started on why we didn't live to ripe old ages in the times you're citing...

            When we start to speak of being "pure" in any discipline, we are walking a very slippery path. I think that we as thinking and innovatve humans with (presumably) large brains can devise ways of cooking that are generally appropriate and tasty, with what tools we have. We have MWs and they are great, in my estimation. It does not mean, however, that we should think that food not MW'd, or otherwise modern, is suspect.

            We're mostly on the same page, we on this thread. I must say, however, that the occasional box of Kraft M&C is a delight, with lots of pepper. :-)

            Cheers...and I have to say this is one of the more interesting threads in a while.


            1. re: cayjohan

              Well, happy new year to you, and many more! Yes, I think we are basically on the same page. Whatever it is that anyone does who truly loves to enjoy great food, even if it is mac in a box, more power to them. I think it is the great diversity of views and experiences that people bring to this site that make it really great. And the opportunity fot all of us to learn from others, no matter how smart we thought we were....

    2. A Chowhound to me is someone who is constantly in search of deliciousness, be it out of Grant Achatz' kitchen, out of a street tamale vendor's cooler or out of a microwave oven. My favorite Chowhounds are those that are equally enthusiastic about them all.

      2 Replies
      1. re: MSPD

        I guess I am a purist in that I do not use my microwave oven, except to reheat soup, boil water, etc., and it's a conscious decision I've made. I LOVE the act of cooking, that includes bubbling away stews and veggies and whatever else on the stove top using my favorite cookware, my well broken in 17 yo Le Creuset pots. I find the act of cooking and cleaning up the mess a joy. I'm not interested in short cuts of any kind.

        Funny you bring this up. My SIL cooked our entire Christmas dinner (including the Stovetop stuffing) in the microwave. When we got together at the MIL's to cook Christmas brunch earlier that day she rolled her eyes at me for cooking the bacon in the oven. She thought it should be done in the MW. I cooked the eggs on the stove top, she cooked them in a bowl in the MW.

        I LOVE to cook and realize that not everybody does and try not to judge them nor do I try to convert them. My least favorite gifts this year were the electric knife given to me by my SIL, and the Chop Wizard given to me by my Mom. Maybe next Christmas I should give them Global knives...

        1. re: Axalady

          You might want to give the electric knife a chance--it's a great tool for rustic breads as well as slicing flank/flat iron steak very thinly. We were ambivalent about them until we got one, and it's been pretty useful for those things. We have decent regular knives but sometimes it's nice to use the technology.

          And...LOL about dinner in the microwave--gag me with a non metallic spoon! Reminds me of an old boyfriend who also cooked everything in the nuke. If I wanted salt and pepper on my food, I had to bring my own. He was strictly a food as fuel kind of guy. My husband is the complete opposite!

      2. I'm kinda grossed out by foods cooked in the microwave. I have no idea why, I just am. I don't have an issue with the microwave for re-heating or simple things. But, I know people who will cook a chicken breast in the micro, and that just seems wrong to me.

        I think a Chowhound uses everything they have available to them to make the best tasting food possible. It's not about being fancy or doing things the old fashioned way, it's about being stuck in a room with a cup o' noodles and a few spices and making something tasty.

        The things I would look down on are the unnecessary short cuts. Pre-cut onions that barely taste like onions. Lemon juice from a bottle with that funny taste. A couple extra minutes makes all the difference.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Azizeh Barjesteh

          No artist that I know would consider a MW! The way you describe your culinary preparation habits I would tend to put you in the purist category ZZ

          1. re: Azizeh Barjesteh

            There's no doubt that plenty of foods cooked in the microwave come out kinda gross. Too many people use it for jobs it's ill-suited to perform. IHMO, it's even an inferior tool for some things that it does fairly well, and that many CHers advocate. If I need a baked potato in 10 minutes, it's the only choice, but under those circumstances I might go for mashed.

            As for cooking a chicken breast, it really depends on the preparation method. If you're thinking grilled chicken, the microwave is simply the wrong tool for the job. But if poached or steamed chicken breast is on the menu, the MW can handle it very well, thank you. The only difficulties are the potential for uneven cooking and the very short window between doneness and, well, rubber. A good recipe and good technique are required to get satisfactory results.

            Easier to get right are things like simple steamed vegetables. I don't know the last time I steamed broccoli or cauliflower or green beans on the stovetop. Put 'em in the serving dish with a little water, cover with a plate, and zap until crispy-tender. Voila. And one less pot to wash.

            So to respond directly to your post, you may be grossed out by foods cooked in the microwave because they're being cooked improperly. Here's my definition of a MW purist: if you can tell a food has been nuked, then it shouldn't have been. If it's indistinguishable from similarly-prepared food cooked by some other method, then MW cookery is as "pure" as it gets.

          2. When our microwave broke around three years ago, my wife and I made a decision not to replace it, and have never regretted it! I don't have anything against them- in fact I love those ham and cheese sandwiches that you get in convenience stores that are made for the microwave... It is just that when we actually had a mw, we "cheated" and used it for stuff that really was better being cooked by conventional methods.

            I don't care what anyone says, baked potatoes and bacon are much better when they are cooked by traditional means!

            I kind of miss the popcorn sometimes, but air popped is at least healthier...

            1. A microwave is an appliance, just like a stove, oven or coffee pot. Used well it can help turn out wonderful food and/or drink. Put bad food into it, you'll get bad food out....put good food in and do bad things to it, you get bad food out. But, put good food into it, do good things to it, you get good food. There is nothing inherently wrong with a microwave and rejecting anything cooked in one out of hand doesn't strike me as a reasonable thing. Certainly anyone is free to reject it, I just find it unreasonable to do so.

              Thus, there is no such thing as "purist" because there's nothing to be "purist" about.

              1. It's just a tool that has strengths (fast heating/defrosting) and limitations (uneven heating some times). Sure, there are purists that won't use certain tools on principle in any profession or hobby, but IMO microwave ovens are perfect for certain things, not so great for others. I don't generally use it to cook, just to heat or defrost some things to make it easier/faster to cook. But I do use it all the time.

                1. IMO, a microwave oven is a tool. It is no more or less appropriate to use a microwave than it is to use a blender , food processor or stand mixer. I have found it useful for some tasks and not as useful for others, but that is purely based on my own preferences.

                  I, personally, prefer not to label myself as a purist as I find that many people tend to use that type of designation to belittle others.

                  1. I really dislike the assumptions contained in the question. Obviously, as one can see by reading the replies, there are chowhounds who don't use microwaves. But why they should be designated "purists," as though they are somehow more pure (pure what?) than others who use microwaves, I don't particularly understand. We all have our preferences and opinions about tools, ingredients, and techniques. Labeling certain of those opinions "purist" is arbitrary and silly. If you don't like microwaves, fine. I don't like pre-ground coffee, or silicone bakeware, or spice blends. But I don't attach some kind of spurious moral superiority to those choices.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: ReluctantOperaChick

                      I think a distinction that should probably be made in this thread is not so much "purist" or "non-purist", but "food snob" vs. "regular joe". Thinking back to recent threads, I've read posts ranging from someone who raved about a soup but then decided they'd never serve it since it had canned soup as part of the recipe, all the way to folks who've posted about the glories of Kraft Mac & Cheese. There's a place for all of those people here, I think, but the key is acceptance and not judging someone because they - eek! - dare to use a microwave.

                      1. re: Suzy Q

                        Suzy Q
                        I liked you posting a lot.I'm a big fan of the "Regular Joe" type of Chow Hound. Apparenty the word"purist" means different things to different people. There is also a difference between Food 'purists' and the idea of Chow Hound 'purists' which I said in my original post, cannot really exist. :-}

                    2. Jfood remembers a professor once telling him that if can disprove the opposite of the argument, then you have proven your point.

                      So if you think what would qualify as a non-purist and not particpate in any ofthose buckets then you are a purist.

                      Now there is NO way jfood is going to list he feelings of what a non-purist is, but if you think what yours might be and then make sure you are not included then you are a purist.

                      And jfood is will to bet that each list will justify the position that the list provider will, in the end, define him or herself as a purist.

                      Hmmm, sorta interesting that what we all believe we individually are in our own definition of purist. And if you read some of the posts there is the empirical evidence.

                      As jfood's first boss told him, "If you work with numbers long enough you will wind up where you started."

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: jfood

                        Only you couild manage to write such a delightfully convoluted response and have it be pleasant and wittty , if not exactly easily understood :-}

                        1. re: Tay

                          To simplify my Tay-friend

                          We are all purists in our own minds and anything others do that we do not agree with takes them out of the purist bucket

                          1. re: jfood

                            I am not a purist. As I mentioned in a response to the first microwave post, I'm never above culinary lying, cheating, and stealing.

                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                              Beautiful Sammy. Have a great New Year.

                              Diogenes is sleeping better that his search for an honest man has found you.

                      2. There are at least three separate questions in your post and I cannot answer any of them!!! But, I will say this: I don't know what is meant by the word "purist" and I do not know if it would apply to me or not. I can tell you my MW proclivities though! I never had one until I got married and acquired my husband's. I never used it. At work, we have one in the kitchen and I use that one daily to heat hot water for my tea or hot water and lemon. Everytime we've moved or a microwave has died, I've suggested to my husband that we not get another one and he is mortified. He uses it heat up a slice of leftover frozen pizza; or make popcorn; or who knows what. I only use it for one thing at home, but I need the men to not read this part.....

                        Hmmmm, I don't trust the men to look away so I can't say. All the women will figure it out.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Bite Me

                          I tend not to use the word "purist", as that is full of holes, but rather "hardcore", which implies someone who likely wouldn't use a microwave to cook anything beyond microwave popcorn, or reheating pizza. I don't even make that definition as I now use mine for defrosting (after much resistence). I think a "hardcore" person, given one of those foil bags of curried lentils, would rather boil the bag than nuke it, even if the result is the same. However, since they didn't pick the lentils or grind the spices, they certainly aren't a purist in any case.

                          However, the bigger question on "what's your definition of a CH" is something that is worth discussing now and then. I know I can't be the only one who flinches when certain chains are equated with local establishments as quality options. Nothing against those chains, but I came here for the "finds" and the "gems" as well as some tips and techniques. I for one was happy when the chain discussions were given their own zip code.

                          1. re: Panini Guy

                            Pannini Guy
                            "However, the bigger question on "what's your definition of a CH" is something that is worth discussing now and then. I know I can't be the only one who flinches when certain chains are equated with local establishments as quality options. Nothing against those chains, but I came here for the "finds" and the "gems" as well as some tips and techniques"

                            I think the role of the CH'er has expanded. Based on the number of offshoot topics now available, I don't think I'm alone in that belief. To me, being a CH'er is the ability/willigness to offer opinons/examples/'tips' etc, depending on the need/request of another Hound. That might include providing reccs of everything from the top Big City dining establishments to the neighborhood chains. Sometimes, albeit not often, the chain IS the best recc for someone based on other variables, eg: Cost/preferences/location. I think that's one of the fun challenges on CH. I mean Very few people need to be told that Per Se is one of the top restaurants in the country, but maybe someone needs help trying to find the best bang-for-the-buck, chain available in their area.
                            You might only be interested in the "gems", but you might be able to help somone else with a more pedestrian to you, but not to them "find" :-}

                            1. re: Tay

                              A rented microwave made my life a lot more comfy during a long hot Australian summer. No air-conditioning, old, poorly insulated oven. The microwave, along with a copy of Barbara Kafka's "Microwave Gourmet" saved our bacon. This excellent cookbook is still in print, and I urge all you skeptics posting here to get yourself a copy and try cooking from it. The steamed chocolate cake remains one of the best chocolate desserts I've ever tasted.

                        2. We live in Las Vegas. We often use a toaster oven as most of the year it's too warm to turn on the oven & I feel it's a waste of gas for just toasting bread.

                          We just received a hand me down microwave after not having one for over a year.
                          I was most excited to receive it solely because I can heat up my herbal heating pads! Go figure...