Ready (or not?) meals

This post is more than 18 years old.

Posted at 12:44 on 16 June 2006

The idea behind ready meals is that you put them straight in the microwave, press a couple of buttons, wait ten minutes or so for the beep, and you're done. Unfortunately, things are never quite as simple as that.

The ideal microwave meal should be suitable for home freezing, so you can buy them a week in advance. (Some aren't.) It should also be suitable for cooking in the microwave from frozen, so you can decide at the last minute what you're going to have, bung it straight in the microwave from the freezer, press a button, and come back in ten minutes when it beeps. (Some demand that you defrost them first, or cook them in a conventional oven, which isn't all that helpful if you don't have such a thing in the office kitchen.) And it shouldn't require user intervention halfway through cooking, such as peeling back the cover and giving it a stir, so you can get on with something else while it's chuntering away.

It should also be easy to dispense. Some meals come in a tray that is divided into two sections. This makes it impossible to just pour out the contents into a bowl or a plate without making a mess all over the place -- you have to spoon the contents out, which takes half a minute or so longer. If your meal does come in two halves like that, they should be easily separable. And it should be easy to remove the cover without having to hunt around for a pair of scissors and then scald your fingers in the process.

Finally, it needs to taste good and present you with a balanced, healthy diet, rather than a whole lot of stuff concocted in some undergraduate chemistry lab or other. It shouldn't be so smelly that it annoys everyone down the corridor from the kitchen. And when it says that it's chicken casserole, it should contain a decent amount of chicken, and not be 95% dumplings.

When you're a stressed out programmer working to tight deadlines, every little thing like that helps.