People aren't buying microwave ovens anymore. And it's about damn time.
Once considered the height of American technology, according to Quartz, sales of microwaves have decreased or remained stagnant for almost ten years. On the flip side, toaster ovens sales have risen consistently over the same period of time. Quartz credits an increased focus on eating healthily (thanks First Lady Michelle Obama. Let's move!) which has spurred growing sales of other types of niche kitchen appliances (crock pots and griddles) with making microwaves less necessary. There's still a microwave in 90% of American homes, but the technology they use is lasting longer and since they're not being used as frequently, they don't need to be replaced as often.
I currently own a microwave, but I do not enjoy it. It is absolutely huge, a relic from someone's basement that was given to me when my roommates insisted that we get a one. (Upon receiving it I was cautioned that it was so old it might catch on fire and told to be careful.) When we first got it, it smelled so much like buttered movie popcorn it made me nauseous.
But I was always going to be inherently biased against this microwaves because they're the worst. A microwave is a subpar version of the toaster oven. Microwaves might heat your food up but there's a good chance they'll also leave it soggy. Want very fast hot chocolate? Sure, use a microwave. Or put it on a stove, you lazy asshole.
Microwaves represent America at its worst: a fixation on getting things done fast and shrugging off subpar results. Meanwhile, toaster ovens are classic appliances that do most everything a microwave does in the same amount of space. In case this wasn't glaringly obvious, toaster ovens are actually just small ovens, but because of that, they get things done more quickly and efficiently than if you had to heat up your whole big oven. Don't even get me started on toasters, which are good for very particularly-sized pieces of bread and nothing else.
When they reached the mass market, microwaves were heralded as the ultimate in luxury. But sometimes, quick and easy is not best. In a dream world, every home would have the space and money for a toaster oven and a microwave for microwave popcorn, if you're so inept you can't make that on the stovetop either. But in our real world, if you must choose (and don't live with picky roommates), as the toaster oven is the only way to make a quick, healthy and delightful grilled cheese – the only food on earth that matters – the choice you should make is clear. And lucky for you, industry trends suggest you will not be alone while eating that perfect sandwich.
Image via the Hulton Archive/Getty