In the 1980s, every trusted kitchen name, from Betty Crocker to Barbara Kafka, published a cookbook celebrating the marvels of the microwave. But the appliance's reputation suffered from charges that it obliterated flavor (sometimes true) and spread carcinogens (definitely false), and the microwave cookbook section shrank accordingly.
"I just thought, OK, I'll see what I can buy for him," she says. "But all the books were old, and they were not good and tasty by French standards."
Foucher, a cooking instructor who three years ago moved to Seattle from Paris, long used her microwave only to melt butter and chocolate. But she decided to develop recipes her starving son could concoct, eventually coming up with the 30 dishes featured in her new self-published cookbook, Easy French Microwave Recipes. The book includes utilitarian dishes that could be classified as college cuisine, such as croque monsieur and rice with eggs, alongside highfalutin desserts that could help make Hugo the toast of his dorm.
When Foucher recently returned to France, she demonstrated for students how they could make meringue in the microwave.
"We made flottante (floating island), and everyone was quite amazed," she says. "Flottante, it takes forever. With the microwave, it's so easy."
It doesn't take more than 25 minutes to prepare any of her recipes, but Foucher says she resisted the efficiency trap that's traditionally snared authors of microwave cookbooks.
"Those recipes were made not for taste, but for rapidity," says Foucher, who's planning to open a French dry goods shop and cooking school near Melrose Market later this year.
While Foucher concedes that most serious home cooks will probably reserve their microwaves for reheating and popcorn popping, she hopes her readers will start thinking about the possibilities presented by the once-celebrated appliance.
"I don't know if my book is going to rehabilitate the microwave, definitely that was not my plan at the beginning," she says. "But in my mind, that's what I did."