Skip To Content

The Woman Who Made Microwave Cooking Into An Art

At one point, James Beard Lifetime Award winner, cookbook author and culinary pioneer Barbara Kafka owned 13 microwaves. She even gifted her daughter with a microwave when she was headed off to medical school. In 1987, Kafka became a household name with her book “Microwave Gourmet,” the result of years spent puttering with her microwaves, during a time when microwave cooking was not viewed as legitimate by respectable chefs. “I hate it, I just hate it,” food doyenne Julia Child once said about Kafka’s cooking methods.)

If you’ve ever cooked your dinner in a microwave, you have Barbara Kafka to thank.

Kafka was married to Viennese Jewish immigrant Ernest Kafka and made sorrel soup, or schav, for Shavuot. Her chicken soup recipe is a thing of wonder (one of her tips: put the chickens in the dish whole for chicken in the pot).

She was also a ‘Russ and Daughters’ fan, as she mentioned in this interview: “But better is to go across the street, and go to Russ and Daughters for the fish and next door to the dairy store, then go to the bread place to get your little knishes.” Her One Pan Roast Chicken is likewise the perfect Shabbat dish.

I’ve made whole meals in the microwave and I know I have Barbara Kafka to thank. She was 84 when she died this week on June 1 in her Manhattan home. Rest in peace, Barbara Kafka. The food world will miss you.

Shira Feder often cooks in the microwave. She’s at [email protected]

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.