Monday, October 26, 2015

The parable of the pressure cooker

Every now and then, I attack the reading pile, tearing out magazine pages if anything looks interesting. This one for Butternut Squash Risotto got my attention: “With a pressure cooker, you can make this impressive risotto recipe in just 6 minutes.”

Six minutes! Nothing can be done in six minutes. I made one risotto in my life: who has the time to sit there stirring and stirring? It’s so labor intensive. But six minutes!

So I hauled out my pressure cooker. It was a present to my mother for her wedding, and it’s in its Seventh Seventh. I love pressure cookers: they conserve energy, they allow me to cook my beans even if I forgot to soak them the night before, and they have less salt than if I used canned beans.
So I got started. As the pressure was starting to build, I had to squeeze the handle tightly, jiggle the lid around so the sputtering steam wouldn’t come pouring out. If I can jiggle it to the right spot, it’ll take the seal, and the pressure will build. Then I have to look at the little ruler that pops out the top to make sure it stops at the third line (for 15 pounds of pressure). And then I have to watch it. And watch it.

Yeah, well, I never got to the line. No matter how tightly I squeezed – to the point of finger cramps – or how cleverly I jiggled, the steam never stopped pouring out. Periodically, I’d have to halt the whole operation to mop up all the water on the stove.

I hate that stupid pressure cooker! Instead of being convenient and quick, it takes forever to set the seal. I’ve tried new gaskets – no luck. My six-minute risotto was already a half-hour operation to try to get the pressure cooker to work and it wasn’t.

So I ran to the computer and Googled “pressure cookers.” I could see that America’s Test Kitchen had a really detailed review of the brands, but I had to sign up for a free trial subscription to Cook’s Illustrated so I could view it. I was a woman on a mission! I picked my winning pressure cooker, drove over to Habitat Housewares, plunked down my credit card, and took my Fagor Duo 8-Quart Stainless Steel Pressure Cooker home.
In six minutes, I had the most incredibly delicious risotto!

The old pressure cooker went to Bishop’s Attic. Maybe someone will use it to melt tar for their roof and appreciate it.

What are the lessons for my Third Third I can glean from this?

  1. I spent many years on a decrepit piece of equipment that should have been replaced years earlier. Just because I think things should last for a lifetime doesn’t mean they do it with precision, ease, and vigor. Life’s too short; cut your losses.

  2. The tools exist to make plans (and make informed consumer choices). I didn’t have to do my usual excruciating deliberation, enduring months and months of which pressure cooker to buy. (The vacuum cleaner is another story….)

  3. The world is improving; things are being designed better. My new pressure cooker doesn’t have an obscure little ruler with three lines. It has a lock for the lid, and it’s easy to clean. It even has a grip on the non-handle side so you can lift it easily.

  4. There is no conflict with de-cluttering if when you buy a new item you get rid of the old one. No net accumulation.

  5. Getting rid of the old opens up new possibilities. I am confident that risotto would never have entered my life if my old pressure cooker remained in my kitchen. Today it’s risotto, tomorrow it’s….

Little amendment to this whole story: The risotto did take six minutes; peeling and dicing that rock-hard butternut squash took forever! I almost took off a few fingers trying to cut the stupid thing. Am I supposed to keep an ax in the kitchen?!? (And would a person who cooks dried beans instead of canned really buy already-cut butternut squash? That remains to be seen.) 

1 comment:

  1. I hear you! Just so you know, I do a lot of cooking from scratch, but I have limits. I will NEVER again cut up a butternut squash.


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