Monday, February 16, 2015

Pressure Cooker of Life and Recipe for Success

#Pressure Cooker #T Fal

Made an old recipe last night….picked up a new pressure cooker over the holidays and hadn’t had a chance to try it out until now.

I chose the simplest of recipes that I could remember from high school days living on the farm with my grandparents and mom.  Cube steak, potatoes, and green beans.  I began by browning the cube steak in a skillet.  It’s really funny how vivid a memory becomes when it comes by way of a familiar scent.  Almost immediately, I felt the warmth of a smaller and cozier kitchen, with my Granny and my Mom, standing around the stove fixin’ dinner and mixing up the corn bread mix, for the little cast iron pre-formed corn stick molds.  An egg, a pinch of sugar, and milk until you get the right consistency. 

I can still see my Granny standing over that stove, one hand on her hip and sadly, the other holding a cigarette as she effortlessly threw together a meal with just about any staples in the kitchen. 

I sometimes helped with dinner, but was usually shooed away to find a rubber band to pull back my unruly hair, that dangled well past my back.  She was funny about hair and ran a tight ship in the kitchen.  She also never actually taught me how to cook…I had to watch and guess.  She said no one ever taught her how to cook…she learned on her own, and so should I.  Okay, I get it.  Don’t share the secret family recipes!  

But I watched every time she was in front of that stove.  I paid even closer attention when there was peanut butter chocolate fudge involved.  But the nightly dinner, it was pretty routine.  It started with a walk out in the back to the garden, where I’d pull a few tomatoes and fresh ears of corn.  In the meantime, my Granny would grab her “go to” kitchen essential for country cooking in the summertime…an old fashioned pressure cooker, with a removable “whistle top.” 

I realized later that this was one of the most efficient ways to throw a meal together quickly when frozen dinners and eating out weren’t even considered an option.

So we continued our routine, with little variation.  Most nights, after dinner, we played partners in a friendly, but competitive game of #Rook. 

I spent evenings waiting for the cooker to whistle and I knew dinner was close.  I always was impatient…when hungry, in life…pretty much in everything.  But there is no rushing a pressure cooker.  It takes time to build up the steam and also requires time to cool off before being able to safely remove the food inside.

Tonight, that familiar scent brought a smile to my face and a few stray tears I quickly wiped away.  It had been years since I’d used one, but the cubed steak and potatoes came out perfect and the first bite into the tender steak with Worchester Shire Sauce is still the definition of comfort food for me.  I wish that I had some corn meal in the house tonight.  I’ve improved on that recipe and now add a few pinches of yellow pudding mix.  The corn bread turns out amazingly moist and sweet.  And I now have my own cast iron corn stick pan to season, care for and treasure.

Sometimes I think life is a little like that old pressure cooker.  We turn up the heat, throw a bunch of stuff inside, and stand, hand on our hip, waiting for it to finish way faster than it should.

Funny thing is that you can’t see what’s inside a pressure cooker when it’s cooking or test it to see when it is ready.  You have to pace it, time it, and even then, you still wonder if you let the whistle simmer long enough.

And with life, it’s kind of the same thing.  You’re watching it all the time, waiting until it’s finally ready, but you can’t check on it to see if it’s coming along the way you expected it to.  You don’t always know when there’s too much pressure inside and sometimes impatience releases the steam way too fast and you find yourself unprepared for the outcome.

So in life as with cooking, my advice is to always watch the burner so it doesn’t get too hot, let out the steam slow and steady, being mindful not to burn yourself or anyone else nearby, acknowledge that you won’t get it right every time and you will learn as you go, and most importantly, don’t worry about what anyone else is cooking! 


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