Controlling pressure is essential as we make our way through life – and cooking. I knew the problems associated with pressure cooking. Such a debacle could never happen with the marvelous French pressure cooker, of course ...
Controlling pressure is essential as we make our way through life – and cooking.
Years ago, my kids came over and stayed a couple of nights during the week and every other weekend after their mother and I divorced.
I solved the cooking fast issue by buying a pressure cooker. It reduced preparation times for red beans, roasts, gumbo and green chile stew by 70 percent. A beauty from France, it was stainless steel, double-skinned and outfitted with main and backup venting valves for extra safety.
I knew the problems associated with pressure cooking. Once I ventured into the kitchen as my grandmother canned green beans in jars using her cooker. She told me to find a corner and watch the stove while she went outside for a smoke.
Moments later I wondered what happened to the steam escaping from the cooker, and if that had anything to do with the rattling on the burner. The cooker sounded like it was ready to take off.
“Grandma,” I yelled. But it was too late. The lid of the pressure cooker flew off in a mighty whoosh and shot across the kitchen, catapulting off a cabinet, careening across the floor.
Grandma was pretty upset about her beans. “Why didn’t you call me?” she demanded, but I couldn’t see her, the steam and moisture in the room was so thick.
Such a debacle could never happen with the marvelous French pressure cooker, and the kids and I enjoyed many wonderful meals. To their amazement, I even cooked spaghetti in it.
One night I tried a new dish, split pea soup. I fired the cooker up and suggested we take a short bike ride on the levee behind the little house where I stayed. While riding, we met some friends and lost track of time.
An eerie haze of light shone from the kitchen windows when we returned. The aroma of split pea soup greeted us at the gate turning into the driveway.
At the house, I cracked the door to the kitchen and hot steam shot out. I grabbed an umbrella and barged inside, like Bruce Willis at a rescue scene.
The cooker hissed like a mythical beast, shaking on the burner. Droplets of hot water fell from ceiling. Mushy little projectiles, tiny split peas escaping after first clogging the safety valves, smashed the umbrella like bugs on a windshield. The stove area was so hot I couldn’t get close enough to turn off the fire.
“Get me a broom!” I yelled to the kids.
In a moment, a tiny crack in the door opened long enough for a broom to be shoved inside, before slamming shut. I fumbled around with the wooden end, and managed to turn the burner off.
Cleaning the house was hard work. Weeks later, the kids and I were still discovering dried pea projectiles glued to the walls, and it was months before I used the cooker again.
Looking back, I have to admit, that was one time when the pressure really got to me.
Wade McIntyre writes for the Weekly Citizen in Gonzales, La.