When the woman who fused gametes with me became pregnant for the first time, she started seeing other pregnant people everywhere she went: in the park, on the plane, on the subway. The whole world had gotten knocked up simultaneously. It was deeply subjective and yet entirely real to her.
And now, in quite the same way (actually, in a totally different and less awesome way), I see One-Pot Cooking everywhere.
DaddyTypes linked a while back to a story about a holy-crap-that’s-amazing pyramid apartment on top of the Smith Tower in Seattle, and the one thing that really stood out to me in the story was the little detail about the owner’s hospitality habits:
The next month alone, she said, would bring two school-parent dinners; the annual gathering of the Progress Alliance, a left-leaning donor group; a fund-raiser for Representative Jay Inslee, Democrat of Washington; and a “marvelously goofy TheFilmSchool event,” with guests acting out film roles, directed by the actor Tom Skerritt. Almost all these affairs would be “one-pot specials,” Ms. Franklin said, that she prepares herself.
Yup, I read one-pot.
And when I finally got around to watching the (surprisingly compelling) documentary Babies, what did I notice about the Mongolian and the Namibian child? That they seemed to be eating mush from, you guessed it, a one-pot of some kind.
I got this way because I recently bought my wife a birthday gift that was actually for me: a Zojirushi rice cooker. We are now, for the first time, a Rice-Cooker Family, a genetic cousin to the other one-pot varietals: the Pressure-Cooker People, the Crock Potters, Dutch Oveners, the half-wild Bedouries of Australia, the warring Sač clans of the Balkans. We are all bound by the same urge to just throw some of our favorite ingredients into some kind of concave lidded thing and cook it until we’re hungry.
We are, frankly, a little late to the party. My wife is half-Japanese and half-Mexican, a combination that really should qualify her for a free rice-cooker at birth. So now that we have one, we are making up for lost time. That means oatmeal and almonds every morning, brown rice with miso paste for lunch, Moroccan couscous for dinner. Dr. Atkins would be mortified by our reckless carboloading, if his own mingy diet hadn’t already (most likely) killed him.
I do have a spiritual guide in this journey: Roger Ebert, who aside from his blogging, reviewing and sharply truthful Tweeting, has found time to evangelize for rice-cookery in his 500th (or so) book, The Pot and How to Use It: The Mystery and Romance of the Rice Cooker.
It’s a slim volume without much pretense, perhaps fitting for someone who swears he’s neither gourmet nor gourmand, not to mention someone who stopped drinking in 1979 and stopped eating in 2006 (his well-documented fight with cancer left him reliant on a feeding tube).
What the book is, however, is a fabulous pep talk for intuitive, convenient cooking. Ebert may be obsessed with rice cookers (Zojirushis in particular), but it’s less about the device than the idea that we can and should cook real meals at home, space and time limitations be damned. This includes breakfast; having a rice-cooker means never again having to feed my kids the microwave oatmeal that Ebert dissects this way:
Take a good look on the label on that microwave oatmeal you’ve been eating. It’s probably loaded with salt, corn syrup, and palm and coconut oils–the two deadliest oils on the planet. It’s a dangerous travesty of the healthy food it pretends to be. But it’s high-fiber, you say? Terrific. You can die of a heart attack during a perfect bowel movement.
The book has some big lessons, I think, for dads. Many of us are newly tasked with cooking quick meals for growing families, preferably with actual ingredients instead of the multicolored plastics that pass for commercial food products these days. I have always cooked, but slowly, relying on recipes that I have read and reread like a contract lawyer. But I noticed that these days that the diners (my kids) tend to fall into sheer crazed hunger if I’m a half-hour or more late with dinner.
So the task, then, is to cook healthfully but most of all, quickly. Or, by better genius, to cook ahead of time, which is exactly what the rice cooker allows me to do. In the morning, where time sags and slows just a bit before the kids wake up, I can actually throw a risotto into the pot, press a few buttons, and it will begin cooking later in the afternoon and be ready by 5:30p. Ebert claims you can even cook andouille or beef stew (those are actual recipes from his book, though he supposes you could also cook “wild boar or minotaur”). I haven’t tried any of that yet, but if I can be the kind of father who not only dresses a kid or two and brushes a few of their teeth, but also cooks dinner using the meat of a mythical beast—all before sunrise—then I will be a man indeed.
One more thing: Ebert, one of the truly good and generous people in our business, has agreed to talk to DadWagon about his book, rice cookers, and what his father cooked for him as a child. He may even throw in a Minotaur recipe. Look for the interview tomorrow. We’re very excited.