I remember as a young girl in the 70′s, my mother used a pressure cooker. I also remember that if I got anywhere near the kitchen during this time, she would emotionally assert, “BE CAREFUL. IT MIGHT EXPLODE.” She said this with good reason as the old style of pressure cookers truly did explode. For me, this is equivalent to what Jaws did to the psyche of Americans in the 70′s!
The reason for this was that pressure cookers didn’t have the safety mechanisms that they do now. They had clips that held the lid on, but if the pressure got too high, the clips would pop open, shooting the hot ingredients up, down, left, and right into the tiniest of crevices! You wouldn’t want to be anywhere near boiling garbanzo beans rocketing out as it would make for a really bad day. As a result of feeling my mom’s concern for our safety, I got classically conditioned and was really anxious and fearful of using one.
The first time I finally mustered the guts to use one, I stood at arm’s length from it when I was putting the lid on and taking it off and then vigilantly watched it and listened for any signs of immanent explosion.
What I’ve come to find out was that it’s not just me. This is equivalent to what Jaws did to the psyche of Americans in the 70′s. Many women my age and older are quite terrified of using pressure cookers! It’s such a shame, because pressure cooking definitely speeds up your cooking time, and it makes scrumptious food. People who thought they hate brown rice are convinced instantly of how delicious it truly can be.
As I was thinking about this issue, I was reminded of the hilarious movie Clueless with Alicia Silverstein and in particular, the scene where she and her friend along with her friend’s boyfriend accidentally end up driving on the LA freeway and they all freak out. At one point, the driver’s boyfriend attempts to reassure and calm her down. (For a good laugh, watch here, and imagine that instead of driving, it’s about pressure cooking: Freeway Freakout: Clueless)
I get this! When I learned to drive, merging onto the freeway in particular made me woozy; my heart would pound, I’d break out in a sweat, and I’d feel light headed. Anything that we are doing for the first time, that hasn’t yet become automatic, isn’t “easy” and it may cause fear. My observation over the years is that for various reasons, women have a lot of fears around cooking. When it comes to the kitchen, we can tell ourselves mean things. Just because you burn something or it doesn’t taste good, doesn’t mean you’re not a good cook! It happens to the best of us!
Well, I just want to remind people that we can’t expect ourselves to know how to do it perfectly at the first try. (Talk about pressure!) Once we practice the thing over and over again, including pressure cooking, the process becomes automatic and then we don’t even think twice about it, just like driving on the freeway (playing an instrument, learning a language, sailing a boat) or any other item that initially takes you out of your comfort zone! If you do make a mistake, now you know what to do differently the next time around.
Pressure cookers are much safer today than they used to be. There are safety mechanisms built into them that prevent them from opening until the pressure has completely dropped or that release pressure if it gets too high.
Here are my pressure cookers in action – making beans in one and grains in the other.
The easiest ways to learn how to use a pressure cooker are:
- Just diving straight in and trying
- Having a friend show you
- Going to a class
Once you have one, it’s hard to know how you ever lived without one!