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Articles & Essays

"I don't need an Instant Pot to hog the counter"

Published 09/13/17
The News & Observer (Raleigh, NC)
    I, for one, will resist our Instant Pot overlords.
    This stance will alienate me from many dear and knowledgable friends, some of whom were quoted in a recent article in these pages, who proclaim that the Instant Pot changed their lives. They prostelytize about perfect oatmeal, hail rice fluffy as angel wings and extol ribs so tender that the meat falls from the bone simply by blinking at it.
    The pot cooks by means of a shaft of light from the heavens, accompanied by choirs singing and bluebirds carrying flowers. Or so the faithful tell it.
    I’m skeptical. I’ve seen it all before.
    Appliances that were touted as kitchen saviors, but turned out to be charlatans, litter our garages, thrift shops and attics. I’ve bought some of them. Like exes in country songs, I eventually tossed them to the curb and totally denied them.
    “Never spent good money on one of those, nope, not me.”
    Consider the hot pot. It was so popular in the late 1970s that the university I attended probably wouldn’t have admitted me without proof of ownership. Every dorm-dwelling student owned this symbol of new-found independence, which looked like a plastic coffee pot but with a heating element permanently embedded in the bottom.
    All it did was heat liquid, and my little red demon had but two settings: on and off. No switch - it operated by plugging or unplugging it. The pot was barely big enough to warm a can of soup, and didn’t do that very well. The heating element would burn the lower half of the contents before getting the top half barely warm. Cleaning the pot was a non-immersible nightmare.
    As for simply boiling water, a magnifying glass and sunny window would’ve worked faster.
    The pot was expelled in my sophomore year after a dorm-mate arrived with actual pots and a technically illegal hot plate with adjustible temperature settings.
    Another folly: Hot air popcorn poppers. Their promise to melt away pounds through eating low-calorie popcorn made without oil or butter called to me. I had to have one.
    The popper took up counter space and was too tall to fit in the tiny apartment kitchen cabinets I had at the time. A plastic top, which looked like an upside down vacuum cleaner attachment, directed a snowfall of popcorn downward, onto the counter if I was slow with a bowl to catch it. In action, the popper looked like a Dalek from “Doctor Who” throwing up.
    I abandoned the popper during a pre-move clean-out after discovering that it did absolutely nothing for my waistline. This might have been because I felt I should use it daily to justify its presence. And because, without a little flavorful fat on it, popcorn tastes like the contents of a shredder. As a friend once said: Popcorn is just a vehicle for butter and salt.
    As a food writer with my spatula firmly on the frying bacon of America, I have read up on the Instant Pot. I’ve heard that, like living with a penny-pinching spouse, you have to trick it sometimes, particularly to achieve vegetables which aren’t cooked to southern-grandmother level.
    “Yes, Instant Pot, honey, those vegetables are really ready. And I’ve had this blouse for years.”
    Lying to your small appliances. That’s a slippery slope, my friends.
    Mainly, I don’t need another fad appliance coming into my kitchen, hogging the counter and sneering at the stand mixer, which has held pride of place for decades. The mixer is the long-reigning Queen Elizabeth of my kitchen, shielded from pretenders to the throne.
    However, it’s true that the Instant Pot legend continues to grow. I hear that you can cook absolutely anythng with it.
    I already have something that will do that.
    It’s called a stove. 

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