My grandmother was a great cook. My mother was a great cook. So were my sisters-in-law. Handsome Hubby is a whiz in the kitchen. I, on the other hand, am a well-known cooking klutz.
My mother and grandmother tried to teach me the culinary arts, sharing prized family recipes. My sisters-in-law gave me cookbooks. And HH misguidedly took me on “romantic” date-night cooking classes. All epic fails!
Slow Cooker Salvation!
Then, a gal pal gave me a life-changing gift — a crock pot. This present was better than manna from Heaven. It was this bad cook’s salvation.
Since then, I’ve transformed into a veritable Queen of the Crock Pot. Yes, I’m a Savant of the Slow Cooker. Faster than you can say, “Company for dinner,” I whip up beef stew with sun-dried tomatoes and white beans, jalapeño corn pudding, and chicken tikka masala. I now “boast” the skill of somebody who can read a recipe and put together an edible, enjoyable meal.
Slow Cookers: A Short History
Who knew a lowly, inexpensive electric vessel could turn a culinary flop into a hostess with the most-ess?
The slow cooker was invented by Irving Naxon, who was inspired by his grandmother’s cholent, a traditional slow-simmering stew in Jewish cuisine. Naxon applied for the first patent for a slow cooker in 1936.
He initially called it “The Boston Beanery.” It wasn’t a big seller for Naxon, who ultimately sold the patent to a rival, ironically called Rival. That company rebranded it the Crock Pot in 1972 and a cooking revolution began.
By 1975, crock pots were so popular that the book Crockpot Cookery was a bestseller, right along with The Joy of Sex and The Star Trek Starfleet Technical Manual!
By the 1979 energy recession, their usage soared even higher because slow cookers, which use the energy equivalent of an incandescent light bulb, are a lot less expensive to run than an oven. (Of course, they’re easier to clean too.)
Mom to the Rescue
But for me, it’s not about convenience or cost. The ease of operation is the key to my love affair.
Oven temperatures are fickle. Gas burners scare me, and even I know that microwaving food is for rank amateurs, not moms and hostesses. Takeout is for cheaters and reservations seven nights a week are impractical.
For years, I was a chef with a limited menu. For dinner, I could reliably be counted upon to serve steaks, lamb chops, tacos, and somehow, a killer great brisket. For breakfast, I served salami and eggs or French Toast. For lunch, tuna salad. That was it.
In Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, Blanche DuBois “depended on the kindness of strangers.” Well, fortunately, my children and husband didn’t depend on the kindness of strangers. Instead, they relied on the love and cooking skills of my mother.
She kept them happily stuffed with stuffed cabbage, goulash, chili con carne, pepper steak, chicken cacciatore, salmon, and a never-ending supply of homemade cakes.
My Slow Cooker Salvation Moment
As for my late-in-marriage/motherhood, come-to-cooking moment, I’m not sure what finally sparked it. It was either a concussion (seriously) or shame. There comes a point when you can “make reservations” only so many times. So, when my friend gave me that slow cooker, it was one of those simultaneously “in the nick of time” and “better late than never” moments.
I don’t know who was more grateful for that gift — me, my spouse and children, or my mother, ready for a break from her unpaid job as the family chef!
So, today while I have branched out and do successfully use the oven and the stove for meal preparation, I prefer and excel at slow cooker recipes. They’re my safety, do-no-harm cooking comfort zone.
If you’re in the neighborhood this weekend, come on over. I’m making braised beef ragu with polenta. I’m trying it for the first time. But since I’m using my trusty crock pot, I’ve got no first-time recipe jitters!
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Meanwhile, if you’re hungry for more crock pot trivia, here goes:
Irving Naxon (the slow cooker inventor) had more than 200 patents, including one for a portable washing machine on casters that attached to a kitchen faucet, and also one for a tiny electric washer for doll clothes called Dollyduds. During World War II, he invented a sonar submarine detector.
According to Betty Crocker Kitchens, 80% of U.S. homes own a slow cooker.
Finally, a crock pot’s faulty switch played a role in the demise of beloved Jack Pearson in the popular TV show This is Us.
What’s your favorite slow cooker recipe? Care to share?