Between Thankgivings in the Centre of the World

Here in the mountain valley which the Chumash called the Centre of the World, I found myself caught between two Thanksgiving Days. I wasn’t home in Toronto for Canada’s day of thanks on the second Monday of October, and I won’t be here on November 27, the fourth Thursday in November, for the American Thanksgiving. And yet I had much to be thankful for and I wanted to express it. Luckily a birthday came along. I began planning.

Well, let’s be honest. First, I took stock. Was I up to cooking such a meal? I factored in my advanced age, my aching back and divided by thankfulness. The result was a decimal zero, zero, single digit. In other words, no prob!

Not turkey. Sorry turkey farmers, I don’t like your bird enough to go to all that bother. No our preferred protein is roast beast, i.e. a beef rib roast. Since I no longer have a house to mortgage, that was a sobering thought, but I said, what the heck, I’ve got a line of credit. In the event, it cost only $126 for 4 ribs, with the bones cut off and tied back on. The butcher worked away at it for 15 minutes while I looked at wine.

Of course there would be champagne and a good bottle of red. I found a bottle of Veuve Cliquot, or the Widow, on the top shelf and the wine guy who reached it down recommended a pinot noir from the Santa Barbara area, just across the mountains from the Centre of the World. I added a bottle of chardonnay for the cook in case her back got going.

I had found a “Classic Caesar Salad” recipe on line and Jamie Oliver’s root vegetable mash. Those ingredients were cheap enough as were the Brussell sprouts that I decided on at the last minute to add green to the main course.

Clara offered to split the cost, but I said it was my treat. I didn’t want to have to do CPR in the middle of the Santa Clarita Whole Foods  and besides I had that generous line of credit.

That was Thursday and dinner would be on Sunday. The plan was to to turn up the fridge and store the roast on the back shelf at the bottom. The butcher, fearful for his rep didn’t want to endorse that plan wholeheartedly, but I explained about winding mountain roads and a long trip down the I 5. In fact, it worked very well, although a container of green soup froze solid.

It was a two household project (Two households both alike in dignity/In fair Verona, etc). One had the necessary more or less empty fridge, but I would be cooking in the other house, the one in the pines where I could find the utensils I needed.

Saturday morning, I had the fridge house to myself, so I peeled the root veg into a big heavy pot and covered them with spring water. The tap water here is very heavily chlorinated because of the drought, I imagine. The wells are lower than ever. When I drink tea made with it, I fell as if I’m drinking from a tea flavoured swimming pool. I stashed the veg in the fridge and drove the golf cart over to the other house.

I had it to myself as well, the occupants having made their weekly trip to Los Angeles for treatment and shopping. I put on music on my IPod and began to prep the salad. I listened to the birthday boy’s album Shadows of Another Time (www.allmusic.com) as I worked and used his Cuisinart to make the Caesar dressing. By the time, I finished and cleaned up, I had heard most of it twice and gone on to listen to 4 versions of Carrickfergus.

Sitting at the table, I began tearing up a baguette for croutons. With the music off, I was began to think of why I felt thankful. Together as a family, we had found the right medical help and routed a potentially deadly disease. Now it was being managed. Certainly, refinements to medication were still being made, certainly it would be a lifelong condition,  but after 5 months, it was manageable. Or the patient had learned to manage it.

Sitting there, I felt all trace of my former picture of myself -78, alienated from a beloved son, prone to isolation in a cold city, survivor of a traumatic life – drop away. I was truly at the Centre of the World, washed through with love as I have seldom been even in the spring of my life and my first and abiding love.

When I came back into the house on Sunday morning, it was fragrant with coffee, bacon and pancakes already. We carried in the big pot and the roast from the golf cart. I rubbed the cut ends of the roast with butter, no salt so as to preserve the juices. When the oven got up to 450, I put it in for 20 minutes. Then I turned it down to 280.

It turned out the Brussell sprouts looked like small cabbages, so I sliced them thin, fried some bacon, added the sprouts, discovered the skillet was too small, put them in a pot and added a cup of chicken stock. Just before dinner, I would cook them 15 minutes.

I cooked the root veg -carrots, parsnips and rutabaga, early and got my sous chef to mash them with butter. I wasn’t up to that upper body exercise, but I was pleased to note that being thankful seemed to keep back pain at bay.

I sat at the table to put together the salads.

As dinner time drew near, I used a digital thermometer to monitor the meat. Luckily there was one. Cooking America which posted how to cook the perfect rib roast had threatened to wash its hands of me, if I didn’t use one. At a certain point it read 113. I wanted 120, knowing the meat would rise to medium rare. Fifteen minutes later, still 113. I jacked the oven heat up to 350 and 10 minutes later, the thermometer read 125. I took it out of the roast pan and wrapped it loosely with tin foil.

The sous chef mixed up the ingredients I had measured out for Yorkshire pudding, poured the beef drippings into popover pans, heated them in a 400 degree oven and then poured in the batter. Twenty minutes later when she turned the heat down to 350, they were already rising.

yorkshire

I was somewhat taken aback to discover all the beef drippings gone, but olive oil worked just as well with the scrapings from the roast pan. Beef stock and red wine added to the roux produced a tasty and copious gravy.

Reheating the mash took a good deal of stirring, but the excess water cooked off. The sprouts were tender by now and just needed to be lifted out with a slotted spoon. In both cases things hadn’t worked out as the recipe said and I had had to wing it.

The last ingredient, the guests, arrived just in time.

We had the champagne with the cake, a tropical coconut cake from Susiecakes in Manhattan Beach, which didn’t look exactly like this one. It had pineapple in the middle.

coconut cakeThankfulness is a great shortcut to happiness and mental health. And relief of back pain.

PS I drank the chardonnay anyway.

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A ‘New’ Way to Cook Rice

Cooking easily digestible rice led me to a struggle with my Lagostina pressure cooker, which I described in an earlier post http://115journals.com. I seem to have found a solution in a ‘new’ method, which turns out to be anything but new and apparently Persian.

A friend sent me a copy of a recipe she found in the Los Angeles Times by Russ Parsons – ‘Back to the basics of rice’http://www.latimes.com. Parsons cites a cookbook by Yotan Ottolenghi as his source. Once I began talking about it to other cooks, I discovered they were already using this method and, indeed, I came across recipes for other grains using the same method.

Basically, there are 4 steps. First, the rice is washed and soaked for at least an hour in salted water. Second, it is cooked in a large amount of water like pasta until it is almost done. Third, it is drained and set on the lowest heat with a tightly fitting lid for 35 minutes. (Note that Parsons recommends sprinkling a few tablespoons of water and/or oil over the drained rice, which he mounds, so that it does not get too dry.) Finally, it is removed from the heat, the lid taken off, the pot covered with a tea towel, the lid replaced and allowed to sit for 10 minutes.

I had to experiment three times before I got what I wanted. The first few times were edible but not as delicious as the 4th batch. I soaked my short grain brown rice 24 hours for easier digestion. The hard part was getting it nearly done in the ‘pasta’ step. It took much longer than white rice or even basmati. It is taking about 20 minutes. The low heat or steaming stage also took some experimentation. At first the lowest setting on my stove proved to be too high. Parsons recommends a heat diffuser but kitchen suppliers just stared blankly when I asked for one. I couldn’t even find one on-line. But hail to Lagostina. My heavy bottomed pressure cooker proved to be just the thing – a built in heat diffuser, especially since its lid sealed nicely. Of course, I didn’t choose the pressure setting.

The goal, according to Pasons, is to produce ta-dig, ‘a crisp crust of browned rice that forms on the bottom of the pan’. I have achieved that once or twice.

What I like about this method is that the individual rice grains retain their integrity so-to-speak. My old method of using a measured amount of water in an Ohsawa pot in the pressure cooker produced a mushy rice that I would not have served guests or taken to a potluck dinner. Yet, with the increased soaking time, it proved to be digestible.

Parsons includes a recipe for a pilaf he calls muceddere which is made with basmati rice, lentils, chick peas, and tomatoes. I made a double batch and took it to one potluck lunch and was only briefly taken aback when an Iranian woman about my age -that is a cook of many years – helped herself to it. She didn’t comment but at least the vegetarians enjoyed it. I also tried the recipe using dates and almonds but preferred the muceddere.

Bitter and Slow: part 2 -slow food

Having extolled the virtues of bitter greens, I am now moving on to the benefits of slow food.

LIke most people, I don’t look forward to hours at the kitchen counter after a busy day, so I don’t mean food that requires long and complicated preparation, but rather food that takes care of itself simmering away on a slow burner for hours, filling the place with mouth-watering fragrance. Specifically, I am talking about stock or broth and tomato sauce.

Two things have driven me to embrace slow food, diminishing financial resources and health concerns. The kind of restaurants I can afford, now, don’t serve the quality of food that I want to eat. Excellent organic fresh produce and meat prepared in an appetizing way comes with a high price sticker if I eat out,  but I got sick of the plain food I used to make before I took up slow-cooking stock. In addition, I have health challenges including a weak digestion and a tendency to osteoporosis.

Earlier, in “Helpless Human versus Pressure Cooker” posted on May 22, 2012, 115journals.com I alluded to the fact that I cook brown rice in an Ohsawa pot set into a pressure cooker. I soak the rice overnight and cook it for 50 minutes. Doing so, makes it easier for my system to digest it. I also soak the rice farina that I cook for breakfast and I have it on good authority that soaking steel-cut oats for 24 hours prior to cooking them for breakfast renders them as delicious as croissants. With or without butter and jam, I’m not sure. I have cooked my rice that way for years and I can make it more or less sticky by adjusting the amount of water, although I tend to use the usual twice as much water as rice, a stickier option.

It was only when I disagreed with my doctor about the significance of bone density scores that I turned to bone soup. (I have not broken a bone in 3/4 of a century and surely this says something about the strength of my bones; moreover, the medication would be entirely indigestible for my tum-tum.) Bone soup is an interesting name. I lived once in a sort of commune that served bone soup every Friday night, calling it a light supper. It was light all right. You could see through it. By the time, you had extracted the chicken bones, you were left with little more that broth with a few pieces of carrot and rice noodles. I soon learned to jump in the car and head out for the nearest burger joint that night.

That’s not what I mean. I’m talking about beef or chicken stock made by roasting bones with as much marrow as possible and then stewing them gently with vegetables for at least 6 hours. It takes less than half an hour to prepare the ingredients, 40 minutes to roast them, a few minutes to transfer them to a stock pot. Once the burner under the stock pot is turned down to its lowest setting, it doesn’t have to be tended and the only other time needed is the washing up and transfer to containers for freezing. I use a pyrex type of small container and stack them in my small freezer. If I plan ahead, I take one out and thaw it in the refrigerator for 24 hours before I make stew or soup or gravy. If I forget, I put the frozen container in a pan of cold water so that I can pry it out in a hour or so and finish thawing in a pan on the stove. I can put together chicken soup from left-over chicken, thinly sliced carrots, green beans or chard and pre-cooked rice in about 15 minutes.

I found inspiration online and in The Joy of Cooking, but I adjusted the recipes I found to suit me. I don’t use onion, for example, just carrots and celery. I do use good quality bones – beef, marrow bones, for example, with ox tails sometimes and always some chicken bones even in the beef stock or chicken backs with a few thighs, perhaps for substance. I roast all the ingredients at 400 degrees F. I roast the vegetables for the last half hour. This gives my smoke alarm a workout unless I remember to relocate it temporarily. I use much longer cooking times – 6 hrs.- than The Joy of Cooking suggests.

I got hooked on the idea of roasting bones, years ago, when my first (although not then) son-in-law arrived from NYC and sought to woo me to his cause by roasting bones and making a reduction. He made a delicious meal and won me over. Thanks P.

I also make a vegetarian stock for when I cook for friends who don’t eat meat. Then I do use onion and a whole bulb of garlic. I found a recipe at allrecipes.com and have cooked it twice, both times enjoying how great it smelled and how great it tasted in a vegetarian Irish stew made of course with stout. (Sam Smith’s is vegetarian.) I found such a recipe by Melissa Breyer online www.care2.com. I t uses root vegetables including carrots, parsley, parsnips and turnips as well of course as potatoes and pearl barley, all in the previously slow-cooked vegetable stock. The stew itself takes only an hour or so, but be sure to get the barley well-cooked, not crunchy. Recently a huge pot of this stew went over very well at a potluck lunch. It was a stick-to-your-vegan-ribs sort of meal.

The other thing I love to slow cook is tomato sauce, not exactly a novel idea, I know. But I couldn’t eat tomatoes at all until I was told by that same good authority who soaks oats for a day that if I cooked them many hours I maybe could. I opted for 6, just for consistency. I simmer 4  or more cut up pounds that long until they are more or less paste and puree the result. Once again I freeze the paste and I can make a tomato sauce from it in a few minutes. I can’t use much and I still find it challenging to digest but it adds flavour and interest to my diet a few times a month.

So there you have my ideas for slow food, which miraculously turns into fast food, which tastes as good as gourmet restaurant food and which keeps me healthy.

Bitter and Slow: part 1 bitter greens

No not my personality!

Recently, my morning paper, read “Adult taste buds in a bitter retreat” subtitled “Sweet tooth overindulgence exacerbating picky palates”. (National Post, Sat. Oct. 13, 2012. Unfortunately this particular article is not available online.) In it Elizabeth Hames examines the apparent trend of adults reverting to  more childish tastes for sweets, as evidenced by the milky sweet concoctions available at Starbucks such as Frappuccino. Even beer is getting sweeter. And in Britain, it is now possible to buy Supersweet Broccoli, a Scottish- grown variant, touted by one chain store as benefitting pregnant women. The consumption of bitter leafy greens has declined there by 11%. In the U.S. grapefruit growers are going out of business.

Children, as you may remember from your own experience, have to develop a taste for bitter. It used to happen in the natural order of things that our tastes buds grew more refined, so that as adults we might have come to like the taste of olives, black coffee, hops in beer and martiniis as well as broccoli and its ilk. Apparently, this trend can be traced to the declining cost of sugar, due in part to the U.S. subsidies for corn growers and cheap availability of high fructose corn syrup.

“By abandoning refined tastes we eaters may actually be exacerbating the pickiness of our palates. Eating fewer flavourful foods, including certain types of produce, is believed to be creating a widespread deficiency in zinc, a flavour-enhancing mineral… That means it takes us longer to satisfy our flavour threshold which is when our brains determine we’ve had enough to eat.”

I was converted to bitter, leafy greens during a spell of bad health 25 years ago. One of the stories that convinced me was this one: newly trained doctors looking for a place to set up practice in Germany in the 19th century would go from town to town and they never chose to settle in a town where people were growing kale in their gardens. I believe that the health I enjoy today is in part of the result of eating kale and other bitter leafy greens almost every day since I heard that.

Not all bitter greens need to be cooked and even some that need to be cooked can be eaten in salads when young. Recipes from older cookbooks may advise long periods of boiling, I suppose, to make them more palatable to unrefined palates, but I just steam mine for a few minutes, more or less, more for more mature leaves, especially if I am also cooking the ribs. The longest I steam them would be 5 min., usually less. I serve them with a little olive oil and salt, or sometimes balsamic vinegar, oil and salt. Sauteeing in oil at the end or throughout also works. Some people roast kale to make chips.

Here is a partial list of bitter, leafy greens: argula, Belgian endive, beet greens, chard,chicory, cress, collard greens, endive, dandelion, kale, black kale, dinosaur kale, mustard greens, radicchio, rapini, spinach, watercress, rocket.

Of course, we are all already eating some of them and we know that oil and salt or salt substitute make them tasty and vinegar doesn’t hurt. In general, the hardier the leaf the more nutrients it provides. Many of us, who are  lactose intolerant, rely on them for calcium as do vegans. http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/calcium.htm

I add kale to stews for the last few minutes, adding new leaves when I heat up the leftovers, a particularly good way to eat it as the days grow colder. And of course I can add it or chard to my green soup. (See Green Soup posted July 28.)

Next I will consider the slow cooking I like to do especially at this time of the year. It fills the house with delicious smells that banish negativity and suit weak digestions.

Early October: reflections from Journal 119

The first weekend in October has always been an important one for me. As a high school English teacher, I found that by that date I had finally forged a relationship with my classes. I knew their names and I was interested in them as individuals and they had, usually, stopped testing me, having presumably given me a passing grade. So by then the hard slog of the new school year was over.

And there was another reward – it was a long weekend, the first Monday in October being Thanksgiving Day here, where harvest time comes earlier than it does south of the border.

Some teachers in the States have a long weekend as well in honour of Columbus Day. Not all, as I found it one year when I took my 7 year-old grandson for a hike in Topanga Canyon that day. I discovered to my mortification (I was a teacher after all) that his school, a private school in Los Angeles, didn’t have that holiday. It was the sort of school that let its students plan the lessons, so, in fact, our day trip was not much out of line.

This year, that child is in his first year residency at a New England hospital. Just saying.

On Saturday I drove to Stratford to see a production of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, a trip of about an hour and a half with a bonus that hadn’t occurred to me. The trees were aflame with colour. In the middle distance woodlots glowed with orange and red and golden phosphorescence. (We are lucky here to have so many hard maples that produce such bright colours. The photographer who originally posted “A Tribute to Autumn”, which I reblogged lives farther north and west, I think, because the trees there produce mostly yellows.) The corn nearer the highway still stood dusky gold, but as we drove farther northwest, the fields became brown and beige stubble.

Surprising how cold it was when we got out of the car to find lunch. I had worn a sheepskin-lined rain coat and a wool tam, scarf and gloves, but the cold wind went right through me as if I were wearing diaphanous cotton. No doubt about it, summer was long gone.

I note by the way that, although it is only 70 degrees F. in Los Angeles today, it will be back up to 92 next week.

The Festival Theatre in Stratford Ontario has a thrust stage, rather than a proscenium arch. I first saw it when I was a teenager in the second year of its operation, although at the time, it was housed in a huge circular tent. The permanent structure was designed to mimic the tent. By the time, we had hiked through the park from our car, we were chilled to the bone and it seemed as if a glass of pinot noir was in order to get the blood moving again.

Once seated, I realized that my friend who had made the reservation online had upgraded us, not to the very best seats, but almost, thinking I wouldn’t notice her largess. It is hard in such a theatre to get a bad seat, but the sections at the sides of the horseshoe-shaped auditorium are more challenging. And the row in front of us was entirely empty, sold no doubt to some sponsoring company but not distributed so no heads obscured our view. The set had a staircase that swept up around a palm tree!!!! This production had been relocated to Brazil in the early 1900s.

I had looked up a summary of the plot of Much Ado About Nothing, just to sort it out from Shakespeare’s other comedies, but I was not prepared for how familiar I found it. I knew the next line before the actor spoke it. It was unsettling! Apparently, in my 35 year career, I had taught it many times and forgotten I had done so. Considering that most years I taught 5 plays by Shakespeare, I had much opportunity.

Basically, the play is about the duelling couple who apparently scorn each other and are always putting each other down, but eventually ….. Shakespeare used the same sort of plot device in Taming of the Shrew. He liked to set a headstrong, witty woman, in this case Beatrice, against the equally willful, caustic man, Benedict. There’s plenty of scope for pratfalls as they eavesdrop on their friends who are setting them up to fall in love.

After the show, we stopped at Balzacs for coffee and sugar enough to get us home through a dark and rainy drive.

Monday, turkey day, was a roast beef day in my house, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, which I came to love when I was married to a Yorkshire lad. Fortune had carried him back to my table after many years’ absence and he assured me that I had channelled his mother’s pudding. (See recipe below.) My mother-in-law used beef fat but beef doesn’t have much fat these days so I opt for butter. And it turned out well even though we never succeeded in raising large bubbles. Like my mother-in-law, I chose a loaf tin rather than the 9 by 6.You start the oven at 400 and turn it down to 350 after 20 minutes. If you are like me, you forget when you turned it down and have to wing it after that. Maybe that’s when I got help from beyond. Proof I had channelled her: it came out of the oven puffed high and lightly browned. You have to serve it asap, so the mashed root veg (See recipe below.) had to be ready, the beef sliced and the gravy made. (Why is there never enough gravy?) The roasted beet and argula salad had to wait its turn. The meal was so delicious that we four fell to expressions ofthankfulness spontaneously. And of course there was pumpkin pie.

There were absent friends, some more permanently absent than others. We were a family reconstituted with good fellowship and food.

Early October has a way of reconciling me to the inevitable, which comes earlier here than it does down there in my second home.

 Yorkshire Pudding according to The Joy of Cooking 75th anniversary ed.

Have all ingredients at room temperature, about 70 degrees F. Preheat oven to 400 F. Sift into a bowl:

3/4 cup all-purpose flour minus 2 tablespoons
1/2 tsp of salt
Make a well in the centre and pour in
1/2 cup milk
Stir in the milk. Beat in:
2 large eggs well beaten
Add:
1/2 cup water
Beat the batter until large bubbles rise to the surface. …Pour 1/4 in. beef drippings or melted butter into a 9 by 6 baking dish or 6 regular muffin cups. Heat pan or dish until hot. POur in batter and bake 20 min. Reduce heat to 350 and bake 10-15 min. longer until puffed and golden brown.

Mashed Root Vegetables a la Desmond, my hairdresser

Peel or scrub equal amounts of carrots, parsnips and turnip, dice, add water to cover, salt, bring to boil and reduce heat. Cook until fork tender, but not soft. Drain and mash. Add butter and pepper.
Desmond says, “Don’t even think of adding sugar. These vegetables are sweet enough.”

Green Soup or Bieler’s Broth for prostate and bowel health

Enjoy!

kale, optional

See also: celiadermontblog.com/2014/04/20/spring-greens

For many of us, especially we oldsters, cancer has become a chronic disease, which can be managed. I’m all in favour of western meds as front line tools – don’t get me wrong, but the prostate clinic at our local cancer hospital got me thinking that I should re-post the green soup recipe. I believe eating it every morning for the past 11 years has kept my breast and bowel cancer at bay. Stands to reason that keeping the bowel “scrubbed” will also help its close neighbour the prostate.

I see lots of wives and other potential cooks with the men in the clinic, but having one is no reason to fob off the task, just as not having one is no reason to opt out.  It’s easy. Adapt the recipe below to 3 ingredients: zucchini, beans (green or yellow) and parsley to make it easier. (I don’t measure really. I just use a big bunch of parsley, a bag of beans and a big zucchini to balance. You’ll figure out what you like after a few test runs.) Make it once a week and freeze daily portions.

And of course, follow your bliss as Joseph Campbell said. Green soup will soon be part of it.

ORIGINAL POST

This is my variation of Henry Bieler’s broth recipe. His uses celery instead of seaweed or kale and chard as mine does. (You can find his recipe on Google) Green soup at breakfast is a great way to start the day. All those green pot-scrubbers (gut-scrubbers?) get to work for you right away.

chard

GREEN SOUP/Bieler’s broth

1 cup soaked seaweed (wakame or alaria) or kale or chard
1 medium zucchini, sliced
1 cup green or yellow beans, tips off
1 bunch of parsley, finely chopped by hand or processor
1 – 1 1/2 cups of water

Bring to boil, turn heat down, cook 8 -10 minutes. DO NOT OVERCOOK. Should still be very green and possibly still crunchy.( When using alaria, which is tougher than wakame, I precook it for 1/2 hr.)
Run through a food processor until as smooth as you like. Water down to suit when you reheat and eat. Freeze in suitable portions if necessary. I keep out 3 servings and freeze the 6 remaining in ziplock bags individually.

1 cup wakame/alaria, cut and soaked

1 medium zucchini, sliced

1 cup green beans, 1 bunch parsley

Hapless Human VS Pressure Cooker: if at first you don’t succeed, repeat

Image

Bright sunshine and the fragrance of spring drew me out of bed at 7 am on holiday Monday. (We Canucks like to get the jump on ‘mericans by having some of our holidays early.) How could this not be a great day!

I turned on the burner under the pressure cooker to high. In it, inside an Ohsawa pot, brown rice had been soaking overnight. (another story – hingeing on weak digestion). I walked away. And thus the saga began.

A violent hissing, like six angry adders drew me back to the kitchen. Six streams of steam were jetting out from under the front handle in every direction. Clearly pressure was not building.

Fine! I’m not afraid of a pressure cooker.  I have heard the story of a young woman who fled her exploding cooker across her loft, head down, in a brilliant display of broken field running. She escaped but the ceiling did not. Not me, boys! I’ve been handling one of these for 30 years. I grab the back handle, move it off the burner and turn off the heat.

A little background: my old Lagostina pressure cooker, the one with the bendy lid that was such a pleasing puzzle to insert, served me uncomplaining and without maintenance for 30 years until last Feb 8th. I had a brief, unsatisfactory relationship with a model called Fresco. I say ‘brief’ but it felt interminable. Every morning was a new battle: the rice remained hard, the rice was swimming in water and half done, the lid wouldn’t go on, the lid wouldn’t come off. I grew crazed. I took it back for a  full credit. Then I looked up where to buy another Lagostina, but of course, it was not at all like the good old reliable bendy lid one. It was a new, improved model. In fact, it looked like the Fresco, but I had faith because it was a Lagostina.

Still I had a kind of residual post traumatic stress around the issue so I tackled the new problem warily but with confidence.

1. Removed lid, carefully aligned arrows, pressed down firmly with left hand, turned lid with right. Put pot on burner, turned heat on high, walked away.

Result: jets of steam, no pressure built.

2. Examined lid carefully, studied flanges of metal that were supposed to interlock, pressed yet more firmly, shut lid, turned heat on, walked away.

Same result.

3. Removed lid. Noted that the front handle seemed loose. Looked in vain for screws to tighten. Moved the Ohsawa pot more to the centre thinking it might be preventing a seal. Repeated #1.

Same result.

Vaguely remembered that human failing: if something doesn’t work, keep doing it, but try harder.

4. Maybe the inner pot was the problem. Removed Ohsawa pot, got out an old one, which isn’t as tall. Transferred rice, inserted in cooker and repeated #1.

Same result

Well, at least, I had eliminated one hypothesis.

5. Removed lid, took out gasket, studied situation, pressed it carefully back, repeated #1.

Same result.

6. Pulled out old bendy lid Lagostina, transferred rice pot. Glanced heavenward. Turned heat on.

Different result.  This time water bubbled out instead of steam. Well, what did I expect? The old thing was fatigued and told me so last Feb 8th.

7. Picked up the lid of the new cooker, shook it in admonition. It rattled. Took out the gasket. Ah, there they were -2 screws about half way out. Pulled out the heavy red tool box from under the sink, found the screwdriver with the star-shaped head, tightened those darned screws within a millimetre  of stripping them. Repeated #1. Leaned over the stove. Never mind the “watched pot” rule.

Result: a few seconds later, a soft sigh, the red-knobbed pressure indicator floated upward, I had 13 psi and in 50 minutes, I would have edible rice.

I also seemed to have fairly high blood pressure, but there was relief for that. I fired off an email missile-I mean missive- to Lagostina advising them to include a small screwdriver with their pressure cookers and clear instructions regarding loose screws.

Then, wouldn’t you know, turns out that other pressure cooker adherents of my acquaintance already knew that.