When a pressure cooker created pandemonium
Which home maker will not go into rhapsodies at the mention of a pressure cooker? This excellent labour, time and fuel saving device that is the kitchen god’s gift to harried cooks is a most handy possession. But if you believe it’s a very safe device, your most dependable friend in the kitchen, then you better do a re-think, as I did after my scary experience with it. This happened quite some time back, but the episode was so mind-blowing, every detail is etched in my memory as if it happened yesterday.
My innocent looking pressure cooker sat solidly on the fire one morning, not letting on that it was getting ready to chart its wild journey while I made dosas on the other burner. I was totally absorbed in cajoling a particularly stubborn part of the dosa to ease off and terminate its romantic association with the griddle when a tremendous explosive sound rocked the kitchen to its foundations. Shocked out of my wits, I dropped the spatula to look in the direction of the sound and watched in horrified fascination as the pressure cooker lifted itself bodily, almost magically from the gas stove.
I froze and watched it go berserk. It became a rocket, a jet, a flying saucer and a steam engine rolled into one. It took off, then crash-landed on the kitchen counter, emitting hissing sounds all the while like a thousand bilious snakes spitting out their ire in a bizarre chorus. Then it began its tantric dance. It rocked on its sides, spun like a top and whizzed around in confusion like a piece of sodium in water, all the while ejecting dal like a water sprinkler. It crashed into the wall, hit the stove, banged into the baskets of onions and potatoes and skidded off the counter to the floor, firing on all cylinders. I wondered, heart in mouth, when it would crash into my gas cylinder or my fridge. And, horror of horrors, would the lid yank itself off and crash into me?
My cooker was very old, and had long given up performing the tasks it had been designed for. I believed it was safe for it neither builds up pressure nor does it retain steam which gleefully escapes from all sides. Had it been collecting steam surreptitiously all these months for this last hurrah? Had bits of dal lodged themselves here and there, blocking all the outlets? Whatever the reason, it seemed well and truly on the war path. After a magnificent display of temper tantrums it finally managed to force the weight off the lid. A jet of dal spurted out like champagne, hitting the ceiling to create a Salvador Daliesque masterpiece. After a few more spins of steadily diminishing velocity it finally clattered to a stop.
I surveyed the lentil decorated kitchen. Every nook and corner had dal on it. Spray painting could not have done a better job. Surprisingly, my husband and son did not come darting into the kitchen. The sound ought to have awakened even the dead and the comatose. Festooned in dal, I marched to the front room and found them engrossed in their respective books. They took one look at me and collapsed with laughter.
Peeved, I told them the cooker had almost burst in the kitchen and hadn’t they heard the noise? Was that the sound we heard? Asked my husband. He had thought it was a lorry unloading gravel on the road. Gravel, my foot. Come and see the kitchen. They came; my husband took a close look and asked if the dal wouldn’t wash off easily. Can’t afford to get the kitchen painted again, he said.
He then surveyed the place minutely and delivered a lecture. The kitchen is full of potentially hazardous things, he said, pointing to the gas stove, the mixie, the fridge, the knives, the forks, the ladles … I was alarmed. I did not realise I was spending a great part of my life in such a dangerous environment. It was a comforting thought that at least the cooker would not now be a part of it.
It wasn’t until, after some months of gas cylinder shortage, heavy electricity bills and a few more lectures, I mustered the courage to go in for a new cooker. But my courage doesn’t extend to my being in the kitchen when the cooker is in action. It has only to whistle and I’m out of the kitchen like a shot...