Inside view Society

No more tears over spilled milk

Illustration: Sreejith R. Kumar

Illustration: Sreejith R. Kumar   | Photo Credit: Sreejith R. Kumar

The spillover of a milk boiling session

“I have a few questions to ask,” said a friend, one hand behind his back. He had come from the US on a short visit. “Shoot!” I responded, before realising it wasn’t the safest of verbs to use on one who lived in the US. What if he had a gun in his hidden hand? But, no worries, to use his favourite phrase, for the query that followed was harmless.

“Do you boil milk?” he asked. “Of course! Name one woman who doesn’t,” I replied, turning quiz master. “Over?” He continued. “Over! That’s it? Just one question?” I was disappointed with this low IQ quiz.

“I meant, does the milk boil over?” he clarified.

“No, it doesn’t.” I was pleased to edify him. “Haven’t you heard of that phenomenal invention, the milk cooker, invented specifically to come to the rescue of women who have spent half their lives cleaning the mess made by milk boiling over, a quarter of their lives clearing the clogged pores of their stoves and the other quarter listening to their husbands’ views on how milk can be boiled without causing collateral damage? Besides, it whistles at me daily. Does wonders to my self-esteem.”

“Ha, the milk cooker!” he snorted in derision. He wasn’t too bothered about my self-esteem. “Don’t you know the boiling point of milk is higher than that of water?” I nodded. That was one of the few nuggets remembered from my school science text after writing lines of imposition. “When the cooker whistles, it’s the water in the cooker, not the milk, that has boiled. So the milk you use isn’t fully done.”

This is just the reason why many women I know continue to use pans and clean their stoves every day. “But what does it matter, since the milk made available by the government in hygienic packs is pasteurised?” I countered. “And pasteurised milk is safe.” Another bit remembered from school. “You can put a straw in and drink straight from the cover.”

My friend gave another snort that spoke better than words. With a flourish he handed what he had been hiding. I opened the packet and took out a strange red-coloured contraption.

“Plastic!” My husband recoiled as if it was a king cobra. Plastic is anathema to him.

The friend explained that the soft material was silicon, not plastic, and was a spill stopper. The large and circular pliable lid had patterned apertures of different sizes on it. The friend asked me to boil some milk in a saucepan. There wasn’t any milk at home and the saucepan had the remnants of burnt potato curry stuck at the bottom.

My husband went to the nearest store to buy a packet while I scrubbed the saucepan as clean as I could. The friend who had been admiring the lid all that while looked suspiciously at the saucepan. “Sure the milk won’t curdle?” he asked, but the desire to demonstrate the efficacy of his gift got the better of his doubts.

Mission accomplished

The milk was now placed on the stove to boil. The friend covered the saucepan with the new lid. “Now wait and watch.” Three pairs of eyes watched like hawks. My saucepan blushed; it had never before been subjected to such intense scrutiny. I heard a sizzling sound. “It’s boiling!” I yelled. The milk boiled but didn’t spill over. A little bit foamed up through the vents, then went back into the pan. We kept it boiling for some more time, and then burst into applause. The experiment was a success.

“Now milk will never spill over in your kitchen,” declared the friend and went on to describe the principle behind this phenomenon. He had been gifting it to all his relatives, he said, and had been getting requests for more.

I asked him if it would work for rice and lentils for, ever since I switched to the milk cooker, these were the ones troubling me by boiling over. He said the lid had been tried only for milk.

Rice was cooking on the adjacent burner. I covered the pot with the silicon safeguard and we waited. The rice water didn’t spill over. I was elated. We waited a little longer, with the same result. The spill stopper was a showstopper all right.

“Wow, this IS a miracle lid!” I enthused. “Yaay!” I raised my hand in joy. It caught the rather heavy handle of the saucepan, knocking it over. Rivulets of milk ran in every direction..

A fortnightly column by the city-based writer, academic and author of the Butterfingers series. She can be contacted at


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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 10:45:07 PM |

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