Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Under Pressure

Once in a while, I think about getting a pressure cooker. It's mostly when people tell me how much better home cooked beans are than the canned variety. Then I remember that I like canned beans fine anyway. They're already salted, they are super-convenient, and while they do cost a little more than dried beans, they cost significantly less than a new pressure cooker. I know a pressure cooker would likely wind up sitting next to the dusty dehydrator that never gets to make the tofu jerky and dried pineapple rings I envisioned when I got it, so the pressure cooker isn't likely to find its way into my home.

The 1945 Presto Cooker Recipe Book suggests that Presto was worried that cooks in the '40s were similarly skeptical about how often they would use a pressure cooker. The cover shows it with a variety of meats and vegetables to hint at its versatility:

And the recipes inside give instructions for all kinds of dishes, even ones that do not particularly make sense for a pressure cooker.

You could make cream of wheat--

in about two minutes once the water came to a boil. Or you could just make it in a regular pan in about three minutes.

You could make quick oats--

in about three minutes once the water came to a boil. Or you could make them in the same amount of time in a regular pan.

You could make macaroni--

in 5-6 minutes. Or you could cook it for about 8 minutes in a regular pan. Maybe the pressure cooker was a more exciting option in that it could explode if the cook wasn't careful. Making oatmeal in a regular pan does not present nearly as much danger of having to clean molten oatmeal off the cupboards and ceiling (and your own face and arms if you're unlucky enough to be nearby for the detonation).

The cookbook presented me with other mysteries as well:

Besides the obvious question of why it would be better to make a recipe best suited for stir-frying in a pressure cooker, there is also the question of what makes chop suey American-style, fancy, or plain. These recipes are all quite similar: meat, onion, celery, and a sauce. The American variation is the only one with green beans, so I guess green beans are American. Suggesting the rising reverence toward processed foods, the fancy chop suey has canned Chinese vegetables and bean sprouts. Oddly enough, the plain one sounds fanciest to my modern ears because it has the widest variety of fresh vegetables: green peppers, cabbage, and tomatoes in addition to the celery and onions. Granted, they've been pressure cooked for 8 minutes, so I'm not sure what kind of flavor or texture is left, but at least this version had some variety.

Looking at this cookbook has actually made me less interested in getting a pressure cooker than I was when I started. Presto seems to have accomplished the opposite of their goal...

This post is part of Cookbook Wednesday, now hosted by Modern Day Ozzie and Harriet.


  1. wow, my mother's pressure cooker looked like that and came with the same book. She used it a lot. It didn't help the taste of food at all... she gave me one but I sent it to the Salvation Army years ago!

    1. And another confirmation that I made the right decision not to get one! :-)

  2. Hi Poppy!
    I've thought about getting a pressure cooker myself. My daughter keeps telling me "they don't make them like they use to" and apparently they are much safer. I don't see me using one on a regular basis. We've been eating a lot more beans around here for their nutrional value NOT because we want to spend less time in the kitchen. Canned beans are find with us too.

    Then, there are those recipes, they just never convince me that a pressure cooker should be on my "someday" list. I can't even convince myself to buy a Kitchenaid yet, lol...I do LOVE this book for it's timely history though. It's probably one of my favorite vintage pressure cooker cookbooks:)

    Thank you so much for sharing, Poppy...

    P.S. It looks like Cookbook Wednesday will be back by popular demand in March! It seems I under estimated it's popularity. I do hope you will still be able to join us. I'm going to hop by Mae's now and see what's cookin' over there and to tell her the news:)

    1. Yes, they are supposed to be a lot safer now! I wouldn't even have considered getting one if that weren't the case. I am a terrible klutz and if anyone could blow one up, it would be me!

      I'm glad you'll be able to carry on the Cookbook Wednesdays! My schedule will remain the same until early May, so I should be able to continue. :-)

    2. That's wonderful Poppy. Now I'm wishing for March for oh so many reasons:) Weather being one of them, daylight savings time, Spring and Yes, Cookbook Wednesdays!!!

    3. If I were in charge, we'd always be on daylight savings time!

  3. My mother had a pressure cooker just like that, too! She never made oatmeal in it, so we never experienced the joy of molten oatmeal everywhere. She did, however, use it to make her Hamburger Helper faster, because there was a treat you just shouldn't have to wait for.

    I did link you up to my Cookbook Wednesday post. I'm not as proficient as Louise, but I can help fill in the void while she takes a much needed break. Thanks for letting me know you'd posted!

    1. Thanks for connecting me! I have to say, using a pressure cooker for Hamburger Helper shows some ingenuity...