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A year and something ago, my daughters gave me the hottest new North American kitchen trend: an electric pressure cooker – the Canadian-invented Instant Pot.
Right from the moment I pried open the big box, I was both ambivalent and apprehensive. So many manuals and warnings! It felt like I needed a licence to operate this pressure cooker or at the very least numerous YouTube tutorials. But so many people were raving about the Instant Pot. One of the food gurus at The New York Times “instantly” produced a cookbook. It was all like the Second Coming – people were even baking cakes and making yogurt in their Instant Pots. There was advice everywhere from elaborate how-tos to colour-coded seals for sweet and savoury meals.
So, despite my reservations, I committed myself to using the machine and even purchased a glass lid for the slow-cooker function. In fact, I accidentally bought two lids and one of the girls got a free bonus for her pot. I investigated recipes online and bookmarked a few potentials. I went out and bought ingredients such as baby back ribs and flank steak. I bought some really expensive cheese. And then I got started.
All I can truly report is that I produced one spectacular and expensive disaster after another. Sometimes, I was able to rescue supper, mostly not. It actually took two full days to chip the “no fail” macaroni and cheese out of the pot’s stainless-steel liner.
By this time, I was both frustrated and discouraged, but I then experienced one of those rare “eureka” life moments. An illumination of sorts. Maybe it wasn’t me – perhaps, it was the Instant Pot.
I wasn’t quite ready to run up the white flag on my present and jettison the Instant Pot to the basement shelves. I tend to have a “come hell or high water personality” and even got an award for it once – the personality, that is. I sent an e-mail to the Instant Pot head office in Ottawa and wrote in the subject line, “I really want to love my IP.” In response, tech support could not have been more accommodating. Lovely “Sally P” wrote right back with alacrity and empathy and a mega list of instructions that would exhaust any mortal just by reading them.
A couple of weeks later, after I recovered from digesting Sally’s e-mail, I printed everything out and set to work. Sally wanted photos. Sally wanted a steam test. Sally wanted a video of the steam test. Eventually all of Sally’s demands were met and she got more than she asked for on the video, which included a little spousal bickering!
I submitted everything online and Sally was pleased and prompt. If my actions were being graded, I’d have received an “A” for sure. Based on the steam test it was evident to Sally that my Instant Pot was defective and that they would be pleased to replace it after I provided a physical address. Although, they were currently out of stock.
I waited. I waited some more. I waited a whole month before contacting Sally who was most apologetic that Instant Pot had dropped the ball (pot?). Two days later, there was a huge box lurking on the front porch. The following morning, my husband whipped out the X-Acto knife, sliced open the box and couldn’t believe his eyes. The brand-new carton contained one single base and nothing else. Where was the rest of the pot? The liner, the cords, the lid? It was a genuine head-scratching moment. Now what? Would this never end?
Once again, I contacted Sally and she explained that their policy was to only replace the defective part. It would have been useful to know that. It’s a little disconcerting to open a brand-new box full of Styrofoam inserts and new packing only to find one item. Happily, I had not tossed my pot.
The end to this long tale was finally in sight. On Sally’s advice, I connected the new base to the other old parts. The new combo passed the steam test with flying colours, which apparently meant that the sensors were now working the way they should. Sally was happy. I was happy, well at least I think I was.
But the test was in the meals I would hopefully soon produce. I hesitantly tried out the pressure-cooking function on the new/old Instant Pot. I was so paranoid that I ran simultaneous alternative timers in case the appliance let me down again. I crossed my fingers. I unearthed all my lucky charms, including my three linked resin monkeys from China and some ratty, but colourful wool bracelets made by Buddhist monks.
My IP “Mongolian beef” turned out to be a thing of wonder. It beat the slow cooker version by a kilometre. It was mouth-watering. I can hardly wait to make Thai chicken rice bowl again as well as the sticky tamarind baby back ribs (367 five-star ratings in The New York Times).
I have finally seen the light and, yes, I call myself a Pothead along with all my fellow acolytes. I’ve been sending all and sundry unsolicited advice and yummy Instant Pot recipes. And of course, I have a great video of my Instant Pot. I’d be happy to send it on request.
Anne Letain lives in Ladysmith, B.C.