Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What a Crock!

"Slow down, you move too fast. You've got to make the morning last." While this advice may have made Simon and/or Garfunkel feel groovy, I don't really see the appeal of lollygagging. I mean, really, multi-dawdling is not going to get kids to school, appointments met, emails checked, blogs blogged. When my daughter is trying to stall for time, she quotes the aphorism: "Slow and steady wins the race"--I have no idea what TV show she learned that from; however, I am more of the mind of my son's response: "But that's TOO slow."

I have no explanation for what possessed me to purchase a Crockpot--more commonly known as, yes, a "Slow cooker." Wow! How life-changing this appliance could be! We could make all sorts of concoctions from "budget" cuts of meat. Except that we are not big carnivores and we shop at Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, neither of which carries any cut of an animal with the word "butt" in it. We can come home from a long day at the office to hot comfort food! Hmmm, we live in sunny Los Angeles and after a day at the office, hot, heavy food is about the last thing we would want. It can make enough for the entire family in one pot! Except that once you excavate through the glop and avoid the gelatinous goo stuck to the sides, there isn't enough that is edible for even a snack. Now we have an excuse to spend more time at Barnes & Nobles and buy all sorts of new books and magazines! But if I see one more Betty Crocker (oh no--is the "crock" from Betty??) "special" slow cooking recipe book at the drugstore check out, I am going to boycott Western medicine.

One thing I did not consider when I bought the Crockpot was just how big it would be. I don't mean "big" like "popular" or "trendy." I mean "big," as in it takes up a lot of room. So much room that it dislodged other appliances from the countertop. When it comes to gadgets, newer is better, so of course the most recent purchase must be displayed. But, alas, this was not a sleek espressor maker; rather, it was a behemoth of white ceramic with a 1970s-looking logo and dial that looks like it was affixed with Elmer's glue by an elementary schooler for a Science Fair.

Motivated solely to avoid the humiliation of this enormous pot mocking me every day in my kitchen, I made my first Crockpot creation. I had done my research and read that Crockpots were favorites for those people who accumulate "leftovers" and make all sorts of amazing concoctions literally by throwing in whatever is in the pantry. I had visions of blindfolded moms groping in the Fridgidaire for celery stalks and half-eaten hamburger patties and throwing them across the kitchen into gleaming stainless steel pots, much like Kobe hitting a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

I am not a recipe-follower; I like to research recipes to get the gestalt of a meal, and then wing it. Frankly, when it comes to cooking, I have the attention span of a gnat. I, of course, am not casting aspersions on the gnat community's ability to focus--there very well may be members of the species that would not benefit from Ritalin. But because I have little in common with the latter hypothetical insects, I had high hopes for my crockpottin' given that the appliance has been sold as a fool-proof meal-making method. In the admittedly few conversations I had ever had about Slowcookers with peers, no one had ever copped to a Crockpot bust.

I chose a weekend morning to try my 'pot for the first time. I bought hand-carved Angus beef cubes, Heirloom tomatoes, organic onions, and if a little garlic is good, the more the greater! I threw in more than a few dashes of smoked paprika, purchased for about $18 an ounce at Whole Foods. I took handfuls of every herb in the garden and threw them in, stems and all! I pictured myself as the new spokesperson for Ginzu knives! Maybe a neighbor with connections in the entertainment industry would get a waft of my masterpiece through the window and insist on booking me on the Food Network! I had found my calling!

I set the dial to "low"and gingerly felt the pot, expecting to get burned. Nothing. Was the pot even on? Maybe our electrical outlets weren't working. Did I plug in the blender instead? Would e coli set in because the food was at room temperature? The sweat was forming on my brow. And I had to wait 8-10 hours? Eight hours means the dinner will be ready at 2:30 in the afternoon! Who eats dinner at 2:30 in the afternoon? Ten hours means 4:30! That's not much better. Either way, I had a sense I would be needing to go higher-tech with the microwave by dinner time. Seriously, which is it: 8 or 10? There is a big difference between 8 hours and 10. Eight is a workday; 10 is overtime. Eight will get you to Hawaii; 10 to Asia. Is the house going to burn down from the appliance spontaneously combusting? The anxiety was building up to such an extent that I was glad I didn't end up boycotting Western medicine over those damned Betty Crockett pamphlets.

I was a nervous wreck by the time the 8-hour mark approached. There was all sorts of bubbling and gurgling going on. I carefully lifted the lid and was immediately pelted with a globule of mush. I had a flashback to second grade when I made popcorn for a bake sale and took the lid off the pot while the corn was popping. What look like freckles may actually be scars from that experience. I carefully stuck a fork in to try this creation--I wasn't trying to make a "stew," but the consistency was definitely "stewlike." And where was my $18 a pound steak? And my $9 of Heirloom tomatoes? All that was left was a cavernous vat of Cup o' Soup! After an entire day of worry and anticipation, I still needed a side dish to balance the goo. Pizza delivery did the trick. And to this day I still think a Nobel Prize should go to whoever invented the garbage disposal.


  1. too funny!

    my crock pot gathers dust in a dark corner of the pantry...I use it as little as possible because I really am not into weightlifting while doing dishes....

    another useless invention.... :D

  2. Well, I'm sorry to hear about your disappointing crock-pot experience, but I'm glad I'm not the only one! I've tried many sources to get good crock-pot recipes and not one of them turned out to be worth the effort. For some reason I keep trying...

  3. Cath--It IS heavy! In this day and age, isn't there some sort of super-light materials they can use? I am a nervous wreck transferring the filled crock from the fridge to the heating apparatus--I am convinced I am going to slip on a banana peel in the kitchen and end up dropping the darned thing on my foot. Ok, I am not such a neanderthal that I discard banana peels on the floor, but you know how sometimes the walk to the trash can seems really far... especially after all that potassium :)

  4. Susan--Every time I try to use the pot, we always make sure we have a "back-up meal" available because the end result has only been edible a handful of times.. But I keep trying too! I think part of the problem is that even though the recipes claim the food should cook for "8-10 hours," it usually becomes a soggy mess at probably the 5 hour mark. So even if I wait to turn the pot on until the exact minute I am leaving for work, it is a good 9-10 hours at least before I am home to survey the damage..