When it’s cheap and oh so good
The simple things in life
I am guilty of many things, but I seem to have dodged the bullet when it comes to envy. Whether it's a friend's 30-room mansion with a walk-in wardrobe the size of my apartment, or the incredible beauty of another friend's face, I've never been prey to the pangs of envy, of feeling cheated because I wasn't privy to those things. Sure I make the appropriate noises, but I am typically far from ever getting bothered about all the things I do not possess, and that's certainly been the case with kitchen appliances. When all around me, friends are extolling the myriad virtues of the kitchen tool du jour that is the purportedly wondrous Thermomix, I am secretly revelling in an extended moment of reverse snobbery that I don't own, and have no desire to own, one these miracle kitchen helpers.
Because, quite apart from the absence of the envy gene in my DNA, aren't our lives and homes already excessively cluttered with things we severely underutilise, so much so that to add to that mountain of acquisitions isn't just wasteful, it's also extremely morally reprehensible?
Not long ago, I set myself the challenge of finding as many uses for a single kitchen implement as I humanly could, because, like the smart phones we own, most of them are extremely versatile, and it's only human apathy that prevents us from truly optimising them. Enter the humble rice cooker. Although omnipresent, it's more often than not relegated to some dusty recess of the cupboard because its lack of aesthetic glamour makes it unworthy of real estate on the counter top next to the gleaming KitchenAids and other tools of culinary wizardry. And yet, when push comes to shove, the rice cooker can perform as many, if not more, seriously useful cooking tasks than the aforementioned wonder toys. And 'ere you scoff, here are just a few of the many uses for the rice cooker that I've unearthed:
Apart from its obvious function of cooking rice, my rice cooker—which, let me point out, is the most primitive one button version that costs less than two cups of coffee in a trendy café—has also been set to perform the following tasks:
1) Steam fish and vegetables, often at the same time as the rice is being cooked, to save time and effort. All you need is a steaming tray that sits above the rice and, voila, your entire meal is ready when the button pops.
2) Make soup. Because the rice cooker works on the principle of cooking food through steam, it can also be deployed to make soup. Just remember a couple of things, namely that you may need to add water if the ingredients need to be cooked longer, and to add the fastest cooking ingredients at the very end. That is, unless you're cooking for your granny, and her dentures are not working.
3) Make frittatas. To quote the Orange Peril aka POTUS, "Yup, it's true," you can absolutely make frittatas in your trusty rice cooker. Just sauté the ingredients in a pan, whisk the eggs, and dump the whole lot (don't forget to season) in the rice cooker.
4) Make cheesecake. Incredulous you may be, but all you have to do is mix the ingredients directly in the rice cooker bowl, click the button, and enjoy a glass of wine while Mr Cooker does the heavy lifting. You can also entrust it to make milk- and egg-less cakes using the same principle, although you may be required to click that button several times to allow the cake to bake for about an hour.
I could continue ad nauseam about the infinite wonders of the rice cooker, but methinks I've given you enough to cast new light on this cheap, yet fantastic, implement. Ultimately there's only one way to find out if I'm lying, and it's to give your rice cooker a good work out, before finally conceding that flashy tools that cost more than a motorbike and require a hefty compendium to navigate aren't necessarily superior to cheap, easy utensils that you've owned forever, but never took the time to appreciate.
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