I read a post on pressure cookers on a recipe sharing group. It was a cute rant about how people have no idea how to use one optimally; how it irritated the heck out of the poster when recipes said things like cook for ‘X’ number of whistles. That was completely against the principles of pressure cooking they pronounced. The whole point of pressure cooking was to keep the pressure in and not release it multiple times thereby wasting time and fuel. It was a good post and the poster was right about everything.
When I was a new bride eager to please the in-laws and self-tighten the screws of patriarchal bondage without any external urging, I was cooking dal and was waiting for the cooker to let out three whistles because my mother had taught me that Tur/ Arhar dal requires three whistle long cooking. As the subsequent whistles went off, the MIL came irritably into the kitchen to tell me the exact same thing as the poster on the recipe group, that this was no way to use the pressure cooker. She repeated this over and over, many times until I snapped at her that this is how I was going to cook and she was welcome to take over the kitchen if she wished to.
The thing is, the second I stepped into the kitchen the MIL never entered it again. The other incredible thing is neither of her children knew how to cook, she or their father had never taught them. Nor is she a great cook ( neither am I, for that matter). But she had the absolute authority to correct my way of cooking by virtue of being higher than me in the patriarchal hierarchy, by virtue of owning the house and kitchen and by virtue of knowing the only absolutely correct way to use a pressure cooker. Over the years, the MIL and I have meandered our way into forging a strong bond of love and respect, (take that, patriarchy), but the beginning was not an auspicious one.
I am a teacher trained in the Waldorf Pedagogy. One of the basic tenets of the Waldorf/ Steiner method is that there are no absolutes in life or in nature or even in mathematics. For example we are all taught in school that 2X2 = 4. Which is correct, but not the only correct way to get to 4. When teaching 7-year-olds, Waldorf teachers teach them that
All four mathematical processes are taught simultaneously. The end is shown to them first and the different means to reach that end are constantly emphasized.
Absolutes are blinders that don’t allow room for empathy or curiosity or imagination. It makes us hard- hearted and brittle and angry that someone should try something differently. The fallout is easy for us to see, world over right now. Angry dogmatic trolls stomping out dissent, plurality, reacting violently at difference of opinion, different sexual orientations, insisting on erasing the cultures of minorities out of existence, demanding homogeneity over diversity.
I am a housewife, I have multiple balls in the air every waking moment while I am walking a tightrope of being mother, counsellor, caregiver, financial planner, chef, sous chef, Indian woman, writer and many other sub categories. When I have Tur Dal in the cooker, if it did not whistle three times loudly I might forget to switch it off. I know the end, cooked Dal. My means to get to it maybe more convoluted, but I will get there nevertheless. In the meantime I would have also cooked rice and vegetables, washed vessels, talked to my child’s teacher, ordered groceries, given directions to the courier guy over the phone, peed once, washed my hands, messaged a friend, fed the neighborhood cat, transferred money to the landlord and so on. Therefore it is vital that the cooker announce its existence, lest I forget. There is more than one way to get to Dal. Multiplication may be faster than addition, but I will still get to 4 in my time
As published in Women’sweb.in: