This morning my husband said, “Chase and Porter, we’re making stew that usually takes all day, but we’re doing it in thirty minutes, come peel this garlic.” Chase looked up from his jam bread and Porter tore away from his Indian chicken curry over rice, his hair fanned straight up in the back like a peacock’s plume.
“Is this like a science experiment?”
“No, it’s a pressure cooker. See this garlic, can you smell it? No? That’s because it’s covered in this stuff. You have to peel it, and cut off the hard flat end. Then you smash it with the side of the cleaver and chop it up fine.”
“Is this going to be like steak at Teppanyaki’s?”
“It’s going to be like steak in a stew which will feed five people for two days instead of two people for one day. Stir the garlic in the frying pan, don’t tap it.”
“Why do you cut the meat instead of chopping it?”
“Because the fibrous properties of the meat won’t let you.”
“Can’t we just have steak? I really want steak.”
“Peel those onions.”
“It burns us Precious.”
“You know dad, this beef used to be a cow. If there wasn’t so much supply and demand the cows would still be alive because no one would want to eat them,” Chase said.
“It’s like skunk. Nobody wants to eat skunk,” Porter pointed out.
“Help Mom dump those tomatoes out of the frying pan and into the pressure cooker.”
“On top of the steak?!! Can’t we at least do the Teppanyaki’s Choo Choo to prove that steak was there?”
Once everything was in the pot, my husband poured in some water and began stirring it around.
“Where’d you get that water, Dad?”
“From the tap.”
“That water’s polluted,” Chase said.
“It’s going to boil.”
“So all the pollution will fall to the bottom,” Chase added, assuming that the tap water speaks the same sordid language as the gray air we breathe.
“Boiling will kill the bacteria.”
“Mom, do you see how my hair’s sticking up?” Porter asked. “It was worse when I first got up, but gravity did the rest. My hair sleeps all day and likes to be up all night. The hairspray is like the mom who tells it to go to sleep.” Last night in the taxi he kept wrenching backwards in his seat to mash his left ear on the filthy right window. “Porter! What are you doing?” “I’m having a hot ear crisis!”
“Boys, look at this pressure cooker,” my husband said, demonstrating the intricacies of the rubber seal and screwing the parts together. Eyes alight, Chase and Porter each dragged over a chair to get a bird’s eye view. When the pan became too hot, Seth used a chopstick as a pointer. “When it builds up enough pressure, this first valve pops up. Then, when too much pressure builds up, it steams out the center valve. If that gets blocked, the whole thing could blow up.”
“Could it kill someone?”
“The third valve is a weaker weld, and it will blow before it blows up. But pressure cookers in South America don’t always have those, so sometimes they explode.”
“Wow, so this is lethal.” They crowded closer.
“It builds up pressure inside, so it’s like there’s a bag of rice sitting on every square inch.”
“So it’s like a sucker,” Porter said. “If you lick it, it takes a long time, but if you suck it, it’s faster.”
“Are we finished yet?”
“It’s fun to see the first value pop up,” my husband said, crowding close as the boys. “Wait for it. . .wait for it . . .”