After the microwave oven died suddenly, my wife and I discussed not replacing it. Yes, I love Illinois sweet corn cooked in the microwave, but I could learn to boil or roast like a true Midwesterner.|
Later, while Jo was sleeping, I thought about warming up the rice in the refrigerator. Never having reheated leftovers without a microwave, I was stumped. Obviously, it would involve a pot and the stove, but fears abounded. If I turned the heat too high, the rice might burn and stick to the pot, which would make me curse.
It's a character defect, but certain things make me curse. One of them is cats that try to trip you by weaving around under your feet. We had one of these a few years ago. There was nothing I could do about it, as the cat was loved by 50 percent of the people in my house. All I could do was curse and wait. After a few years the cat died and we didn't get another. Sort of like our plans for the microwave.
Another thing that makes me curse is burned food sticking to the pot. Naturally, I didn't want to disturb Jo's rest; I could imagine no more unpleasant a way to be awakened than by screamed assessments of the dubious parentage of kitchen utensils and crude names for body parts.
So I heated the rice on "low," figuring it couldn't possibly burn, even though the process might take a while.
"A while" in this context turned out to be a period of time approximately equal to "eternity." I tasted the rice with a spoon occasionally, but didn't notice a warming trend. I realized if I kept this up, I'd wind up eating a whole pot of cold rice. So I switched methods. Every minute or two -- OK every five or ten seconds -- I stuck my finger in the rice.
I can think of a lot of more pleasant ways to pass an afternoon than with your finger jammed into a wad of frigid rice. Eventually, I decided I'd have to speed up the process.
I should say something here about my knowledge of cooking. To me, the verbs "to cook" and "to overcook" have much the same meaning. This is because my mother put dinner in the oven just when Dad walked in the door after work, the theory being that it would cook to perfection during the cocktail hour.
This theory did not account for the length of the typical cocktail hour in the Mullen home. I cannot tell you how often I dined on hamburgers the color and consistency of hockey pucks, served with charred mystery items that, before the evening's inferno, might have been recognized as vegetables.
The point here is that when it comes to cooking, I don't know when to stop.
My solution was water. I poured some into the pot, replaced the lid and turned up the heat. Whatever temperature-management thing this was supposed to do, it didn't do it. While the technical term might have been "steaming," it would be more accurate to say that what I was doing was "overcooking food that has already been cooked."
When I figured it was ready, I turned off the stove, took the lid off the pot, took a look and, out of respect for others in the home, ran outside and cursed in the bushes.
Then I ate the rice. Perhaps it wasn't the worst thing I've ever tasted -- after all, I went to boot camp in Great Lakes, Ill.
I'll pick up a new microwave tomorrow.
Frank Mullen III of Aledo is a former Navy band leader.
Rock island, IL Details
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