Midnight Writer

...the road goes on forever

IP and the Art of Cooking

A Quick Note

First of all, my apologies to any of you that stumbled on to this by mistake. Even though I work (and have lots of friends) in the Information Technology field, “IP” in this case is not “Internet Protocol”, but “Instant Pot”. Sorry, this is a cooking story.

I joked around with one of my daughters that the “problem” with so many of the Instant Pot recipes was that you have to read a bunch of related story before you get to information on how to cook the meal. Out of fear that I may be breaking some long-standing tradition, combined with the a bit of pretentious “Surely I can be interesting” attitude, I’m going to do the same. However; if you really want to just skip to the Cashew Chicken & Rice w/Mushrooms recipe, you can find find it here – Cashew Chicken & Rice w/Mushrooms

Is it Really “Cooking”

I have this habit of getting interested in something, doing some initial research, then really going into in-depth stuff only after I’ve purchased, or made the trip, or otherwise committed myself. I suspect it’s just part of my ADD personality.

I did the same thing with our Instant Pot (except I didn’t really do much research before buying, only after). A couple days ago, because virtually everything I was seeing about the IP was positive, or downright gushing, I decided to Google Hate “Instant Pot”. Believe it or not, my computer didn’t self-destruct, and no one from the IP Cult of Believers showed up at my door with pitchforks and torches (yet). The results turned up a few “exploding pressure cooker” stories (mostly about other brands), and a few “This doesn’t cook as quick as ‘they’ claimed” stories, but interestingly; it mostly turned up stories about people ready to hate it, then changing their minds.

However, I found a few that touched on a major theme that I found interesting – they basically alluded to the idea that “you’re not really cooking” with the Instant Pot. Now, I’m paraphrasing a little. To be fair, they talked about removing the “romance” from cooking – the tasting and adjusting and warm household smells and even lifting the lid and checking on status. I have to admit, at one level I agreed. To some degree, it really is “mix abc and do xyz, and it’s perfect”. But after more consideration, the “new technology” inner beast in me rose in defiance, ready to defend our new household gadget (and the $120 we paid for it).

There are a ton of “pros and cons” reviews of the IP, and this isn’t going to be one of them. I’m going to concentrate on that one aspect, Is It Really Cooking, and my personal (though brief so far) journey with it. To let you read an example yourself, please see My Final Instant Pot Review. Was I The Only Person To Hate It? I’m going to use what Karen (the blog author) said a lot in this post. Here is one of the quotes from that article that really exemplifies what I’m talking about.

… I like cooking. I like the process of cooking. I like stirring, and tasting and adding salt. You do not do these things with an Instant Pot. You put the food in, close it up and hope for the best. Which is my biggest beef with it. Cooking for me is something to be enjoyed and experienced and food is to be nurtured and tasted throughout the cooking process. There is none of that with an Instant Pot.

The author had also previously summed up the Instant Pot enthusiasts with this:

The obsessed people who will herein be referred to as The Cult of Instant Pot Lovers Who Maybe DonÔÇÖt Actually Love Cooking so Therefore Love That The Instant Pot Allows You to Lock Your Dinner Up And Out Of Sight Like a Kidnapped Baby.

I took issue with her statement. I suppose she’s technically correct. I don’t consider myself “obsessed”, but some really may be, and maybe they fit that “Don’t Really Love Cooking…” nonsense. However, I think I understand her tone behind her comments, and I disagree with it. She sort of revealed that tone with one of her final comments:

I do not recommend the Instant Pot to anyone who enjoys the art of cooking.

I’m going to strongly disagree with that. I think it’s a bit pretentious, and just wrong at its heart. I’ll use her own analogy to explain.

The Artist Analogy

In her blog post, Karen used the analogy of an artist painting:

Imagine you’re an artist and you have a blank canvas and all your oil paints and brushes in front of you. You take your time building the perfect painting, adding things and blending them and taking your time lovingly creating it. That’s cooking.
Now imagine you whip off a kind of s****y paint by number in 13 minutes. That’s cooking with an Instant Pot.

The problem with her analogy is that most people who enjoy cooking aren’t like the artist she mentioned. If they were, they wouldn’t need any of the recipes on Karen’s blog; they would just roam the grocery store isles (or the cupboard) and grab their “paints and brushes”, and hit the “blank canvas” of their stoves and ovens, creating some masterpiece totally on their own. The reality is that most of us that do any level of cooking use her “paint by number” method to one degree or another. We don’t mix our own paints from scratch using our artistic imagination to create original masterpieces; instead we use recipes to find out what ingredients those who went before used, and the cooking times and temps, and what to look for as we cook. We may then change them up to our tastes, but most of us build on what someone else already “painted”. Universally, we call that “cooking” even if the recipe and method of cooking aren’t “original”.

I submit that though the Instant Pot can be the “paint by number in 13 minutes” device Karen alluded to (more on that in a moment); that is not the case for everyone. Most of the information I’ve seen repeatedly tells new users to try something, and adjust. The first day we got ours, I was frantically browsing the internet to find a recipe to throw something together quickly to surprise my wife. When I looked up “chicken and rice” for the IP, I got dozens, probably hundreds of hits; however, the few I looked at were all different. As if people had some idea of what they were going to make, then changed it up to make it their own. Before the end of the first week with the Instant Pot, I was able to put together a dish that had little to do with any of the recipes I had seen, totally based on mine and my wife’s taste. Sorry Karen, I may not be a Picasso, or even a Karen, but that’s still some art. Maybe it’s 3rd grader art compared to some of the stuff I see on your blog, but it is still “the art of cooking”. (BTW, on the flip side of things, I cook my chili for 12 hours, and consider that 3 hour stuff to be amateurish, just sayin’).

Even with all of that, there’s something to be said for busy people that would like to control what’s going in their food, but don’t have the time to stand over it “nurture” the food for hours. For those, the Instant Pot can be a “life changer”. But, I suspect most people are just like me. To me, it will never be “everything I need” for cooking. It will be one more method to use when it fits. I can already tell, at least for me, it will be a well-used. But, I also know it’s never going to replace my Weber Grill or my turkey fryer (though I may try getting away from simmering chili for 12 hours).

So, with that rebuttal now finished, I’m ready to brag a little about what I did after less than a week of owning our Instant Pot.

Ready to Try My Own

After owning our Instant Pot for a little less than a week, I was poking around for another recipe to try. We had some chicken left over, and my rice with other foods still hadn’t turned out quite the way I wanted, so I mentioned to my wife that I was ready to try rice and chicken again. She suggested that I mix it up a bit by using our favorite “pre-seasoned” rice, so I decided maybe it was time to just try a recipe on my own. This is what I came up with.

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My name is Herb Parsons, your semi-average 66-year-old guy. I’ve been married to my wife Gini for 28 years, and between us, we have 5 children and 11 grandchildren (currently).