How bizarre it is that a prime instrument of a mother’s love for her children — one of her pots and pans — has become a creepy instrument of death.
I speak of my mother’s pressure cooker, a magic kitchen pot that greatly shortened the cooking time of food for little bottomless pits like me who were waiting, waiting, waiting for dinner. The plain old pressure cooker has become a tool of hatred in the holier-than-thou hands of oddballs steeped in the bile of their superiority complexes.
I knew that appliance more warmly as the beacon of dinnertime, hissing steam from its safety blow hole as it cooked dry beans in half the normal time. A pressure cooker could also tenderize a tough, cheap cut of meat.
And yes, on rare occasion, the device has been known to explode, but not in our house. However, my mother’s coffee pot did explode. Who would have thought that a pressure cooker could be threatened by a coffee pot? You would expect it to be the other way around.
My mother used a vacuum coffee pot during those years. She had previously followed the fashion of Norwegian neighbors who parked a percolator on a burner all day, drinking cup after cup. It brought variety into her coffee life – weak coffee in the morning that cooked down over the hours to a ghastly thick liquid that would rot the lips off an espresso taster.
The vacuum coffee maker used the power of steam to liberate the coffee flavor from the grounds. On the day of the stove-top blast, something gummed up the works of the vacuum coffee pot and it exploded. It pelted the uncovered pot of beans on an adjoining burner with coffee grounds, producing a meal that would never be a family favorite.
During my teen years, the explosions kept on coming. One day in high school American literature class, our teacher was pacing rapidly back and forth at the front of the classroom, reciting Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.”
All of a sudden, there was a massive, earth-shaking explosion. The masonry wall behind the teacher visibly moved forward, appearing for a moment to topple toward us and then finally settling back into place.
The ashen-faced teacher said, “I don’t think we should wait for the fire bell.”
We all agreed completely. We beat him out the door to the nearest exit.
As a reporter for the student newspaper, I interviewed one of the firefighters on the scene. He said some imbecile had put a stick of dynamite in the boys’ restroom on the other side of our classroom wall. The blast cleared out every urinal, toilet, sink and stall in that room, but the walls of the room held.
“You’re lucky,” said the fireman. “If the little punk had so much as put a book on that stick of dynamite, it would have magnified the force of the explosion. It could have blown off that wing of the school.”
I thought of that explosion recently and of my mother’s coffee pot bomb because of the bombs placed by other punks at the Boston Marathon last month. Of course it was not the coffee bomb I remembered so much as it was my mother’s pressure cooker. The Boston bombers used explosives placed in pressure cookers to amplify their blast.
I can’t tell you how surreal it is to realize that my mother’s pressure cooker — a tool of motherly love that she used to tenderize our meat and our lives — had been used by the ethically confused to kill fellow human beings.
It’s like learning that a sociopath slit someone’s throat using your mother’s pancake turner.Bill Hall can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 1012 Prospect Ave., Lewiston, ID 83501