अनिल एकलव्य ⇔ Anil Eklavya

April 25, 2013

A Great Friend of Humanity: In Praise of a Mere Utensil

Filed under: Uncategorized — anileklavya @ 3:33 am

To be more precise, not just an utensil (though it can serve as that), but a device. No, not an I.E. Device, but a common cooking device.

One of the latest targets of the newest witch hunts is something called a pressure cooker. Photos of a destroyed pressure cooker have been all over the screens and papers of the world. They are almost presented as the photos of a monster.

The other day, that great conman of the 21st century who holds the title of the President of the US of A (not that most of the rest are any better), was giving another one of his precious speeches in which he said solemnly and seriously that the surviving accused —

Let us repeat it together: The surviving – accused. Accused.

Repeat the last part once more: Accused.

Or, alternatively: The suspect.

Or, another alternative: The alleged perpetrator.

Repeat the second last part: Alleged.

(This repetition excercise is courtesy another famous president, famous at least in my part of the world).

– So the great conman president was telling the world that any time bombs are used against innocent civilians (presumably for political purposes, though he didn’t say that), it is an act of terror. Two days later, I heard on the news that the accused has been charged with “using weapons of mass destruction”.

For a moment I actually thought that I was in South Park.

But South Park is a much saner place.

A brave journalist (citing the above statement) did, in fact, question the White House spokesman (shame! shame! what an office to hold!) about whether the US considers its bombing in Afghanistan carried out only a few days earlier, that killed 14 children and a woman, i.e., innocent civilians, (presumably for political purposes, thought she didn’t say so) an act of terror. The spokesman gave the kind of moronic reply that only spokesmen, PR guys and morons can give.

Fifteen is five times three. If you are allowed to say that two plus two is four.

Anyway, all that is not very relevant to the topic of this article. The theme, or rather the protagonist, of this article is the utensil, the cooking device called a pressure cooker. Animals can’t speak for themselves, but they can still express some feelings and reactions. A pressure cooker cannot even do that. It is not even a living being. It is not even an entity. It is a type that represents individual pressure cookers such as the one you have been seeing (in a mutilated condition) for the last so many days.

But the need of the hour is that we talk about a type as an entity. Sometimes that is necessary. For example, we talk about the common man. Almost everyone does. At least they do in India, where I am from, which is very relevant to the current theme. They do, even though there is no ‘the common man’, as many wise men keep pointing out. Still, it sometimes makes sense to pretend that there is. Similarly, we can talk about ‘the pressure cooker’, when we are actually talking about a type. And it is more justified in this case, because ‘the pressure cooker’ is much more like ‘a pressure cooker’ than ‘the common man’ is like ‘a common man’.

So, let’s get on with it.

Pressure Cooker for Dummies

What is a pressure cooker? It is a cooking device that is shaped like an utensil (it is an utensil, at least a part of it is an utensil). It is used to cook a wide variety of home cooked food (and even some non-home cooked). It is an utensil with a lid. The top of the utensil and the bottom of the lid are made in such a way that the lid can be screwed on to the utensil that holds the item to be cooked. The lid requires a washer (a ‘gasket’) to be inserted in it, before it can be screwed on to the utensil. The washer makes the pressure cooker air tight: It prevents the water vapour from escaping from the utensil. The part of the science behind the pressure cooker is based on the famous Gas Laws, which are primarily based on the (very aptly named) Boyl’s Law and the Charles’ Law. One of the basic ideas is that as the temperature of the item in the cooker increases, since the volume and the mass remain constant (as the water vapour cannot escape), the pressure goes up. High pressure means faster cooking. But that is not all. The other basic idea is that water boils at higher temperature at higher pressure. That means that, inside the pressure cooker, since the water boils at higher temperature, the cooking items can be heated up to a higher temperature, which also greatly helps cooking.

So what can happen if the pressure cooker is left unattended and the pressure goes too high? Not to worry. Every pressure cooker’s anatomy (and physiology) consists of another important part, that is, the safety valve. When the pressure reaches a carefully set limit for which it was designed, the safety valve lets some of the steam out, thereby avoiding the possibility of the cooker being blown up. Just like a circuit breaker prevents an electric device from catching fire.

Pressure Cooker for Grown Ups (Reader Discretion Strongly Advised)

Why is it important to defend, indeed, praise this device about which the current consensus seems to be that it is dangerous device? A weapon of mass destruction!

Take a fucking sanity check, you morons!

The pressure cooker is a great friend of humanity.

To digress just a little bit, not everyone has been calling to execute the pressure cooker. There have been many who have defended it. However, sadly, some of them have put it in the same category as guns. They are saying, they are in fact petitioning, that: “Don’t ban pressure cookers. Don’t ban guns.”

Now, in an ideal world, I would like not to have any guns or bombs or anything of the sort. But since we don’t live in an ideal world, I am prepared to discuss why guns should not be banned. Still, even in practice, in the present world, I personally favour gun control, based on common sense. But the point is that I am prepared to discuss whether they should be banned or not. I am unlikely to change my opinion though, for reasons on which we can’t spend the precious space here.

But putting guns and pressure cookers in the same category? No way! They have hardly anything in common.

I won’t talk about guns, but I will about the poor, much maligned pressure cooker that is such a boon to a large population of the world. And to the planet.

Here is why.

Because of the way it is designed and the science behind it, it is not only quite safe to use, but is actually a device that is beneficial to humanity in many different ways.

It is a great energy conservator. What would have required 10x of energy to cook, needs only 3x or may be just one 1x, depending on what you are cooking. Not exact numbers, but good indicators.

It is a great option for saving time. The same numbers apply as for energy, more or less.

Since it keeps everything inside it, it serves two other important purposes. First, less smell escapes, so that the neighbours will feel less envy. Or disgust, depending on the tastes and customs. Second, since less smell escapes, it is preserved in the cooked food. The food tastes and smells better. Now, some might not agree with the last part and there are indeed charms associated with, say, cooking on an old style wood-burning ‘choolha’, but such things are hardly practical in the cities.

It is also not very expensive. It costs less than a microwave. At least it does in the places where it is used the most.

And where is it used the most? That is a very pertinent and, dare I say, a burning question.

It is used in the poorest countries of the world. It is used, for example, in the whole of South Asia. So much so, that no South Asian kitchen (provided there is a kitchen and the kitchen owners can afford to buy it) is complete without a pressure cooker. If there is any one single item most commonly associated with cooking in modern South Asia, it is the cook’s best friend, the pressure cooker.

And I believe it is used in many other parts of the world. In countries of the South. The East. The Third World.

Plotting to deprive the Third World (and parts of the Second World) of the one common luxury that it has? It is criminal and diabolical, to say the least.

In the First World countries too, the pressure cooker might be one of the common denominators among the people whose origins lie in the the Third World.

There is always a need to find innovative ways to express as well as practice some time honoured traditions like racism and discrimination. An enemy has to be found. The enemy is mostly based on the race or some such criterion. But the enemy has to appear as race-neutral for reasons of political correctness. This time it is the poor pressure cooker.

Of course, as indicated above, there are vast numbers in the Third World who can’t even afford to buy a pressure cooker. But those who can, do. Because it is an essential item in the kitchen, often the first cooking utensil that is bought when a house starts becoming a home.

The pressure cooker saves money for people who earn relatively less (and even for those who earn a lot). It conserves energy, thereby reducing the greenhouse gas emission, the CO2 footprint. It saves time and thereby makes people more productive. It encourages better nutrition because those who are lazy can still quickly cook something if they have a pressure cooker at hand.

And to top it all, the pressure cooker’s existence is perhaps one of the few (or may be the only) redeeming features of that infernal activity called bauxite mining.

Take a look inside your girehbaans, you murdering scoundrels!

But pressure cooker can even be made from steel. And when it is, it not only deprives the bauxite industry of its redemption, it can be also be used with an induction heater. The pair together save even more energy.

The only negative side that I can think of is related to washing it. Washing it is somewhat more cumbersome than washing a microwave glass bowl.

I have been living alone for the last decade. I am known to be very negligent about food. So people, that is, family members, keep asking me about food. I have an elder brother. I have met him rarely in more than a decade, but whenever we meet, he advises me about using the pressure cooker to quickly cook something to ensure that the body gets at least the minimum that it needs. Before coming to France, and also when he once came to France after I came here, he stressed this point. He even advises me about how to use it in such a way that the neighbours (of the First World) are not scared by the (safety valve’s) whistle that the pressure lets out from time to time. (In India, we are all very much used to it). He does that, of course, because he is concerned about my nutrition and health. He is a highly qualified doctor by training. And a very good one. And he is telling from his experience, because he has travelled much more than me and has lived in even more places than me.

I haven’t followed his advise here. But that is at my own peril. The point is that I know the value of the pressure cooker. If I had it here, I would have eaten better.

So what about the dangers it is purported to pose to the community? Well, there can indeed be rare occasions when an old pressure cooker ‘blows up’. It did actually happen once when I was a teenager, almost in my sight. Fortunately, no one was injured. But that didn’t stop us from using it.

When I bought my first microwave some years ago, I once put something in it — a ‘paapad’ and what happened? It (the ‘paapad’) caught fire, which was easily put out as I was right in front of it at that time. But that didn’t stop me from using it. And everyone knows what can happen if you put a metal utensil in a microwave, something much more likely to happen in countries where the microwave is still a novelty.

Earlier it was the pagdi. Then it was the burka. Now they have got hold of the pressure cooker. They keep getting nastier and nastier.

While pagdi and burka were specific to certain communities (also from the Third World), the pressure cooker casts a much wider net. And, as detailed above, there is hardly anything rational to said against it. And a lot that can be said in favour of it.

Don’t let them get away with it.

A Very Boring and Unoriginal Excercise for the Reader

Who used the world’s first most famous weapon of mass destruction against innocent civilians? The one and only time it was used?

Which countries used chemical weapons extensively against each other, so much so that they had to be banned?

Who possesses the most weapons in the world and sells most of them? Each infinitely more dangerous than a pressure cooker BOMB, let alone a mere pressure cooker?

(The Writer is evading the question about who buys most of those dangerous weapons).

In the last one month, or one year, or one decade, or one century, how many have been killed by a pressure cooker BOMB, let alone a mere pressure cooker, a cooking device?

And how many have been killed in the last month, just one month alone by US made and US delivered BOMBS (with some other former empires pitching in), which had nothing whatsoever to do with the pressure cooker?

Given the quality of what is shown on TVs these days, if someone were to make a bomb using one of them (out of mere frustration from watching them), should TVs be banned?

(If you say that they should be banned anyway, even if they are not used as a bomb, you have the writer’s sympathy).

Just a Few Questions for the Really Grown Ups

Can TVs and other such devices be used as weapons of mass destruction? Even without them being used as BOMBS or even as detonators? Are they already being used as such? If yes, should they be banned?

Who is using them?

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