In bestowing the latest sensation in "modern" kitchen gadgetry upon my wife and me a few weeks back, my mother-in- law unknowingly delivered on dream I’d first held nearly 40 years ago. I can finally count a pressure cooker among my treasured possessions.
I suppose the first question you might have is mathematical in nature: If this guy has wished for a pressure cooker for 40 years, how old was he when this longing started? The answer is simple enough. I was 14. This, of course, begs the follow-up: What in the name of the late, great Chef-Boyardee would a kid barely capable of buttering his own toast want with a pressure cooker?
This answer requires a bit of background. When I was about to enter high school as a barely 5-foot- tall, hardly 90-pound freshman, athletic prowess and romantic magnetism were both in conspicuously beyond my reach. I turned instead to the great outdoors where I was guided entirely, in month-by- month installments, by Fur-Fish-Game magazine. As an enthusiastically budding, yet largely untutored outdoorsman, I regarded the no-frills outdoor journal as something of a beginner’s manual, textbook and bible rolled into one.
It was from the pages of "FFG" that I learned to set my first muskrat trap, catch snapping turtles with chicken livers and tan squirrel skins with my mom’s Borax laundry detergent. More important to this story, FFG was also where I read a how-to bit on harvesting carp with a bow and arrow.
The piece included a segment on preparing said "barbeled beast of the bottom" as table fare using a pressure cooker and a few choice herbs and spices. In doing so, the article stated, "One might mistake the boney, mud-loving sucker- mouth for one of the finest fillets of the seas."
I set about a summer-long mission of peddling my ten-speed bicycle down to the nearest branch of Sugar Creek where I would spend days chasing the slimy humpbacks from one rickety dirt road bridge to another, desperately trying to get an arrow to penetrate their piscatorial armor. Given my skill level and available equipment the odds were heavily in the fishes’ favor.
One might emulate this level of futility at home by placing a medium-sized dill pickle in the toilet bowl, depressing the flush lever and attempting to stab said pickle with a soda straw before it swirls safely down the chute.
A testament to the unbreakable spirit of a desperate boy with unlimited summer days to waste (and seemingly only one good way to waste them), I finally brought my quarry to shore one sweat-drenched August afternoon. This thing was a monster! It was darn near as long as my leg, and every bit of a dozen pounds. (If the fish sounds a bit slim for its length refer to paragraph three; my leg was maybe a foot-and- a-half long, max.)
It was a sight to behold, indeed I would soon be enjoying the salmon-like splendor of giant, steamed carp fillets! There were just two hurdles to overcome. First, there was the journey home across four miles of tar-bubbled chip-and- seal roads with a 12-pound fish tied to the top tube of my bicycle and a longbow and quiver hung over my shoulder. Then there was the REAL dilemma: How to talk my mother into letting me fill her beloved pressure cooker with a mess of mudfish that by this time was calling every stray cat and turkey vulture within ten miles toward a bucket in my back yard.
"No. Never. No way ever in MY pressure cooker!" Mom snarled. Sensing my heartbreak, however, she offered a small consolation. "But if you want, I will allow you to pack your fish in the freezer until you can come up with a pressure cooker of your own."
The rest of the story is long-glaciated history. Now all I’ve got to do is find that freezer…