Once upon a time, there was a slow cooker named Patience. Patience loved her job and took great pride in providing for her family. She lived in the pantry closet and got a case of the butterflies every time one of her people reached for her handles.
Whenever this happened, she knew she would be filled with nutritious ingredients, and it was her responsibility to be diligent throughout the day and have an irresistible meal ready just in time for dinner. Quite a responsibility, wouldn’t you agree?
The cooler months of the year were her happy time. She was bustling several times a week then, creating hearty soups and stews and fall-apart-tender pot roasts for her family. Sometimes she even worked through the night on a porridge that would get them off to a warm start when the snow was deep.
Patience often thought to herself, “Is there anything better than this? I’m the luckiest little appliance around!”
But then the days started getting longer, and the windows were opened more often. Patience spent days on end in the pantry closet, collecting dust and longing for someone to pick her up when they came looking for something to eat.
Each time, she would whisper, “Just give me a chance, and I could save your summer.” But it seemed as if no one could hear her, because time and time again they passed her up for a can of salmon or a package of noodles—quick fare that didn’t require her diligence or careful touch.
On one particularly desperate day, Patience pleaded with the family’s mom as she gazed at the shelves of the closet. “Don’t you know I can still do great things for you in the summer? I can have dinner waiting for you after all of your warm weather adventures—baseball games, trips to the pool, losing track of time in the garden. I won’t make the house hot, and I don’t require much energy to do my job.
“You could rely on me to get your baked beans safely to the neighborhood cookout. And I’ll cook them just right, so people will be complimenting you all day long. Heck, I’m even happy to make you a dessert if you need one. Just plug me in!”
The mom reached for a cookbook and closed the door. Patience sighed, certain she’d have yet another day off, her pleas fallen on deaf ears.
Suddenly, the mom was back. She grabbed spices, cans of fire-roasted tomatoes, garlic, and…Patience! Skillfully, Mom cut slits in a gorgeous piece of meat and placed a garlic clove in each slit. Then she combined the spices she’d grabbed and gently massaged them onto the garlic-laden meat.
Patience realized: she was getting her chance!
Just then the middle boy of the family breezed into the kitchen. “Whatcha doin’, Mom?” he asked. She responded, “I’m putting together Trader Vic’s Cuban Pork in the slow cooker for dinner tonight. It’s from a cookbook I haven’t used since last winter.”
Patience knew the middle boy had a great appreciation for food, often helping in the kitchen by prepping vegetables and taste-testing spice levels, so she wasn’t surprised when he flipped the cookbook to its front cover to see which one his mom was using. It was Phyllis Quinn’s The Slow Cook Gourmet—one of Patience’s favorites!
Apparently it was one of the middle boy’s favorites, too, as he recognized the picture on the cookbook’s cover as one of the meals he’d loved most when it was snowy and cold outside—the French cassoulet filled with white beans and root veggies. “Yum,” he said.
Patience was at the top of her game that day, performing her duties with proficiency and fortitude. After all, it was her chance to show her family they were silly to have doubted her usefulness just because it had turned warm outside.
And that’s exactly what she did. At dinner that night, everyone raved about how delicious the meal was. But Patience really knew she’d won when she heard the mom comment that she needed to use the slow cooker more often in the summer because it “makes dinner so easy.”
“Yes!” Patience thought.
And so began Patience’s summer job. There wasn’t as much to be done as there had been in the fall and winter, but she was happy just to do her part, whether it was cooking the Cuban pork recipe another couple of times or simmering some taco filling to be used with the fresh tomatoes and lettuce from her family’s garden.
And oh the joy Patience felt on that cool, rainy summer day when the dad filled her with everything needed for Nick Armstrong’s Drunken Chicken Green-Chili Chili, from the cookbook he wrote with Patrick Earvolino and Michael Adams, Men in Kitchens: A Good Day to Dine Hard. Everyone agreed that the delicious combination of chicken, beans, and spices hit the spot perfectly on a day like that. Patience was filled with pride and satisfaction from a job well done.
As the days grew shorter and she heard discussion of school supplies, Patience realized that summer was coming to an end, and her busy season was approaching. Though she never heard anyone say the words, she knew she’d saved her family’s summer. Better yet, she knew she wouldn’t have to dread the approach of next summer. She’d proven her versatility, and she was giddy with excitement over what next year would bring.
And from that day on, they all lived happily after. 🙂
Image from Phyllis Quinn.