Friday, February 24, 2012

Life in a Kettle

I shared a post I made in class with a friend and she suggested I blog it. I don’t know if it’s something that would be helpful to anyone or not, but I figured what the heck?

pressure cooker? by ~rikaige

I’ve had what a lot of people would call a pretty unbelievable life. I am often told there is no way one person could have gone through and in fact LIVED through much of what I “claim” to have experienced. It left me wondering if everyone else in the world just lived terribly boring lives, and if so, how the heck do I get one of those? Then I remembered a memoir style essay I wrote a few years back, and it made sense. 

It was about cooking with a pressure cooker, which I love. In under an hour, a pressure cooker can turn a tough piece of meat into the most tender and juicy meal ever. They are pretty freakin awesome. My family has always cooked with one, so when I moved out of my house (at 17) the first purchase I made was my very own pressure cooker. 

This seriously frustrated my husband, because they scare him…mostly because of his experiences with me cooking with them. They are dangerous tools and can and will explode if not used carefully. You have to be patient, precise, and you have to follow all the rules and steps with them to keep them from sending stew all over your kitchen. 

Within a few months of owning my first one, it exploded, and meat rained from the ceiling for over an hour as I scrubbed and sobbed. It even put a sizable dent in the fridge. So I bought another one, and it lasted a few months as well. The next one a little longer. They didn’t always explode, but they always stopped working; either the lid wouldn’t fasten after a few uses, or the rubber gasket would dry out, or the pressure gage would stop jiggling. 

Always something. 

My father found out about these incidents, and he'd call and laugh at me a little and poke fun every time. Eventually, he called me over to teach me how to use a pressure cooker and how to cook lamb ribs. A lot of women would have been offended by this -- her father wanting to teach her how to survive in a kitchen when she already knows how to cook, but I liked spending time with my dad and listening to his stories. When I got there, he pulled out his pressure cooker…which he has had since 1972. He showed me the little dated booklet that came with it and everything. All those years, decades, one freakin pressure cooker. Then he walked me through using it, and I swear it was like watching a master craftsman at work. It was this...precise, careful, reverent process from beginning to end. Everything perfect. Everything timed. The antithesis of chaos, which is I live my life.

It struck me in the middle of this instruction not just why my pressure cookers kept exploding, but why I lived like a badly cared for pressure cooker--just a matter of time until I was scraping bits of myself up and starting over, again and again. And my dad, who has always been very careful and measured, and mindful, has managed to “make it” in every way. In every way successful, his life totally in order. 

It was kinda crushing seeing that my life would probably always be that chaotic and explosive...and completely opposite of what my father wanted for me. And realizing that I should just buy a crock-pot and learn to start dinner around breakfast time. 

I was just a crock-pot girl trying desperately to be a pressure cooker woman.

I think a lot of people have experienced many of the same things that I have gone through, but their perception of those events likely weighed them as mundane and forgettable. I think it’s a writer’s ability to put their own unique perspective on the things we all experience that makes what they have to say important and worthwhile. And I think those unique perspectives are what separates one writer’s telling of a tried and true idea from another’s.


Gina Greenway said...

I started scrolling through blogs to catch up on my assignments and came across this. Thinking I didn't have time to do anything not 'homework related,' I nearly passed it by. So glad i didn't.

I love this - how you used, what seemed at first, a simple and tragically funny story as a metaphor for your life and how it veered from what you believe your father wanted from you. Your love and respect for your father permeate this story. I was charmed. .

Rhonda JJ said...

I loved reading this when you posted it in the forums! But I think you make such a valid point, and you do so beautifully. We often do try to fit into certain molds because we're often told that's where we should be and what we should be doing. Not fitting in that mold is frustrating and we feel like failures being watched through everyone elses' eyes. It's only when we start to be honest with ourselves that we find the value in those that are different and our own differences. Great post!

Gene said...

I think I know how you feel. I am just under 31 years old and at work today a co-worker was making fun of me because I am "Old and still in school," which got me to thinking about my life. In my 30 years I have had twenty two jobs, ten cars, two engagements, one marriage, one divorce, one bankruptcy, been committed to a mental hospital, got arrested for something that I did not do (the charges were dropped when they realized it was not me), I have been hit by a car on four different occasions, survived three tornadoes and one roll over car accident, started two different businesses only to have them fail months later, I have attended three universities and have had five majors.
With all that has happened to me I am undaunted and continue to forge on, slowly coming closer to my goals. Life never really goes the way that we think it should.

Kathleen Calhoun said...

LOL! Gene's life sounds like yours Nikki ^.^ Have you been arrested for anything you didn't do? Not yet?

I love this story too. You need to post more like it.