Monday, March 18, 2013
Cooking (and writing) Under Pressure
There was a time when pressure cooking was a daunting task. My grandmother once answered the doorbell, leaving her cooker unattended a minute too long. The blown lid and asparagus spears impaled in the kitchen ceiling left a lasting impression on me. But today’s pressure cookers have safety features that even Ralph Nadir can appreciate. Two extra ways for surplus steam to escape, preventing an explosion, are reassuring.
My laptop has its own way of preventing disasters. It saves what I’m working on even if the battery peters out abruptly. Usually it graciously asks me, the next time I open up Word, if I want to save what it has kept safe for me under those emergency situations. Hell yeah, I want it saved!
For me, technology is at once wondrous and intimidating. I’m grateful for it and yet I have an almost irrational fear of it sometimes. I want changes to be easy, intuitive and user friendly. That allows my focus to stay on being creative, not spending time navigating a learning curve. If I want to communicate, entertain or be entertained, please don’t hand me a new remote control, a smart phone, or a new generation of Windows operating system. Keep it safe, predictable and simple.
I’m nostalgic about manual typewriters as evidenced by my continued habit of hitting the keys so hard I knocked my question mark off one day. Admittedly, I don’t have a bittersweet longing for the mess of an ancient blown pressure cooker, just as I don’t look back fondly on the smears and smudges of carbon paper. But I still wax sentimental about my old IBM Selectric with the handy-dandy white corrective tape. Those whacking keys created a rhythmic tap dance that proved to the whole household I was diligently working on my next short story. The instant product that slowly rolled out was reassuring. In contrast, what could be less safe and more horrifying than the possibility of a chapter eaten when you accidently hit Delete instead of Control X and don’t catch it in time to use the Undo?
Early in my marriage I put off buying a pressure cooker for a while because it was something new and quite different than the no-brain slow cooker or the Dutch oven. But I gave in then studied the manual. With my writing tools, I’ve succumb to advancements that are obviously inevitable; I’ve grudgingly lagged only a few generations behind computer advances. If my husband wasn’t an engineer, I might still be using Word Star with green type. OK I might have advanced to amber. Maybe.
The evolution from manual typewriter to portable laptop to the iPad’s touch keyboard seems very much like that of the advancement in pressure cookers. The comparison works on other levels. Once mastered, pressure cooking is easy, and it saves energy and time, not to mention tenderizing the cheapest cuts of meat. Who doesn’t love spell check? Obvious to anybody who learned on an old-fashioned typewriter, the computer, too, is easier and saves energy and time. I can’t imagine typing my novel over and over for each new draft, even typing an entire page again after spotting a few needed edits. Or inking up my hands with carbon paper. Or having to thumb through the dictionary every 2,000 words. Did I say I love spell check?
Cooking and writing both take good doses of devotion, dreams, inventiveness, inspiration and patience. That’s a lot to juggle. I want changing technology to be the least of my worries. Please make it as user friendly and as full-proof as my pressure cooker. And don’t mess with my spell check. --- so warns Inkpot