I saw a post on copperbadge’s tumblr about an exploded pressure cooker, which prompted me to write up a memory from my youth.
My grandmother had a big house down on Cape Cod where she lived during the summer, and my family would generally go down a couple of times a summer. This particular time, I’d invited my best friend E along as well.
One evening, my grandmother decided to make pot roast for dinner. (You can see where this is going, right?)
I should say in my own defense that I know essentially nothing about how to cook large hunks of meat. At home such things were roasted, either in the oven or on my dad’s kettle grill (aka the best way). It may in fact be possible to cook large hunks of meat in a pressure cooker and not have it end up inedible. I just don’t know.
My grandmother stuck the pot roast and some water into the pressure cooker, closed it, stuck it on a burner, and turned the heat on.
And walked away.
Most of us were sitting out on the back porch watching the sunset. At some point we noticed that in addition to the salt smell of the water below, there was a rather different smell coming from the house. The pressure cooker had gone completely dry — maybe it hadn’t been sealed correctly — and the object within was burned black.
I have no idea whether it ever occurred to my grandmother that not serving the pot roast was an option. In any event, served it was. I think we must have gotten the smoke out of the house by the time dinner was served, because I have no memory of smelling smoke during dinner. Or maybe there was still smoke in the air, but my sensory memory of that meal was entirely and completely overshadowed by the bite or two of dry, gritty, burned material boldly masquerading as pot roast. My mother told me later that my friend E gave her a look and whispered, “Do I have to eat it?” to which my mother (a reasonable person) whispered “No!” in response. My father, dutiful son that he was, ate his entire portion.
I think my grandmother must have gone to bed early, because once she was out of the picture the rest of us piled into the car and salved our poor taste buds with the sweetness of ice cream.
And according to my mother, when she and my father woke up the next morning, the first words out of his mouth (before he said “Good morning” or “I love you” or anything) were, “That was, without a doubt, the very worst meal I have ever eaten.”