Go here. Go there. But wherever you go and whatever you do, go as fast as possible. If the speed limit is 70 mph, go 75 or 80. The need is always for speed. I don’t know what 5G is, but I know it’s fast. Give me that! Give me! Give me! Explosive download speeds? Sign me up. DoorDash here, Dart there, send the silver drone over with my online purchase! Go, Grubhub, go!
The moment of enlightenment came when I was out of Jiffy pancake mix. I could no longer make pancakes in a jiffy and had to make them from scratch. It’s not a complicated recipe: Put various quantities of baking powder, milk, sugar, salt, oil and flour into a bowl and stir. You’re not going to believe this, but they tasted so much better than Jiffy pancakes. My entire family agreed on this point. So what I’m about to tell you is going to be counterintuitive: Instant is not always best.
I confess that at first I couldn’t accept the truth my taste buds were telling me. Decades of marketing and advertising are to blame for this, and I needed to reprogram my senses. When I went for walks, I would repeat over and over, “Betty Crocker isn’t real.” When she boasted, “Just add an egg,” I considered what she was taking away — my freedom to slow down. I went into the business of life hoping to walk it at a leisurely pace, so why was I sprinting now? Instant karma had already got me, but since that moment I made homemade pancakes, I have worked hard to free myself from its clench — and you can, too.
Freedom to slow down begins with tossing Betty and her kind out of your house. That includes instant hot chocolate, frozen dinners, instant potatoes, soup, pudding, rice, coffee, oatmeal, and anything that is advertised as a liquified complete breakfast that can be finished in three gulps.
For every one cup of instant cocoa, substitute the equivalent mantra: “I have time to cook and stir over a slow-burning flame cocoa, milk and sugar.” And allow time, not the defrost feature of your microwave, to dethaw the frozen hamburger on the counter. Actually, you and I know that no one knows how to use the defrost feature of a microwave. That last part is called “literary license.”
It turns out instant food does not fortify your soul. Instead of ripping the package on that instant oatmeal pouch, go the other extreme and make it in a slow cooker that takes seven hours to cook. Seven hours, not one minute. This will feel insane. But what is actually insane is cooking oatmeal in a minute. The need for speed has killed your perspective. What is right is very wrong. Tang should not go into your body, even if it offers 100% of your daily vitamin C needs. Much better is to slurp the sweetly sour juice from a halved navel orange.
The Dutch, who invented my wonderful Dutch oven, would agree that time bubbling up slowly is the special ingredient that makes food taste amazing. Google “Instant Pot versus Dutch oven” and, lo and behold, all the chefs worth their salt say that recipes cooked in a Dutch oven are superior.
So place the pot on the stove and marvel at the creation process. And everything else you’re about to do — when you can — put it on simmer. And enjoy.
INSTANTLY WISE SLOW COOKER OATMEAL
Time: 7 or 8 hours.
2 cups old-fashioned steel-cut oatmeal. Do NOT use quick-cooking oats.
4 1/2 cups of water
Before bed, pour water and oatmeal into a slow cooker set on low.
Go to bed.
Put hot, creamy oatmeal into a bowl. If you desire, stir in a little milk or half-and-half. Add favorite toppings.
Gregory Greenleaf lives in Harpswell and teaches high school English. He ascribes, prescribes and subscribes to many old-fashioned ideas, but especially Charles Dickens’ observation that “There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.”