Why a Rice Cooker Is Smarter than Me / by Anne

riceIIOne time last quarter I turned the rice cooker off at 15 or 20 minutes, because I was following some instructions in a recipe packet.  When I opened the lid, guess what?  Rice soup.  I turned the cooker back on, panicked that I had “re-set” the rice cooker and was afraid that it wouldn’t stop by itself before making rice crust.  However, it did stop, at the perfect time.  How does this work?

I learned today from Chef KG how a rice cooker is so smart.  Inside the cooker itself, right under where you put the bowl insert (where the rice goes), there is a flat disk that makes contact with the bottom of the bowl insert.  It senses the temperature of the insert itself.  When water is heated, it can only reach a certain temperature before it starts to boil, hence keeping the temperature at a level 212˚.  The boiling water keeps the temperature of the insert constant, as well. 

As the water begins to both evaporate and soak into the rice, there is no longer any water to keep the insert at around 212˚, so it starts to heat up.  The sensor notices this and switches from “cook” to “warm.”  Brilliant!  Much more brilliant than me, the packet-reading instruction follower.

Another tidbit I learned today:  Shiitake mushrooms--are silly.  Yes, that’s like saying salsa sauce.  Shiitake means “shii mushroom.”   This is the department of redundancy department ordering a pound of shii mushroom mushrooms, please, for the department. 

Tidbits taken care of now, I want to reflect on this, the first day of second quarter.  First I’m really seeing how we were coddled last quarter.  It was important to do that.  We needed to focus on knife skills.  We needed to get a sense of what the school was all about.  We needed to pass sanitation and math classes.  Now we’re really getting down to it.  No more Mr. Nice Chefs--although our main teacher, Chef KG, is wonderful.  He’ll push us to greatness with tough love, I hope, but he’s also really funny and personable. 

Second quarter’s first day brings a rumbling of approaching new experiences.  Makes me think of the roaring-train sound that Oklahoma tornadoes make when they’re heading your direction.  Throughout the day they told us everything we’ll be doing in the next 12 weeks.  It’s a lot to process.  Of course, once we get started, it will be one day at a time.  Nothing beyond what any of us can do. 

Even though I’m sure of my work ethic and my proudly earned organization skills, even though I think I know how to “hustle” in the kitchen fairly well, let’s face it.  I am nervous!  At least I’ve got these smarty-pants rice cookers on my side.