That's A 'Crock,' Part 2: Eating My Words
The gift card read: “Because I had to make a believer out of you.” Inside the heavy box sat a shiny, new slow-cooker. Less than a week after I’d confessed my deep distrust of them here, my friend Renée Joslyn, down in sunny Miami, sent me one of my very own.
As freezing rain fell atop a layer of snow in Charlotte, schools and businesses closed. With an unexpected day off, I perused the recipe book that came with the appliance. Pork butt, chicken thighs, pot roast; I had none of these on hand. The garden thermometer was covered in ice that I scraped away to see the dial at 25 degrees. Footage of autos careening into each other like bumper cars filled the newscasts.
So I went to the pantry, checked the freezer, looked again at the book, and determined the only recipe I could even approximate was…succotash. And it would take five hours to cook.
Lima beans, corn, onions, tomatoes: check. Salt, pepper, thyme: check. Zucchini? Nope. I substituted cauliflower, added a can of black beans, threw in some parsley; then with reckless abandon poured in a handful of jasmine rice. Rice wasn’t mentioned even once in the book.
I texted a picture to Renée. She messaged back, “Whatcha cookin’? More importantly, are you going to write a postscript?”
Here’s the thing about Renée: A smart and accomplished food pro I’ve known since high school, we lost touch as adults and just reconnected a few years back. Since then she’s been not-so-subtly pushing me to do more writing, and took me with her to the “Eat, Write, Retreat” food-writers’ conference not long ago.
So when I answered her text she replied, “Then my work here is done
But an hour later nothing was happening in the slow-cooker. At two hours I saw condensation inside. Three hours in, I could smell the onions cooking. At four hours, the urge to lift the lid and stir the pot was overpowering. But the book, not to mention my faithful Facebook friends, warned me doing so meant I’d need to add at least another hour to the cooking time.
I couldn’t stand the suspense. With a half-hour left, I cracked open the lid, gave the pot a stir and dug out a spoonful of my concoction. It tasted just fine, which is to say that after I added a little Cajun spice and rice-wine vinegar, it tasted pretty much like any other mélange of vegetables, beans, and rice I’d ever made.
Ice pelted the windows as the slow-cooker finished its work. Thick clouds blanketed the city and temperature never climbed above freezing all day. Grateful that if the power went out, we’d have something already cooked that would last a few days, I packed the black bean succotash into containers.
And as I did, I’d swear I could feel – and see, if I closed my eyes – rays of warmth beaming their way to Charlotte, all the way from Florida. You could say it made me a believer, after all.