How the pressure cooker revolutionized cooking in India

— Discover the comfort of Indian home cooking with Adam D’Sylva, Helly Raichura and Sandeep Pandit on India unplated, Thursdays at 8:00 p.m. on SBS Food and streaming on SBS On Demand. Visit the program page for recipes, articles and more. —

A famous advertisement in India in the 1990s was for a pressure cooker from a local company called Prestige. The advertising jingle is translated in English as: “someone who loves his wife, cannot say no to Prestige”.

Traditionally in India, women are the housewives and it is their job to cook. However, over time, women have entered the workforce, leaving them little or no time to prepare their meals.

In the 90s microwaves and ovens weren’t that common in India, but pressure cookers were and they changed everything by cutting the cooking time in half. As mainstream society continued to view women as cooks, our mothers could come home after a long day at work and make delicious lentil and curry dishes to fill hungry bellies.

“Over the years we have moved to cities countless times and my pressure cooker followed me everywhere.”

You could even hear the collective whistles of hundreds of pressure cookers releasing steam together across the neighborhood, like at the right time.

When I was 12, I baked my first cake in a pressure cooker under the watchful eye of my mother because, unlike an electric oven, pressure cookers can be extremely unstable and are known to explode when not in use. not handled with care.

When my husband and I first moved to Australia, we carried three suitcases and a small box with a precious stove skillfully cocooned covered with several layers of bubble wrap to survive the flight from India.

Having visited Australia for work before, I had difficulty getting lenses in my small serviced apartment. I remember trying to cook yellow lentils in a pot for lunch, which I then ate for dinner because that’s the time it took to soften them on the stovetop. This experience pissed me off, so I made sure I had a pressure cooker this time around. However, imagine my surprise when I found out that the house we rented in Perth had an induction cooker, instead of a gas cooker. My poor pressure cooker was relegated to the back of the kitchen cabinet for not being induction compatible, and we had to move heaven and earth to find a pan that would work on induction.

Eventually we found one, and it wasn’t until I made my first pot of dahl in our tiny apartment and ate it with hot rice, mango pickles, and a generous helping of ghee that I felt settled.


Over the years we have moved to cities countless times and my pressure cooker has accompanied me everywhere. Like most Indian families, I have also put together an army, including a fancy “instant pot” with a few extra tips in its stainless steel sleeve (it runs on electricity).

The pressure cooker was also a lifeline during the lockdown. I can make a comforting dahl or a gravy-based vegetable dish between Zoom calls. The pressure cooker means warm, nutritious food, even on the busiest days, is just moments away.

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