On my Christmas holiday home visit my mother gleefully shows off her new slow cooker.
‘You’ll like this modern gadget , you with your new ideas – just leave the pot on all day and it cooks over a light bulb. It really saves money – you should buy one.’
After several light bulb cooked stews, we sit down to evening meals with dread. The slow cooker is renamed the slop pot as mother slops in food in the morning, switches on the light bulb, leaves it all day and slops out the food onto our plates at night. As my home visit progresses, the slop pot stores a magic brew of recycled, old food.
‘There’s no need to waste anything – you just add to the pot.’
How can I tell her about salmonella and other poisonings?
It is no surprise that lumps of Sunday’s roast lamb appear in Thursday’s shin of beef stew along with pieces of roast potato and brussels sprouts. Over the weeks her sloppot recipes become more adventurous.
Her other toy is the new chest freezer, stuffed full of frozen fruit and vegetables from her garden and reduced food with yellow stickers from Sainsburys. One day, in a hurry to shop on Leicester market, she slops into the pot a bag of frozen chopped carrots.
The light bulb does its best to defrost the vegetables, but we meekly eat frozen carrot chunks that night.
‘Never mind’, she says, ‘I can heat it properly for tomorrow!’
My mother was too fierce for any criticism. She had been known to throw her cooking tools on the floor and storm out if we suggested that something was too cold, or raw.
‘You can cook next time!’ she shouts. But my bowl of tossed salad is greeted with – ‘Mucking up good food!’
Slow cookers soon became the rage, and in the thrifty seventies, saving fuel bills is important.
But then the slow cooker hits the headlines. The new cook on the Evening Standard, Delia Smith, uses raw kidney beans for chilli con carne.
‘Tip the dried beans into the mince, and leave it to cook during the day.’
But she’s wrong.
The raw beans must be boiled for 10 minutes to destroy their natural toxin. Other wise you’ll get sickness and diarrhoea and feel really, really poorly.
Some may blame it on the new ingredients – chillis – but really it’s Delia – what will become of her? What will the future hold for Ms Smith?