I regret to admit that internet advertising works on me. I wish it weren’t true, but my brain forms a false familiarity with things it sees enough times, even in stupid sidebar ads. Like — oh hey, there’s the sassy gal with the work slacks that are also yoga pants, biking to the office under a clear autumn sky. She’s such a hard worker! There she is again, lunging effortlessly for her desk phone. So efficient! And there, rolling her chair across her office, uninhibited by plackets or seams. Smooth! Soon enough I’m thinking, maybe I need yoga work pants for my busy lifestyle, just like her.
I work in a bookstore, but I guess we could make room for yoga over near the spirituality section. Is “fitness reading” a thing? Maybe it’s one of those combos that’s catching on, like karaoke bowling or barbershop cinema or flowershop wine bars.
Honestly though, combination activities don’t appeal much to me, because I do not excel at multi-tasking. I tend to plow full-brain into one thing at a time. That might be why the ad for a slow-cooker really stuck with me. I saw it once. I saw it twice. I saw it a third time — and hey, there’s the slow-cooker again, filling that person’s kitchen with so much warm chicken-stew goodness while requiring so few simultaneous tasks. Think of it: one pot, a whole dinner! No juggling of multiple pans and calculating different cooking times. I’d never had one before (we were wed in the year of the rice steamer; I have four of those), but I began to feel the lack of this appliance in my life. I needed one.
My problem was fear. The lady in the slow-cooker picture always looks ecstatic to inhale the aroma of her supper in her immaculately clean kitchen. She’s not at all afraid of a house fire, like I am. You’re supposed to put food in there, plug it in, and then walk away, letting it cook for hours while no one watches? And no one’s worried about fire? Whenever I see a piece on the news about a house fire, I always wonder if the unspoken story behind the story is that someone in that home started up a pork loin 8 hours earlier and then just left the damn thing sizzling on their countertop all day.
But after giving it a great deal of thought — as I do when talking myself into something — I decided maybe slow-cookers weren’t causing all those fires. I mean, if they were, we’d hear about it, right? I’m pretty sure women are the leading users of slow-cookers, and you know the media loves to pin things on women whenever they can. Worthless Female Refuses to Use Two Pots, Sets Fire to Kitchen. Or Shiftless Slattern Leaves Pot Roast Unattended, Ignites Cabinetry. God help you if you’re a working woman. Stone-wombed Career Gal Sets Condo Ablaze. And if it were me? Well, I’m a writer. So: Busy With Witchcraft, Songstress Ignores Flames.
The more I thought about it, the more I extra-wanted the slow-cooker, so I could use it to say “fuck all those stereotypes,” but well… when I finally surrendered to the ad and bought one, the first thing I cooked was grits. I know. Southern girl makes grits — how unique. I bet you wonder if I made collards next. No, I did not, but thank you for asking. Just an enormous vat of grits. (I do wish I had gotten the 3-quart model instead of the 6-quart, though. Six is too many quarts of food.)
Because I’m obviously more of a cliché than I like to think I am, I guess if I did burn down my house, the story would have to follow one of two forms:
(A) The Southern Gothic scenario: That’s where the whole house burns down and becomes a creepy cautionary tale to families everywhere who ought to beware their wicked womenfolk. “I heard she killed them all with one pot,” the cross-eyed old gas station attendant will tell the travelers who pass through. “They say the soil around the old place is . . . gritty.” And, “If you listen, when the wind blows, you can hear the trees creak: ‘Dammit, y’all.’”
(B) The Steel Magnolia Fried Green Tomato Designing Women scenario: That’s where I notice the flames and start flapping around, dashing off on a madcap spree around the house, gathering all the half-drunk glasses of bourbon and sweet tea and splashing them on the fire. It would be a real riot, right up to the poignant part of the story, when a very special dog named Skeet dies in the smoke while saving a neighbor’s baby from the fire.
Somehow it would probably be a little of both, in keeping with family tradition, as I am descended from women who know their silver and their liquor and their adverbs and their cusswords and their squirrel traps, all equally. So when I imagine burning my home to the ground, I imagine it being a tragicomedy of great depth and breadth. Lazy Trollop Burns Down House, Both Horribly and Hilariously.
Anyway. All the recipes I found for slow-cooked grits said to start your grits before you went to bed, let them cook overnight, and then wake up to a delicious breakfast. I decided to cook mine during the day, so I wouldn’t spend my night having fire nightmares. But to ease myself into the fear factor, I did leave for work while they were cooking.
As I microwaved my tea in the bookstore kitchenette, I found myself wishing I had one of those remote baby monitor apps on my phone, so I could dial into my kitchen and see live video of my slow-cooker doing its thing. Not that it could do me all that much good. What was I going to do if I saw smoke on the screen? “HANG ON, DON’T BURN, MAMA’S COMING.”
I ended up going back home midway through the day to give my grits a stir and to satisfy my fire-curiosity. Everything was fine. By the end of the 6-hour cooking time, they tasted as good as if I’d stood over them at the stove for an hour, but with more time and less effort, which is the American way. Plus: no fire.
I am very happy with my new grits method, although the truth is I half-wanted them to turn out badly. That way, I could say, Ah-HA! I’ll never pay attention to internet ads again! Instead, now I wonder what else might be waiting off to the side of my newsfeed to change my life. Maybe those stretchy yoga work trousers? I’ll certainly need them if I eat all six quarts of these grits.
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