Revisiting the Slow Cooker: America’s Melting Pot
The books made me do it.
In 1975, I bought a copy of The Best Slow Cooker Cookbook Ever, by Natalie Haughton, and soon after, acquired a slow cooker. I produced a few batches of chile and some perfectly ordinary beef stew, kept the mulled cider warm during a Christmas party, and then moved on and left the appliance behind, in the basement of a Boston rental.
In 2005, I bought a copy of Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook by Beth Hensperger and purchased a second slow cooker. I was intrigued by Beth’s recipe for overnight steel cut oats, which works beautifully. I also made a number of pretty good soups and stews and poached whole (small) chickens. But there was something too slow about the slow cooker that made it easy to tuck it away in the back of the cupboard and forget about it. I gave it to a neighbor.
In 2010, The Italian Slow Cooker by Michelle Scicolone inspired me to once again buy a slow cooker. (Three appliances in 35 years? Not too profligate.) I loved a lot of the recipes from this book, and am here to tell you that this humble kitchen appliance is where it’s happening.
Beth Hensperger has gone on to write three more “Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker” titles, for couples, for entertaining, and family favorites. And a quick journey through books for sale online reveals that there are close to 100 slow cooker cookbooks in print, covering just about everything from diabetic diets to Jewish cooking to gluten-free to Christmas parties to cooking for one, two or a multitude. Everyone, it seems, is in the game: Better Homes and Gardens, Pillsbury, Southern Living, Taste of Home, Weight Watchers, American Heart Association, America’s Test Kitchen, Cooking Light, William Sonoma, the “Dummies” and “Everything” series books.
Indeed, 2012 alone has been a very good year for slow cookery, adding at least 26 titles to the field and bringing us a book from crock pot stars Nicole Sparks and Jenna Marwitz, aka The Crockin’ Girls.
We can now travel the world in our slowly simmering pots, with The Italian Slow Cooker and The French Slow Cooker, both by Michelle Scicolone, The Indian Slow Cooker by Anupy Singla, The Mediterranean Slow Cooker by Diane Phillips, and The Mexican Slow Cooker by Deborah Schneider.
If you’re vegetarian or vegan, get your veggies simmering with The Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Judith Finlayson, The Vegan Slow Cooker by Kathy Hester, or Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker Cookbook by Robin Robertson. And even the paleos are trying to keep the lid on things with
The Paleo Slow Cooker by Arsy Vartarian and Paleo Slow Cooking by Chrissy Gower.
For me right now, it’s enough to master the art of making really tasty vegetable stock. The slow cooker does this very nicely. But those recipes for mole, tamales, breakfast risotto, and so many other things are just a book or two away.