Not long ago, on the advice of a well-wisher, I purchased a rice cooker. Being of limited means, I felt lucky to find one in a local thrift store: complete, intact, and at a bargain price. It even had an air of retro-charm about it.
I found instructions online, and used it several times without incident. It took about 15 minutes to cook a small (1-2 cup) batch of rice, plus the requisite 15-minute waiting period for the steaming-somewhere between the wait for a Polaroid photograph and that for a handgun purchase, but much closer to the former. No glitches or worries at all-until last night.
I had chicken stir-fry on the menu, and I was feeling a bit distracted, so I set up the cooker. Otherwise I would have to “baby-sit” the rice on the stovetop, which just felt a little too complicated. So-1 part rice, 2 parts water-check; spray cookpot with non-stick stuff-check; rice and water in cookpot-check; plug in, turn on-check; go on with life-check.
Until I smelled it.
A very peculiar, particular odor.
Not of rice cooking, or any food at all.
Plastic. I smelled melting plastic. That was not steam coming from the hot water in the cooker; no, it hadn’t been plugged in for more than a couple of minutes. That was smoke, coming from the narrow gap between the cookpot and the outer shell of the cooker. I unplugged the thing and, hoping to salvage what was already in there, fished around in the cupboard for a clean saucepan.
By the time I found one, crucial seconds had passed, in which time the now-unplugged rice cooker had started doing an altogether strange thing for an unplugged rice cooker to do-it was cooking the rice. The billowing clouds were now definitely steam, and the burning-plastic smell was accompanied by a cooking-rice aroma. The Family, now aware that something was amiss in the kitchen, was both reassured that I had unplugged the misbehaving device and amazed at its tenacity. I let the thing be until it cooled down a bit, then went to transfer the rice to the saucepan so I could finish cooking it on the stove. By now, maybe five minutes had elapsed since the whole escapade began; from the time I plugged it in to the time I unplugged it again was maybe two minutes.
What do you think I found in the cooker?
would you believe…
It’s true. It needed maybe another minute’s worth of heat to soak up the last of the water. It was delicious. I wish I’d taken a picture.
And now my humble kitchen is haunted by the specter…
…of the EviL RiCe CoOkEr Of DoOm!!!