Over 10 years ago, my alma mater, the Penn Quakers, played the Florida Gators in the 1st round of the NCAA basketball tournament. Although Florida and Pennsylvania are about as easterly as states can be, for some reason they were assigned to the West region. The opening round was played in Seattle, so I got to watch the game.
During the warm-ups, we and the Florida fans taunted each other. We shouted, “Tastes like chicken.” (Gee, I'm sure they never heard that one before.) After a moment, they responded with, “Tastes like oatmeal.” Knowing a good line when we heard one, we laughed and applauded.
What does any of this have to do with cooking? Well, this week I made oatmeal in a crockpot. Which I'd always been told improved it immensely. However, as far as I'm concerned, it still tastes like oatmeal. I'm not even bothering with a picture this week, because it also looks like oatmeal.
Last week's cookbook draw gave me In Good Time, a Weight Watchers cookbook composed entirely of slow cooker recipes. I've never had good luck with my crockpot. I got it as a wedding present, as I suppose many do, and I loved the idea of it. Who wouldn't want to throw a few ingredients into the pot in the morning, set it to low, and come home to dinner ready to eat that night? I certainly would...if I could just get something to come out tasting other than mushy and/or sawdusty. I swear meats cooked in the crockpot manage to be soupy and dry at the same time.
I think the problem is most crockpot recipes call for 6-8 hours of cooking time, while I'm usually out of the house for around 11 hours on a weekday. In my current job, I leave the house at 7:10 to catch the 7:21 bus to work. I work 8-5 (the job has beautifully regular hours), catch the 5:12 bus back to the park-and-ride, and from there pick up my daughter from afterschool care. We walk in the door around 6:15, and Mr. Fraser gets home about 7:00. So if dinner has been in the crockpot since I left in the morning, it's overcooked.
So I groaned when that cookbook came up, and I made the maple-apple-hazelnut oatmeal recipe over Saturday night to get around the overcooking problem. It tasted all right, but not that much better than instant oatmeal. And as it happens, we noticed the next day that the underside of the crockpot is starting to sort of buckle. I don't trust the insulation to hold, so no more slow cooker for me, and I won't miss it.