Quit your job, buy furniture, pack the car, say your goodbyes, and go. Ultimate freedom at the cost of utmost responsibility. Dear God.
I have my own apartment.
Working at the same hardware store for so many years has its benefits. Employees are allowed to borrow rental equipment for free (within certain limits, of course). On my final day before temporary hiatus, I reserved myself a trailer to assist in the move to my new apartment off campus. The majority of the furniture I would be moving was obtained over the summer at a variety of yard sales, thrifts stores, and in one case, a mouse filled garage.
Besides loading my furniture, I had to worry about packing kitchen utensils, bath towels, school supplies, wall art, extension cords, a plethora of clothes for all seasons, alcohol (medical grade and grain based), game consoles, food, shoes, chargers, cameras, batteries, chapstick, chewing gum, cleaning supplies, scissors, movie props, sports memorabilia, that secret box of secret stuff I don’t show people, textbooks, ice trays, pictures of dogs, coasters, mood-inducing lamps, a vacuum and vitamins. It was during this process of trying to think of what else I could possibly need to survive on my own when my mom struck me with the bean pot.
- “What is this?”
- “A bean pot!”
- “Like… like for planting?”
- “Do I plant beans in it? I don’t understand I’m holding Mom, it looks like an urn.”
- “No, it’s like a slow cooker.”
- “Like a crock pot? How do I… plug it in?”
- “You don’t, you just stick it in the oven!”
I packed the bean pot away, deep in a cardboard box, never planning to use it. I figured I’d hold onto it for a few days, than return it with the matching pillow shams she also forced on me (I’m a MAN, MOM! I only need one pillow!). When I finally got to the apartment, I went through the unpacking process and once again was shocked to discover the bean pot hadn’t gotten rid of itself. I put it on top of the refrigerator with Drew’s Mom’s salad spinner (We are MEN, KAREN!), the other appliance that we would never be using. It’s not that I’m opposed to the bean pot, it’s just that when I think of slow cookers, I’m reminded of the crock pot trend that Pinterest is causing.
I don’t have a Pinterest, but I do know women, and women LOVE Pinterest. All these womens are bringing crock pots “back into style,” because following your friends on Pinterest causes recipes to get caught in a repeated cycle of posting and reposting. Then, a group of women will fight over who found the recipe first and who cooked it best and how Tammy picked up her crock pot from a thrift store. I’m sorry, I just wasn’t aware that you could make a method of cooking a “thing.”
Then I pulled my head out of my ass and realized that slow cookers are awesome, convenient, and that women know what they’re talking about.
So I decided to make dinner with it one night. My mom emailed me a website that, in early 90’s website building fashion, had about a thousand bean pot recipes displayed on one page. Scrolling through, I discovered multiple recipes that called for entire roasting chickens to be placed inside. On one of my daily Safeway runs, I remembered seeing an entire chicken sell for about $5. In the eyes of a college-aged apartment owner on a budget, cooking an entire chicken sounded like a great idea.
When I returned to Safeway to pick up the necessary supplies, I discovered that the chickens came packed with the giblets. I vaguely knew what giblets were, but I also remember hearing them referred to as, “being kicked in the giblets.” I had to google to make sure that I wasn’t buying a chicken with testicles. Luckily for me and unfortunately for the chicken, google informed me that the chicken was still filled with its precious internal organs (testes excluded). How shameful. I had to ask the Safeway butcher whether or not the giblets were easy to get out and he was all like, “Yeah man! Just pull that shit out!” I thanked him and promptly left.
That’s when things got down and dirty. I brought the chicken home, left it to defrost a little bit while I made a pot of coffee, and watched some Batman: The Animated Series. Then, I remembered I was supposed to cook a chicken. That’s when things got down and dirty.
I prepared my cutting board and knives, washed the bean pot out, and attempted to place the chicken in to see if it would fit. The giblets weren’t immediately obvious because I wasn’t sure which end they were packed in.
When I finally did find them, I was relieved to discover they were wrapped in wax paper for convenient extraction. Not sure what to do with them, I tossed them in the garbage disposal, grinding them into a fine chicken pate (just kidding, that’s disgusting).
But once out, the chicken could just barely fit in the pot. Ideally, one would pack the pot with a cornucopia of vegetables for slow cooked goodness, but this chicken just wouldn’t allow it. The only available room was in the giblet cavity, so I jammed some onion, garlic, and lemon in there… real deep. Then, I rubbed it down in salt and pepper, forced it into the bean pot, and punched it a bunch of times until I could get some vegetables in there. Then I got some vegetables in there.
Gradually the house filled with amazing aromas that hearkened back to a simpler age; the halcyon days of knights and maidens and strange wizards who cooked chicken in bean pots alongside well-worn trails. Because I don’t trust chicken (out of principal), I stabbed it a bunch of times to check for full cookedness. As opposed to red meat, which can be eaten nearly raw, chicken will kill you almost instantly if eaten even the slightest bit undercooked. Fun fact!
The biggest dilemma faced when preparing the chicken for serving was actually getting it out of the pot. Not only was it too big to fit in the pot initially, but it swelled after cooking. Drew, my roommate, suggested just cracking the pot open, but I’d actually grown to like the bean pot. The cooking style was easy, convenient, and provided for a wholesome family dinner.
We decided to eat out of the pot until we whittled the chicken down enough to pull it out. I was blown away by how much chicken stock filled the pot. The nature of the pot allowed the moisture to get trapped in the chicken, slowly steaming it and imparting the vegetables with awesome and awe-inspiring flavors. The meal was rounded out with some kickass garlic herb rice pilaf. On a more interesting note, the remaining half-eaten carcass reminded me of the worm pigs from Tremors 2.
We only finished about half the chicken, so leftovers were plentiful. I washed my hands and hand picked the remainder of the chicken clean, placing the meat in a Tupperware container. Finally, I poured some of the chicken stock into the Tupperware. I knew full well when doing so that, consisting mostly of grease, the chicken stock was going to make a disgusting fat gelatin when refrigerated, because such is the nature of grease. However, later reheating would melt it off and allow it to soak back into the chicken.
I have to thank my mom for showing me a world of wonders never before considered. I’ve used crockpots before, but never have I seen another method of cooking so similar and still so simple. It provides a college student the opportunity to cook an entire meal in a single piece of cookware. And when he or she places the bean pot upon the table and opens it with a professional flourish, the waiting guests will never mistake the chef for a beginner. They will be considered among the ranks of Mario Batali, Bobby Flay, Chef Goldblum or butter queen Paula Deen. Truly the bean pot chef is an Iron Chef.