Whether it is steamed idli, Gujarati snack panki; Parsi’s patra ni machchi, Assam’s bhapot diya maach or the elaborate Onam Sandhya from Kerala, the humble banana leaf has found its way into many cuisines.
In Indian households, one can often hear the distinct and unmistakable sound of a pressure cooker's sharp whistle, harmonising with the rhythm of daily cooking.
Today, we go back to 1869 to uncover the humble beginnings of this whistling device and delve into the story of how it ascended to become India's most beloved kitchen utensil.
It was a steam cooker that paved the way for the widespread acceptance of stovetop cookers in Indian homes.
Invented by Indumadhab, Icmic Cooker was a tiffin carrier of sorts that was filled with food and lowered into a larger cylinder with a charcoal stove below with water in the outer chamber.
The steam from boiling water created the effect of a slow cooker that was most suited to cooking dals (lentils), curries and meat, making the invention a runaway hit in Bengali homes.
While the Icmic cooker was gaining popularity in Bengal, the then Bombay had its own Santosh cooker that worked on a similar concept.
Their key selling point was, “This cooker prepares food without affecting the most essential vitamins, the vital things required for bodybuilding.”
Santosh cookers had four compartments stacked inside a cylinder and a coal stove at the bottom. The device was made out of 21 gauge brass perfect for slow cooking.
Madras (now Chennai) too found its own version of a one-stop portable kitchen in the patented Rukmani cooker.
This cooker had five steel vessels that would fit inside a brass unit that could be carried around like a bucket.
The rising popularity of these cookers was dented by the rise of pressure cookers in 1935 when the Automa pressure cooker was launched.
It gained a massive following when a group of mountaineers took it with them to Everest. In the mountains, boiling takes longer due to lower air pressure, so pressure cookers are advantageous.
While the device suffered from some safety issues, the makers resolved them with the Gasket Release System.
Whenever the cooker was overloaded or the safety valve blocked, the rubber ring (gasket) would be pushed out through a slot in the lid, thus releasing the excess steam.
The rest is history; the pressure cooker has since become one of the most utilised appliances in Indian kitchens.
Taking the love to another level, there is even a ‘Pressure Cooker Baba temple’ in Siachen. It was built after a pressure cooker attracted a heat-seeking missile, which saved the life of the soldier it was aimed at.