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Posted Oct 09 2011 8:18pm

My sweetie Michael, who shops in Indian groceries with the thoroughness that I reserve for consignment shops, recently discovered a spice blend called Sambhar Masala and gifted it to me.

What caught his eye was not so much the spice blend itself,  but the cooking instructions on the back of the package that read:  “Cook three tbsps. of tuvar dal in two and a half cups of water till 3-4 whistles in a pressure cooker.”

A whistling pressure cooker??  I’d seen these instructions before in Indian cookbooks.

Some of you who have read the introductions to my pressure cooker books may remember that I was introduced to pressure cooking when my mother brought a cooker back from India around 1986.  It was a cheap, tinny thing and I never got to try it, having been seduced quite quickly by the high-end cookers that were already available in the States.

After some sleuthing, I discovered that many cookers made in India have jiggle-top-style pressure regulators.  Once the pressure in up, the cooker toots a whistling sound.  Then the cook turns down the heat and the cooker is designed to repeatedly whistle at regular intervals.  Indian cooks listen out for the whistles and time their dishes accordingly.

I’m a person who reveres silence, so although I’m charmed by the notion of a pressure cooker that whistles, I don’t think I’d want to own one.  But I’m sure other folks feel differently about cooking sounds.  As a matter of fact, when COOKING UNDER PRESSURE first came out in 1989, I remember being on a radio show touting the newly designed, safe cookers–making a special point about how quiet they were.  A listener called in and said rather adamantly that she was not in favor of quiet cookers because one of the fondest childhood memories was the chuga-chuga sound of her mom’s cooker on the stove.

I’d love to hear from any of you who have fond memories of whistling cookers.  In the meanwhile, I for one know that the food comes out tasting great no matter what language the pressure cooker speaks.

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