This is the rice cooker that my parents bought for me when I went to college in the fall of 1989. It’s been with me ever since, through many roommates, girlfriends, and lonely spells as an eligible bachelor. And it’s been a reliable workhorse for my young family too, regularly serving up fresh, hot, perfectly cooked rice for all five of us.
That’s twenty-five years of loyal service. Along the way it acquired some unbecoming yellowing on its painted sides and a nasty dent along the rim of the pot itself (you can see the way the pot sits unevenly as a result). But it never let me down, not once, in all that time, until finally it succumbed to age a few months ago and cooked its last pot. A sad but noble end to an illustrious kitchen career.
The point of this post has been made many times, but I make it again here partly out of sentimentality: simple appliances like my old rice cooker have become complicated by digital technology. In some instances, they’ve been made worse. This is what I encountered in the instruction manual of the newer model we brought home to replace the old one.
Granted, some of these steps are necessary for primitive cookers too — putting the rice in the pot and plugging in the cooker, for instance. But the old cooker had one button that worked all the time, and I always knew when it was on and I never had to consult a manual to figure out how to use it. The new one is practically inscrutable in comparison. You might argue that the new one does more, of course; there are at least a half-dozen modes, and maybe some of them are useful, even. But I’m willing to bet that it’s not going to last me twenty-five years.