I’ve heard tell of my Grandmother’s rice pot. According to family lore, that pot was at least sixty years old. As the story goes, the creations that came from that pot were peerless: the quintessence of Puerto Rican cookery itself. Years after the fact all of the children in that house, now adults with grandchildren of their own, have failed in replicating the magic that was grandma’s cooking.
My father claims that every generation has at least one great skill that gets lost somewhere in the pages of the history books. Sometimes the younger generation doesn’t much care for keeping traditions alive, sometimes a skill gets relegated to obsolescence because technology makes it seem pointless.
In the latter case, I’ve seen this up close and personal. My mother (a decent cook in her own right), has taken to using a rice cooker instead of a pot. In her estimation, the results are just as good. If that were true, I wonder why my father keeps going on about a pot that, quite frankly, could have come off of Columbus’ ship or maybe even pre-dated the old genocidal bastard himself.
In his nostalgic rantings about grandma’s pot, he did admit one thing: It was just an old cast iron pot. There was no magic in it. There were no charms, or hexes, placed upon it (that we know of), there was no ancient magic bestowed upon it by the heathen culinary gods. Said pot was not forged in an ancient mountain and subsequently inherited by Hobbits that were bound by duty to destroy it. It. Was. Just. A. Pot.
This leads me to believe that the pot wasn’t responsible for anything that came out of it. It was all grandma. Maybe the old man is right. As time goes on and generations progress some skills do get lost. Making rice is obviously still a thing for many families across many cultures. But the precise oomph that made something so special can slip through the cracks. Sometimes that oomph disappears into thin air and what we’re left with is a mundane recipe that some enterprising chef wanted to make money off of.
I sometimes wonder what that does mean for my generation. What skill have we acquired that will someday eventually be lost? Will it be tacit knowledge on how to capture the perfect selfie? Will it be this treasure trove of absolute garbage knowledge that turns out wasn’t particularly useful in the first place?
One thing I do certainly hope we lose is our self-congratulatory sense of “enlightenment”. Turns out we aren’t the biggest deal. We are just a deal in a long line of deals.
It’s entirely likely that my grandmother didn’t make her rice intending to set the gold standard for a staple all over the world. She made her rice how she made it and that was all there is to it. Does that really need to be celebrated? Probably not. Still, there’s something to be said for that which cannot be recreated. Even in a digital world, we can still appreciate the truly one-of-a-kind things that crop up now and again. I think there’s some comfort to be had in that.