Keenan had expressed interest in buying a slow cooker for several weeks; the type of electric hotpot that could be prepared in the morning with the necessary ingredients, and ready by the evening, free of attention or culinary talent. When no one offered to pitch in any money, he broke down and bought the thing himself—the look of his face upon delivery, not unlike that of a new father, of pride and anticipation.
The slow cooker did indeed appear to be a magnificent toy upon inspection: one designed specially for bachelors, with laziness and simplicity in mind. The box itself was really no bigger than a small suitcase and bore the phrase that really quite sums it all up: Cooks all day while the cook’s away! Granted, Keenan was not a cook but it humored us to think so.
He stood there unpacking the box beside our maid Elida, trying to explain to her what an amazing invention it was that we had just acquired. “In here you put food now” he explained, “and at the night time you eat the food. All day, nothing!” He made the motion of putting food into the pot, and then taking it out. “Yes? You to put the food in now, and you to eat the food in the night. All day, just watch!”
Elida looked back at him excited, but nevertheless indifferent about what she probably interpreted as a pot in which one can store food. Much like the concept of a nuclear missile or a remote control, if you have never seen or heard of a slow cooker before, the theory comes off as imaginative and fantasy-like: a machine that literally cooks an entire dinner for you throughout the course of a day?
We came back to the office around noon to find Elida standing over the cooker, exhausted, having seemingly been in the same position for the entire morning. It appeared that she had been under the impression that while yes, the slow cooker could do the work on its own, surely someone needed to supervise it—to make sure nothing got out of hand. “No, no. You no need to stand here. You go work and you go clean ahora mismo,” Keenan said. He then made the motions of a vacuuming mime. “You go work and you go clean ahora mismo and then in night, the food…the food be ready!” Elida looked relieved.
Ahora mismo is the Spanish way of saying right now, and it’s a familiar phrase for Keenan, mainly because it’s one of the only ones he knows. He’ll use it in a multitude of scenarios, often of which, it comes off as demanding.
In the restaurant: “I need a glass of water ahora mismo.”
In the office: “Let’s have the meeting ahora mismo.”
In response to being asked to do someone a favor: “Ahora mismo?”
Throughout the course of the afternoon, the slow cooker began to emit the fragrant smell of scallions and soy sauce and garlic. The slow cooker was doing just what it was hired to do and soon enough, Elida’s interest had peaked: maybe the gringos are telling the truth, she probably thought to herself. Maybe this thing can transform food.
Elida usually doesn’t stay with us for dinner, but this was a special occasion. We all huddled around the pot the way families gather around TV sets in news of a big storm or Ebola breakout. Upon lifting the lid, there were ooohs and aaahs as we all got oriental short rib steam facials. Elida now grasped the beauty and the power of the slow cooker and for once, I understood what Keenan’s hype was all about. The thing was majestic and by the end of our meal, we reloaded the pot to be consumed the next day.