Everybody names their pets. Some people name their cars or GPS units. I have named my pressure cooker. Its name is Yetta.
My Aunt Yetta recently passed away one month shy of her 95th birthday. She was sharp as a tack up to her last moments. Married at 20, she and her husband created a family life based on love and hard work. Their happy life was marred by the accidental death of a toddler daughter. But Aunt Yetta was not one to wallow in misery. She picked herself up, brushed herself off, and continued to raise three sons.
Aunt Yetta was a career woman before it was fashionable or necessary for women to have careers. She owned her own brokerage firm that employed her son and my mother at different times. While my mother (10 years younger than her sister) retired at 65, Aunt Yetta sold real estate until she was 90 and failing eyesight forced her to retire.
Yetta also did not suffer fools lightly. When my husband and I made an offer on a house, and the owner accepted it with the proviso we wouldn’t have it inspected, Aunt Yetta said, “Do they think you’re a couple of damn fools?” And once you were on her s*%t list, you were on it forever.
Tragedy found Aunt Yetta once again as she nursed her husband through cancer, and lost her oldest son when he died in his sleep at age 40. Again, she carried on, bruised but not broken, and continued with her life and career and caring for her extended family.
She was always in a hurry; she didn’t wait around for anyone or anything. So she used her pressure cooker to whip up delicious, albeit unhealthy, meals for her family.
When my sons were little, I asked Aunt Yetta to teach me how to use a pressure cooker. My mother didn’t have one. In fact, Mom had a disastrous experience with a pressure cooker as a young bride and swore never to touch one again. Aunt Yetta would not teach me then, saying “Your kids are too little. They could get hurt.” I relented.
It seemed that every time I asked Aunt Yetta to show me how to use the pressure cooker, she had an excuse. One day while perusing the aisles at BJs, I saw a display of pressure cookers. This was my chance! If Aunt Yetta wouldn’t/couldn’t teach me, I’d teach myself. I brought it home and quickly went to work making chicken soup.
I called Aunt Yetta. She gave me pointers. Don’t fill it up all the way. Once the pot comes to pressure, set the timer for 15 minutes, then turn it off. Don’t ever try to make split pea soup in it. And (this is the clincher) if you’re in a hurry for the pressure to go down, put it in the sink and run cold water slowly over the cooker.
For several years I was patient and let the pressure go down by itself. One time, though, I was in a hurry to get the soup to the table. I followed Aunt Yetta’s advice. I put it in the sink and ran cold water on it.
OY! Chicken soup spritzed through every tiny opening in the cooker, a geyser of steamy chicken spray filled my kitchen. I was left with about a bowlful of soup from a six-quart pot.
At the shiva for Aunt Yetta, I told her son, Artie, about this incident. When I told him I ran cold water on it, he said, “Please! You didn’t!” Yes, I did. “Oh, Cheryl,” he said. “Those are the legends of the pressure cooker that my mother never told. Only we, her kids, knew them. So many times our dinner ended up on the ceiling. Beware, the pressure cooker!”
Until her last years, Aunt Yetta was active. Her granddaughter dubbed her the Energizer Bunny; she just kept going and going. She begrudgingly used a cane, and was even more aggrieved to use a walker. When she moved into her senior living apartment a few months before her death, she said she was allergic to old people. At the end, her long-ailing but generous heart gave out.
So I’ve named my pressure cooker Yetta. Just as the steam from the pressure cooker rises to a peak, then flows steadily until the flame below it is extinguished, Aunt Yetta represents the energy with which I will embrace my life, going strong until I can no longer.
I am a teacher, mother, grandmother, wife, dogsitter, cook, maid, secretary, shopper, and probably many more things I haven’t thought of, and most of those jobs are unpaid. I own my own business, Cheryl’s Dog Sitting. I live in Newton Centre, MA.