Plus, a recipe for Carol Brady Blended Berry Crisp.
Crash! As I was leaving a friend’s kitchen after a potluck the other night, my slow cooker slipped out of my hands and onto the floor. No broken glass, but the knob rolled around on the floor as her two dogs moved in swiftly to lap up the mess.
I felt inconsolable. This wasn’t just any crockpot, but an heirloom from the 1970s that had fed several families — including various iterations of my own.
The crockpot’s utilitarian history begins with my brother-in-law’s mother — in a house that I can imagine being as groovy as the crockpot in the 1970s. Years later, I celebrated several Thanksgivings in that house, and I recall tasty meals, good conversation, and a powder room swathed in metallic, textured wallpaper.
After my brother-in-law’s mother passed away, my sister-in-law inherited the crockpot. That was in the early 90s, when not many of us knew much about crockpots. “You’d be amazed what this thing can do,” my sister-in-law said. Crockpot recipes don’t have to taste bad, she told me, and they don’t have to contain Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup or French’s Fried Onions. Who knew?
“I’m going to upgrade to a new model, so would you like this one?” she asked. “Yes! This is exactly the kind of crockpot you’d find in Carol Brady’s kitchen,” I said. “It’s the grooviest.”
Over the years, I’ve cooked a lot of meals in my Carol Brady crockpot, and it’s taken on a significance for me that I never would have expected. As a mother to a blended “bunch” of my own, I often think about Carol and wonder how she manages to be so cheerful all the time. Yes, it helps to be a TV character and have a live-in maid, but Carol never doubts her own grooviness — even though she’s a second wife and a stepmom. (If you’re those two things, some days can have you feeling like the least groovy person on the planet.)
My Carol Brady crockpot reminds me to create a kitchen where family feel welcome and can talk about heavy problems, like how hard it is to be a middle child. (Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!) The crockpot also reminds me to enjoy my family, though I doubt we’ll be embarking on any Hawaiian vacations or silent movie projects any time soon.
I’m delighted to report that my crockpot survived its potluck crash. Yes, the knob fell off, but the underlying switch still works and it still makes great meals. So in celebration of all kinds of families and great things that aren’t quite perfect …
Carol Brady Blended Berry Crisp
Approx. 2 pounds of ripe fruit. Try equal proportions of two different kinds of fruit, like Asian pears and blackberries, or peaches and raspberries. If it needs to be peeled, pitted and sliced, do that.
2/3 cup old-fashioned oats
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg.
3/4 cup (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened.
1) Spray your 4- to 6-quart slowcooker with cooking spray and put the fruit inside.
2) Combine the oats, flour, sugar, cinnamon, spices and salt in a separate mixing bowl. Add softened butter, and combine to make a crumbly mixture. Sprinkle over your fruit blend.
3) Cover and cook on LOW for 3 hours.
Adapted from Slow Cookers for Dummies.