May We Discuss The Electric Rice Cooker?
On this occasion, may we discuss the humble electric rice cooker? Iconic and faithful, I can’t think of any Asian household that doesn’t use one. Fool-proof rice every time with the push of one single button. The OG of set-it-and-forget-it.
And yet this appliance remains largely overlooked – taken for granted. Let's change that right now.
First, did you know this marvelous device was created by a Japanese woman?
Prior to Toshiba releasing the first automatic rice cooker in 1955, daily cooking of perfectly fluffy rice (the reflection of a good housewife) occupied many hours of the day. Fanning an open flame to maintain the ideal temperature for proper water absorption is not passive cooking. Multiply this task by three meals a day, you can understand her motivation!
We can thank Fumiko Minami for giving us back those hours. Her husband, Yoshitada Minami, was the engineer at Toshiba tasked with creating an automatic rice cooker. Like most men of his time, he had no idea how to make rice. Therefore, he passed on much of this project to his wife, Fumiko. Fumiko tested prototype after prototype (while raising six children) until she arrived at the insulated one button on/off model, still in use today.
The electric rice cooker revolutionized kitchen work forever. Globally, it liberated women from hovering over a pot, keeping an eye on the rice. Not quite a complete win for women’s lib, but it did ease the path for to women enter the workforce and gain quality time for themselves. Indeed, something to celebrate.
A bonus fun fact: The magical way of measuring rice – the only method I use!