Why Pressure Cookers Are Big in the Netherlands

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My Dutch colleague gave his daughter, who is off to university and her own apartment, a pressure cooker as a graduation present (also an iMac, but that’s not of economic interest).

I haven’t seen a pressure cooker since my mom used one in the 1950’s. My Dutch friend tells me that everybody there has one and uses it all the time, as they save on energy costs. Maybe I’m leading a sheltered life and just haven’t observed them in the U.S., but my guess is that we don’t use them much because energy is much cheaper here than in Europe.

As the price of energy rises in the U.S., however, I would bet that we will be substituting away from ordinary cookers and toward energy-saving pressure cookers. It’s a nice illustration of how choice of technology depends on prices. (Hat tip: S.F.)


Elana

I use one all the time, because you can cook things in more than half the time.

And I live in the US. My Mom always used one and so do I.

Vinay

Well, in India it is very common to use pressure cookers. Infact, the government of India promotes the use of such pressurised vessels so as to save fuel as well as maintain the nutrients in the food. I'm surprised to find that a developed country like U.S. has abandoned using pressure cookers. It is not only about the energy saving, but also about retaining the nutrients in the meal.

rda

I have used one for years. It's not the energy costs I'm saving, but my time and, to a certain extent, food costs. I eat a lot of beans, and use of a presure cooker can make a bean-containing meal from dried beans in about a third of the time it would require without. Canned beans are more expensive and often full of salt and taste like the can. Other ingredients are similarly speeded up.

I think people in the US tend not to use them because they remember seeing or hearing about the old-style ones exploding. And because people they know don't use them.

brazzy

I'm pretty sure it has nothing to do with the price of energy - while the Dutch prices are among the highest in Europe, so are those in Germany, where pressure cookers are almost unknown as well. Additionally, the fraction of energy households use for cooking (as well as lighting) is very small compared to heating.

My guess is that it's more based on habit than on rational decisions, and more on perceived savings than real ones. Maybe there was a spectacularly effective advertising campaign decades ago that firmly established a pressure cooker as a "must have" for a modern housewife - similar to what deBeers managed for diamonds.

Or maybe newspaper articles about energy saving (which definitely *is* a popular topic these days) exaggerate the virtues of pressure cookers in the same way they exaggerate the evils of standby mode here in Germany - you won't find one without a sentence like "the energy wasted by electrical appliances in standby mode each year could power X thousand households". Of course they never give relative numbers.

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Vj

Pressure Cookers are very dear to me. When I went to US for my higher studies- this was one of the things my mom packed for me! The Indian student body told the incoming students that pressure cookers are not easily found in US so make you get your own!!

Apart from pressure cookers - there are a many things that people in West should learn from energy constraint socities like India.
there were a few other suprises that I noticed when I landed in State college in 2000:

1) I count not find CFL- local Walmart had not idea what it was. Having grown up using flourocent light, the yellow light come incandecent bulbs were not easy on my eyes. In fact I ending up buying one large set of Tubelight for my home only to discover that I cann't hang them on the wall as it required me to nail the wall which my landlord objected to?
2) No one seems to turning off the car engine at traffic lights! For all the car honking, mad drving traffic in India- we all turn off the car engine in peak summer (110C) to save fuel.

3) Turning of the computer after use. This is something I noticed is not done in US schools. In India we usually turn off the machines or the lab assistant will surely do it.

4)Having in only one set of rug on the bed. I remember always having two set of rugs - one a thiner version for summers and another a thicker version for winter as we never had a A/C-Heater in one room. Places that are too hot had AC for summers, places that are too cold have heaters -very few places have both.

5) For some reason the Garbage bag is 4 times as large as the one i have in my home in India. I still dont understand - even today how come I can fill such a large bag in US while I fill a much smaller one at home in India..

There are many more .. examples but in short we can trace the reason to the cheap availabity of fossil fuel drive power in US and the lack of it most of the rest of world to the prices of energy.

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BT

It also matters on the type of food that one grows up with. Taste is not a mater of rational decisions, but is what flavor one grew up with. Mom still makes the best _____

Willem

The story your friend told you doesn't sound accurate te me.
I am from Holland, and as far as I know pressure cookers are not that popular here. Nobody I know uses one. Moreover, even though I have a rather small student budget and energy prices are high, I never consider these costs while cooking.

Nosybear

I don't think the use of a pressure cooker for preparation of the evening meal would come anywhere close to making up the costs of growing, delivering and refrigerating the food, the plastic packaging, the food waste.... Suggesting a pressure cooker as an energy-saving device when one bottle of bottled water pretty much negates quite a few uses of the device is penny wise, pound foolish.
But then, a pressure cooker does make a great roast.

Dana

I've lived in the Netherlands for a year and a half now, have been in various households and have never come across a pressure cooker.

Raquel

There is a more important cost reduced from pressure cookers that was not mentioned: time! Though it does not varies from country to country.

My mother had an accident with pressure cookers whan she was young and as a consequence she would not use it her entire adult life.
This kind of anedote might explain why there is variation in adoption of pressure cookers over countries.

Alaina

Both of my parents were born in Holland and my mother used a pressure cooker all the time when I was growing up. I never realized that this was rare for other families. Huh, I guess you learn something new every day!

Dutch people also save old margarine containers and such to use as Tupperware...it always amazes me when I see others recycle them...recycle them in your own kitchen!

My Oma would be so proud of me for writing this :)

PS

Most Indian students bring on with them when they come to US for the first time. And almost 90% of Indian households use one in India!

Also, CFL lamps are used in almost all homes in India whereas they are still a novelty here in the USA.

tim

VJ, turning cars and computers off and on is actually less-efficient than keeping them running. The peak energy use of both an internal combustion engine and a computer power supply (and its attached drives, CPU, etc) come when they are being started up.

Michael

I discovered pressure cookers when I lived in Brazil as an exchange student. I was amazed at the ability to quickly cook dried beans, and to make shredded pork so easily (the pork just falls apart after ~30 minutes in it!), so I brought one home.

I still use it at least weekly and have just about worn it out.

The biggest draw to me now isn't the saved energy, although I appreciate that too, but the saved time. I think it halves the time cooking meats.

gm

@tim: Actually, a few days ago I plugged a power meter before my PC's plug -even completely idly, it still consumed around 60-80W of energy (probably less with the HDD on standby).

Given that the power supply unit of an PC is 400-500W tops and the boot time should not exceed 6 minutes that accounts for approx. 0.1hrs * 0.5 kW = 0.05 kilowatt-hour.

For 12 hours standby to use same amount of energy it would require the PC to consume around 5 W (10x less than it actually does). Just to give you an comparison - my wireless router (no moving parts, fans etc.) uses 20 W.

Christopher Strom

I just returned from Brazil where pressure cookers seem to be a standard kitchen tool for cooking beans and meats.

Additionally, while traveling in Germany a couple of years ago, I noticed that in two of the homes we visited, hall lights were on a timer that shut the lights off after about 20 seconds - just about the most time you would spend in a hallway. One of our hosts said it was to save a little on electric costs.

Wilke

@tim: http://www.slate.com/id/2192187/

Back in the carburetor days, cars did take more fuel to start than to idle. But with modern, computer-controlled cars, it is more efficient to turn your car off if you'll be idling for >= 30 sec.

Bekki

@ brazzy My impression is that pressure cookers are pften used in Germany.

And I dont really think its an economic thing, most people I know use them because they are faster.
If you are really hungry or havent much time 10 minutes more or less matter.

Sbard

Regarding fluorescent lights, there are other countries besides India where they are the standard form of residential lighting. One of my Korean labmates was surprised when she first came to the states about how none of the apartments used fluorescent shop lighting outside the kitchen.

Oh, and #5, you can get trash bags of pretty much any size in the states, what were you buying? I use 13 quart bags myself, and it take me about a week to a week and a half to fill one up.

Josh

@tim

In addition to gm's comment in a sufficiently modern car (most fuel injected models) it is more efficient to turn the car off for any stop over 30 seconds.

Not to say that it is the safest or least annoying option. However leaving your car idling while running into the store is extraordinarily wasteful.