In 1940, a nexus of three factors led New Jersey-born Irving Nachumsohn to invent the slow cooker. First among these was the increase the number of women in work during the war effort. World War 2, for all its drawbacks, was the making of the modern woman. Once women had gained a taste for the rewards and camaraderie of the workplace, there was no way they were going back to the kitchen, and inventors and food technologists had their back.
The second factor in the rise of the slow cooker was the need to look after the downtrodden Jews of the world, and provide for their needs and desires. For too long, Jewish people had been ground under the heel of of other races and religions, and it was high time they had their day.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Jewish people (i.e. women) were not permitted to cook on the Sabbath, yet mouths had to be filled with inexpensive, nutritious food.
Enter Nachumsohn and his method of cooking cholent – the traditional, slow-cooked stew that was prepared the day before the Sabbath to avoid the need for cooking on the day. In the 1940s, solutions to the cholent was to cook the dish in a very low oven overnight (not terribly clever if you were on gas), or to leave the stew with the local bakery and have it cooked in a similar way to Boulangeré potatoes (i.e. in with the the bread).
The Nachumsohn device was marketed as ‘Crock-Pot.’ In a lengthy 2015 article for the Washington Post, Max Ehrenfreund charted the rise, fall and rise of the slow cooker, noting that it is now a machine increasingly in the hands of men keen to do their bit in the kitchen. It is the hero of Superbowls, pulled pork and curries.
When a slow cooker is combined with a Bamix stick blender, soups become a snap to do. This spicy tomato soup is a perfect example of the method.
Slow-cooker tomato and chilli soup
- 12 large salad tomatoes, quartered
- 1 green chilli, sliced
- 3 cloves of garlic, peeled
- Decent pinch of sea salt
- 1 carrot, roughly chopped
- 1 onion, roughly chopped
- 1 stick of celery, roughly chopped
- Handful of fresh oregano (or 2 tsp dried), chopped
- Small handful of fresh basil leaves
- 800g (2 tins) tinned, chopped tomatoes
- 2 tbsp tomato puree
- 1 litre chicken stock (chicken is best, but vegetable can be used to make this vegan)
Put all the ingredients in the slow cooker and cook on low for about 6 hours until the carrot is soft. Blend in a jug blender or with a good stick blender. Season.