Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cooking High

You know how a box of rice or cake mix has a section in tiny, tiny print that says "High Altitude"?  Like you, I always ignored this part of the instructions.  It certainly didn't apply to me - until now.

While I never thought I was a great cook, I gave myself credit for being an average cook, someone who could put together a meal and get it on the table without causing any serious digestive problems for the people eating my food.  There were even moments when I personally enjoyed my own cooking.

But since moving to Denver, I've been surprised by many things, including that cooking is a whole new ballgame up here a mile high.   I've made a couple of meals that were just not good and I'm not even sure yet how to correct them.  I tried to make pea soup but the dried peas just cooked and cooked and cooked - they never did get soft and mushy.  We wound up eating the soup anyway with semi-hard peas.  I also made some hard rice one night.  Even an attempt to make microwave popcorn failed.  I put the bag in for the suggested time and, when the microwave shut off, the bag was, well, flaccid is the word that comes to mind.  It was just sad and soft, not at all puffy and full as it should have been.

So I looked up high altitude cooking on the internet and got my first lesson. Apparently, water boils at a lower temperature up here.  Consequently, it takes longer for the foods to cook because they are cooking at a lesser temperature than they would in some normal place like Atlanta.  I was woefully wrong on this - I thought it would take less time since the water boiled faster.  

Once I realized the error of my ways, I felt obligated to do something I almost never do - just in the interest of culinary science, of course.  I bought a brownie mix (not just any brownie mix - I went all the way with caramel pecan brownie mix) and followed the directions for high altitudes (add more water and flour).  I'm pleased to say that it worked beautifully.  

Now I have to get working on my flaccid popcorn.


  1. Hmmm...maybe you should look into pressure cooking?

  2. Nina: Good to hear from you on the blog. Happy holidays. I'm a reader of your blog too. Re pressure cookers: 1. you have to increase the time at high altitudes for a pressure cooker as well. 2. I've always been frightened of them. Judi