GUILFORD — It created more than 15,000 meals over 70 years.

It inspired a love for cooking in Guilford’s Virginia Baltay from an early age and sustained her through careers as a celebrated science teacher, award-winning photographer and environmental educator. It raised her five children who raised 13 grandchildren, and titillated the tastebuds of countless guests.

It also has the potential to enliven bland Butternut Squash with Orange Zest, to render the perfect makeover of a turkey carcass with a soothing home-style Turkey Noodle Soup, and to create a cranberry sauce without “the sliminess common to the entombed cylinder of cranberry jelly with the embossed tin can stripes that slithers onto everyone else’s Thanksgiving china,” Baltay writes.

In other words, the pressure cooker featured in Baltay’s delightful, lavishly illustrated “A Steamy Affair” cookbook might just be the ticket for anyone planning a Thanksgiving feast next week.

Of course, “A Steamy Affair” is more than a compilation of recipes for everything from main dishes to soups to vegetables, as well as rice, fruit, and desserts.

It’s also a culinary memoir, one that traces Baltay’s first encounter with “a weird pot with a rounded dome” on the counter of her family’s post-World War II, Middletown, N.Y. kitchen, to her revelation about mushrooms at her high school sorority’s initiation banquet.

“I had grown up thinking mushrooms were aliens, deadly creatures never to pass my lips,” she writes under a recipe for pressure-cooked Hunter’s Soup. “Only after dinner did I discover that I had fallen for a Beef Mushroom Soup that endeared me to the Kingdom of the Fungi forever.”

Then there’s the story of Baltay’s Belgian friend spending hours preparing a large pot of Boeuf Carbonnade a la Flammade in a French town near Geneva, Switzerland. It wasn’t just the tender stew that stays with her, but that “most un-American, heart-throbbing” deep-fried yellow potatoes.

“They turned golden and crisp and over-filled the waiting baskets,” she recalls. “The kids were the first to dunk the golden fries into the gravy from the stew; the hot spuds soaked up the beer-infused sauce.”

In the section on corn, Baltay recounts a Mennonite friend gifting her with a Lee Pennsylvania Dutch Corn Cutter. “This cutter,” she writes, ”makes the corn creamed by breaking the kernels and releasing the natural cream from the corn meat. No milk or cream is added.”

That’s among the, er, kernels of information that makes “A Steamy Affair” a veritable treasure trove of inside information, one assembled from a seasoned kitchen veteran who unabashedly proclaims that “the repetitive cycle of preparing an evening meal each day is an imaginative opportunity I seldom miss.”

She tells us that Corn Pudding —coincidentally, a Thanksgiving possibility — “takes on a Mexican attitude with the addition of jalapenos.” A bottle of Nellie and Joe’s Key West Lime Juice is “better than the real thing with its intense concentrated flavor and ease” and a jar of pepper jelly “livens up beef, chicken, pork, and vegetable dishes.”

With Apple Sauce, Peach Melba, and Cranberry Sauce made in the pressure cooker, there’s none of the “gooey fructose syrup” in canned fruit cocktails. “You control the amount of sugar added, thereby controlling your daily sugar intake,” she writes.

The benefits don’t end there. Baltay rhapsodizes about the sauces that can be made from “ripe fruit that would spoil if left to ripen one more day”; about the Minestrone made from leftover string beans and tomatoes, with the addition of canned kidney beans and herbs. With the pressure cooker, she writes, we can become soldiers in the “Waste Not” green movement.

“A Steamy Affair” is, in short, a paean to a lifetime of joys produced from something that first appeared to her as a “weird pot with the rounded dome” — and not least because it rescued her.

When a homemade pressure cooker bomb exploded at the Boston Marathon in 2013, the sight of a child collapsing to the pavement recalled to Baltay the reckless driver that killed her son Thomas 30 years before.

“Nightmares of stainless steel shards flying into the innocent bystanders haunted my sleepless nights,” she writes. “Boston’s agony, with families weeping over their shrouded sons and daughters, was my agony.”

It was time, and the prospect of “cooking up delicious meals in my pressure cooker,” that proved a savior, “giving me an outlet for my anguish and an open door to my creativity.”

Lucky for us, she’s shared how it has.

“A Steamy Affair” is available at Breakwater Books, 81 Whitfield St. Guilford. To order, visit

Connecticut Media Group