A meandering blog with no clear topic. You will find me talking about knitting, building, kids, social and economic issues, Alaska, and lots of other stuff.

Monday, January 21, 2008

A lesson in making do

We spent the weekend at our cabin. Because the cabin is only heated on weekends, we don't store food there, as it would freeze, cans would burst, etc. Every week, before we leave to go to the cabin, I pack what food I think we will need for however long we will be there.

When I am planning meals for the time we are there, simplicity is key. I cook on a Coleman stove, like this one:

and I use cast iron pans. We do dishes in a plastic tub with water heated on the stove. So I plan meals that require a minimum of preparation, can be cooked in a maximum of two pots, and doesn't have to be watched/stirred every two seconds.

Anyway, one of the things I planned on cooking this weekend was chili. Usually, I make chili from scratch, but I saw a mix at the grocery store that looked both easy and halfway decent. I quickly glanced at the back, saw that the instructions called for adding 7 cups of water, bringing to a boil, and simmer for 25 minutes. So, up at the cabin, I am throwing dinner together. I browned some ground beef to go in it, and was reading the back of the package again, and noticed "and whisk in 2 6-oz cans of tomato paste". WHAT???? TOMATO PASTE??? DAMMIT. So, I looked, just to make sure, and nope, I don't have any tomato paste. So, I asked Ryan how many cans of tomato sauce did he pack for the sloppy joes we had eaten the night before? One. Exactly how many I had told him to. DAMMIT.

James had been thinking about going to the store for ice cream. So, I asked him to pick up tomato paste while he was there. So, off he went for the 1o mile drive to the store. Back he came 10 minutes later. He wasn't going to the store. It had warmed up considerably, and had been raining. This turned the hill we live on into a solid sheet of ice covered in a thin layer of water. It turned out that even before starting to head down the hill, he had little to no control of his van. And there was a person in the ditch that also apparently had little to no control of their vehicle. Deciding (in an uncharacteristic moment) that discretion is the better part of valor, he came home, and informed me that I would have to make chili without tomato paste.

Chili without tomato paste? EEEWWW. I fussed over this a few minutes, and then thought about it. We had the ground beef. We had chili mix, and after reading the ingredients, found that it consisted of beans, rice, and spices. So, I made the chili, minus the tomato paste, and we had southwestern style soup. Topped with cheese and eaten with tortilla chips, it was tasty. Maybe not as yummy as chili, but no one complained.

I guess the whole point of this is that sometimes you have to make do. You don't always have everything to make the recipe exactly as called for, and this goes for more than just dinner. It goes for just about anything in life. With the uncertain times we live in, with problems ranging from global warming to recession, we might find ourselves needing to make do with less than what we normally would. And you just have to say, "DAMMIT" and make it work.


Walter Jeffries said...

A thought for you on storing canned foods at your cabin. I made a egg hatcher and chick brooder by taking a large insulated cooler and putting a light bulb in it that was on a furnace thermostat. If the temperature in the cooler gets too low the light goes on and heats the cooler.

If the temperature gets high enough the light goes off. I added additional thermal mass in the form of stones and one gallon milk jugs filled with water. This makes the system more efficient by not cycling as much.

Its a very simple circuit to wire up. I also added a min-max thermometer and humidity indicator but you don't need those for your application. This would let you set it to keep the cooler above, say, 35°F.

If you don't have electricity you can even do it by wiring up a automobile battery to the light and put the battery outside the cooler to save space.

Using pink foam insulation you could build a larger version that would be even more efficient by having a larger space, more thermal mass and thicker insulated walls. A chest freezer could even be used for this project.

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