Life in the Bush- Cooking
I’m not really sure if our little woods counts as a “bush”, but that is what we called it. Even though we were 5 minutes from town it really felt as if we were isolated. Only our classmates and two staff couples were with us. On a couple of occasions we had “outsiders” come in, but for the most part it was just us. The isolation never got to a point where it bothered me. We’ve been taught that moving into a new culture can cause culture shock which can include a feeling of isolation. This wasn’t enough of a new culture to make me feel that way.
It was however, a bit different because of the amount of work it took to survive. I think that is what hit me the hardest. Dennis and I brought out a huge pile of books thinking we’d have some downtime in which to read and relax. Ha. They never even got taken out of the tote they arrived in.
Our day basically was consumed by getting the fire started, feeding the kids, getting our water boiling for coffee (a minimum of 40 minutes in the mornings), entertaining the kids, chopping wood and more wood, getting lunch started, putting the kids down for naps, chopping more wood, doing laundry by hand, starting the fire for supper and preparing it. By the time supper was over it was time for the kids to go to bed and we crashed. There were other extra things that we did as well, but those were the basics.
One thing I learned is that if you have a fire going, you put the water on to boil whether you think you’ll need it or not. If you don’t have hot water, you can’t have a hot drink, boil pasta or potatoes (or anything!), have a shower, or do dishes. If you don’t do dishes, you can’t cook. If you don’t cook you don’t eat. So get that fire started and get that water boiling! It takes 45 minutes to get boiling water in the morning when starting with a cold stove. In the evening it takes 5 minutes or less with a stove that has been going for awhile.
I was able to make all kinds of things on our little clay stove. It was amazing really. Bread, rolls, muffins, pizza, casseroles, stove top dinners, baked potatoes… it was great. I also found out that if we used bad wood we got bad meals. Gross.
One day when he didn’t have a lot of time Dennis scavenged out some wood that was laying around. He thought, “This dead wood will be great.” He hauled it all back to our house and cut it up.
I decided to make some Kraft Dinner (Mac and Cheese for you USA friends) for lunch. Pretty simple- boil water, cook some pasta and throw in the cheese powder. Well, it took about an hour to get the pasta soft because the fire wouldn’t get hot. I mixed the KD up and set the table. The girls were all excited to get noodles, their favorite. Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever had more disgusting noodles in my life. They tasted like they had been soaked overnight in cold water- soggy on the edges and crunchy in the middle. Totally gross. I couldn’t eat it. I asked the girls if they liked it and they said um hmmm! between bites. So I guess it wasn’t a total waste.
That night we were still using the lame-o wood. Dennis got the fire going around 4:30 or 5. I asked some people if they could come for supper but they had other plans. I’m really glad they did, because it was a disaster. I decided that we would have pancakes with chocolate chips. I mean, how hot of a fire do you need for pancakes! Surely they wouldn’t be a problem. Well, two hours later I was very frustrated and we had gooey, goopy, gloppy, gummy pancakes. They looked like piles of tempra paint. I glopped them onto the girls plates. “Here you go, hope you don’t die from eating raw eggs…”
The next day we still had that bad wood. I tried to do soup. Soup must be the easiest thing of all, I thought. All you have to do is get it warm enough that it is palatable, you don’t even have to cook it. Two hours later and the soup was still cold. How can you have a fire that won’t even warm soup? I don’t know, but we did. Finally I humbled myself and took the pan over to our neighbor’s place. She had a toasty fire going, and I warmed the soup.
There is a big difference between dead wood and rotten wood.