Thursday, January 28, 2010

February 2, 2009 - Improvising

February 2, 2009
Improvising is in the heart of farm life. It’s more of a new use and interpretation of things to fulfill a certain purpose. If it brings continuity of life, that’s a done deal.
I wanted a brick and clay wood fired stove and oven, with a grill and perhaps a water heater built-in. The cast iron oven for sale costs $490,00. It’s more than the price of a regular gas stove. The one made with tin is a fraction of a cost, but still, it wouldn’t last. The grill that holds the pots costs $55,00, but as I had only $50,00 and I was not sure which kind I would need in case I come to build one, so I skipped on the purchase and came home ready to improvise.
I borrowed a broken-in-half grill from MC who had abandoned her also improvised stove. I placed it on top of my barbecue grill fixed by my father after the tin got rusty. Its legs and grill holder are made of iron, and the basin was made of cut metal barrel vertically, but placed horizontally to hold the charcoal. It doesn’t have a top. It works fine for my steaks, sausages, and chickens. When I came to visit and wanted to grill some meat, my father said he would think to find a way to fix it. He, then, walked to his shop, made some banging noise and soon he came up with a cut piece of tin from perhaps an old oil container and placed it on top of the big hole rust had eaten. Voila. It’s in full working again.
Improvising and planning. It a funny combination that walks together. At the same time that we improvise things we need to get going, farmers also plan way ahead of time. Make a compost, prepare the soil, retrieve seeds from the previous crops, and wait for the rain or for the right season. Or to cook out on an improvised stove.
In spite of some mechanization, no much is automatic in the country. Remember sweet milk paste, compote, marmelade, soaps, all had to be watched over and worked on. With my wood fired stove was not different. I placed the stove a few steps away from the kitchen, so the roof or the trees wouldn’t catch fire. Besides having gone in and out countless times, I had to watch the fire and keep moving the wood sticks for the pots to get the right amount of blaze.
I started by cooking dog’s dinner on a larger hole. As the second hole was unoccupied with a fire under it, I placed the smallest cast iron pot with beans with bacon, salted pork skin and meat, smoked sausage, quartered yellow onion and whole garlic cloves. The smell of burning wood and the food seemed like a perfect blend for the end of afternoon. As soon as the dog food got ready, I fried garlic and rice which aroma could be felt at distance. I was wondering if my father smelled it and was coming home from the field speedily.
I learned a few valuable things. It’s great to cook outdoors, just like camping. But the lack of work counter, sink and supplies make it difficult. I had to run back and forth to fetch every single thing I needed, such as spoon, top, towel, water, or even ingredients. In a few minutes, I observed that fire for cooking should be different from grilling. While the latest needs broad fire with lasting red-hot coal, the first one needs a scant steady fire on the tip of the wood. I told my daughter that fire is an alive thing. It’s hard to control, specially if the woods are of irregular shapes and from different trees. I used unpainted construction debris wood, any wood or stick that were laying around and dry enough. I had been bugging my father to hire someone to haul away the sticks and logs from tree trimmings that were piled on several heaps around the house. Yesterday, I was thankful that this job was not done. First, my father told me that it serves as compost, and secondly, they were handy as I needed strong flame.
I served garlic rice, pork beans, sauteed sweet pepper, and ground beef, ham, and mozzarela cheese tomato noodles. It was delicious. The down side of cooking out is the smell and grease that sticks on you along with insect repelent. Thank God it didn’t rain, or the whole project would fail. Shower from head to toe and hit the bed were the best thing after my adventure.. I am not done yet. I am not going to give up in spite of all its hassle. The result is well worth it. It is just spread it out in time. I am planning to render fat and make sweet milk paste soon on a dry sunny afternoon after playing with my daughter. She complains that I no longer have time to play with her. Oh, yeah, farm mothers don’t play with their children like city folks.

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