Failing at Fondue

The Daily Mail has published an article about yet another retro-living woman who has spent a week pretending to live with the resource limitations of another era. We’ve seen women of the 1930s and 1940s, and couples of the 1950s… today, however, we are graced with the attempt by one woman to live in the 1970s of Britain. Not the full range of retro elements, mind you – no bell-bottomed leisure suits for her! Just the cooking.

The woman in question bemoans the loss of her microwave, her bread maker, her coffee maker, her electric scales… and even her food processor. Apparently she’s reliving the very early ’70s, since they were certainly available later in the decade. But, then, this was pre-Thatcher Britain, and people still ate twigs.

I’ve lived in Bolivia for two years. I cook two meals a day in a world without the benefit of a microwave or prepared goods. Macaroni and Cheese in boxes is considered a serious splurge in our Bolivian household (it does, after all, cost more than making a beef roast stew).

She babbles on about how dreadfully difficult, how mindnumbingly time-consuming, it all is. To listen to her, cooking from scratch would seem to be a miserable all-day task.

She’s right, in a sense. Everything does take longer. The way she whines, however, sounds as if she spent hours slaving away each day for a week only to collapse at the table in exhaustion. Comparing her tales with reality, I can only conclude that she’s just lousy at it.

Bolivia lacks easy fast food, and what exists is just as expensive as it is in the United States. How can one casually go to the one Burger King in town when it costs just as much as going to El Porton, the nicest steakhouse in the city? Processed greasy fast hamburger or Argentine steak? Dilemma.

We do have a microwave and it has worked for a collective six months of the twenty-six months I’ve been here. The microwave has one teensy problem: plug it into the wall and it burns out.

In fairness, we do also have a food processor and a Kitchenaid stand mixer. Each appliance saves at least fifteen minutes off each major project. This is necessary when one has to cook two separate entrees at each meal to cover the needs of eight people, three of whom have violent allergies to the key elements which make food Taste Good.

We do not, though, have a bread maker or an ice cream maker… and I fail to see the use for electric scales in day to day cooking. Or Thanksgivings, for that matter.

We buy sandwich bread, but we bake regularly regardless. Then we’ve the cookies. Why would we buy cookies from the store when we can bake them for half the price? Our Bolivian grocery bills are already the equal of our American grocery bills, thanks to Bolivia’s political mis-leadership.

And yet… unlike the Daily Fail’s frazzled idiot-cook, I still manage to get around town, take grad courses, and, in the case of this past Tuesday, watch seven episodes of Buffy.

I’d like to see the article’s author dropped into my great-grandmother’s world of 1930s-40s coal mining West Virginia. A special room meant for keeping hand-salted meats stored away for the winter, endless days spent canning vegetables in glass jars…

… but, then the universe would collapse in one great big collective whine.

If you enjoyed this post, please share to Twitter and Facebook and consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader. Thank you! - Lorien


Mona May 7, 2009 Reply

She lives! You, that is. You really should post more often, dearie.

We don’t have a microwave, food processor or bread maker. We don’t have a huge KitchenAid stand mixer, even. And didn’t they have automatic drip coffee makers in the seventies, too? I know my parents still used their stovetop percolator (we use one on the weekends), but I thought you could get them then.

Mona’s last blog post..It’s about time.

Henry May 12, 2009 Reply

According to the Mr. Coffee website, they released the first automatic drip coffee maker in 1972.

We have many food processors. We call them knives, potato mashers, box graters, wire whisks. . . . With just a little bit of regular practice, we can work quite quickly with them, and they’re very energy efficient. They run on beer. I don’t think twice about not having some fancy electric food processor, and I can’t imagine finding somewhere to store a useless electric scale. Mona uses a wooden spoon to mix cookie dough because she’s too much of a snob to use the electric beaters.

Heck, our oven is a 110th anniversary model from a company started in 1874, making it . . . (wait, higher math happening) . . . twenty-five years old. I wonder if she (article chick, not Mona) could work with that?!?

I kind of envy you your cooking situation. I want to build a wood-burning brick oven and grill in the back yard, but I’m not sure if local building/zoning regulations would allow it, and I would like to grow and can my own vegetables (sure, work at the end of the season, but just open a jar later), so your technological setbacks sound, to me, like challenges!

I agree with you that Frazzled Idiot-Cook must be just lousy at it. (I’ll follow the link in a few minutes.)

I also agree with Mona that you should post more often.

Lorien July 3, 2009 Reply

Mona and Henry! Really, please, get on Facebook already. I’m so horrible about checking LiveJournal blogs now.

Meanwhile, even I know that electricity from the wall provides more efficient and less expensive energy than beer. When I become a *real* grownup with my own kitchen, I intend to have the Kitchenaid mixer and a food processor. But I don’t have kids to feed. So.

Victory gardens, ahoy. At least you needn’t worry about building permits for them – yet. I’d quite like to have an apple orchard and cidery, but that would require people manage the thing.

Still. Apple cider on demand. Dream.

Lorien July 3, 2009 Reply

Oh. and. Something you two will like:
solar ovens. We’re getting one here, soon, and we’re all looking forward to it. This organization is very active in Bolivia, and I have much respect for the products and methology.

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