THE RED HOUSE COOKING DILEMMA
Cooking so far. In a “kitchen” that has been gutted except for a farm sink, an electric stove (whose oven door you don’t want to open, trust me) and a refrigerator that tips backwards because the floor is uneven, I think I’ve managed remarkably well. Granted, I do have a coffee maker and a toaster oven in another room because I’ve used up all the outlets in the aforementioned “kitchen” for the stove and the fridge and let’s not forget the single lightbulb over the sink! I’m including a few pictures of the “kitchen” for those who can’t imagine how challenging preparing food in such an environment can be.
See the ‘island” in the middle of the space? That’s an old dresser drawer I found on the street on Long Island. It came with one drawer (currently used to hold extra sheets for the beds upstairs) but the top is wide enough to use as a prep area. It’s probably the most useful piece of furniture I have in the house right now.
The cardboard on the floor (boxes we salvaged from Home Depot that they were taking out to the dumpster) is a recent addition. Because the linoleum had been stripped and we were left with subfloors coupled with patches of dried glue, we were soon tracking dust from room to room. The floor in this state was also kind of scary to look at. Covering it up was a really good decision.
When the contractor gutted the kitchen, the fridge and the stove were temporarily moved out to the garage. The fridge survived the move, the stove was disgustingly filthy. I scrubbed it, bought new metal drip pans to put around the electric coils and had to relearn how to cook “electric.”
My memories of cooking on an electric stove were based on an apartment we lived in twelve years ago where bringing a pot of water to boil could easily take 40 minutes. Luckily, this wasn’t the case with this appliance. Water boiled up pretty quickly and generally frying or sautéing was equally fast. My biggest problem was not being able to regulate the heat. Being used to a gas stove, I simply turned down the burner. Here the knob would say “High,” “Medium High,” “Medium” and “Low.” Anything below “Medium High” and the electric coil was barely warm.
But besides getting used to regulating the temperature, I always had to make sure as I was cooking that a lid went on the pot the minute after I stirred the dish. Reason being, above my head were 160-year-old beams singed from a long ago kitchen fire and I was trying to make sure that dust, dirt, spiders, ants or anything else that happened to be lurking up there didn’t fall into whatever it was I was cooking. (I know in some cultures cooking and eating rodents is fashionable but I don’t live in one of those places.)
Besides the aforementioned unmentionables, we also have a mouse problem — field mice to be precise — from the acres of property surrounding the house. They seem to prefer to hang around the sink and the stove because they might be mice but they’re not stupid. These critters are acutely aware where a leftover morsel of food might still be found. Consequently, we’ve had to put out some poison. I know a lot of people use traps. Trust me, traps don’t work. Remember the joke about building a better mouse trap? You can coat that sucker with cheese or with peanut butter and even chocolate, but the reality is that mice have managed to evade that trap for hundreds of years. Obviously, if the trap had ever really worked they would be an extinct species.
I know animal rights activists think poison is cruel. Trust me it’s not. They eat the poison, it makes them thirsty, they go outside to find water, then die a nice death in a pile of soft green grass. Plus, if the one stupid mouse actually got stuck in the trap, I’d have the gruesome task of picking the thing up and throwing it outside. YUCK!
About the provisions in the house. Up until now, I must admit I’ve been cheating a little (well, ok, a lot) bringing food from home (both prepared and unprepared) to eat. Sometimes it’s been the makings of a salad but more often than not I’ve been lugging a variety of cheeses, bread, fresh pasta, fish, steaks and veggies up here. But now that I’m officially “off kitchen duty,” I’ve prepared simple meals for myself and whoever else has shown up. I’ve also had to remind whoever is visiting me that there will be no formal meals up here. I’m cooking what I want to eat and they can join me if I’ve made enough for two. Otherwise they have to fend for themselves. So far the The Daily Dining Dilemma seems to be a thing of the past since I don’t have to worry about what everyone else wants for dinner.
One last confession. I also have a kick-ass grill outside. Kick-ass because it’s twice the size of the grill we have on Long Island and it seems to cook more efficiently. Between the grill and provisions from home, I’m managing quite well. Dare I mention that the food seems to taste better up here?