For most of us, because of employment, family needs, comfort and efficiency, we are tied to our techno-industrial lifestyles. For most of us, this is just how it will be until it’s not. But, for us in the resiliency community, now is the time to learn and practice skills that will become very important in the not so distant future.
I‘m constantly amazed at how attached so many of us are to the tech and comforts of the 20th & 21st centuries. For those who can, they spend thousands and thousands on “green” technology that will extend god like nirvana after SHTF. Trust me, I get it! I really understand! And, if you’ve got it (cash), why not? But, how long do solar panels last? 20 years? How long do the batteries last? 10 years? Windmills? Parts break! What happens when you can’t get the parts anymore, or you can’t afford them? Maybe you‘re just trying to operate the most important things like well pumps and refrigeration. These are well worth the effort to keep going. But, I think it’s honest to say that sooner or later we’ll need to make choices in our lives about what parts of the “glory of Rome” we can keep going And what we’ll let go of. So, while I live like most, I also want to learn things that will be highly beneficial in a future reality or just a storm emergency-and I love food. I also love dining!
A modern stove/oven is a big paper weight without electricity or gas. No, these are not forever. Are they forever in our life times? Who knows!
The Art of Dining:
I’m leading off with this picture knowing that such an image will not be appreciated by everyone. But, it’s to illustrate an important point. Cooking and eating has always been a central unifier of families and communities. It’s one of the practical ways we love our neighbors, a reward for hard work to love ourselves, and a specific time set to express our thanks and love to God for the blessings he provides. Through most of history cooking and eating has been an art form to one degree or another.
Until sometime in the 20th century the process of eating was in two parts: 1) Cooking, and 2) Service. The food was cooked by any means available and then transferred in more attractive serve-ware for the table. This habit was done from rich to working class alike. Stove/oven to table wasn’t a thing yet.
What follows is a practical method of cooking outside with cast iron that has little legs under the pots for cooking on coals. The pots also have rimmed lids for putting coals on top, which allows for roasting and baking. They are called Dutch ovens. As you can see below, I’ve selected two sizes of Dutch ovens, a coal chimney, lid/pot lifter, and a trivet (lower left). On the menu: beef stroganoff and peach cobbler. This was the first meal I ever cooked this way. You can also use cast iron over a camp fire or wood coals.
After getting the coals going in the chimney, you set the coals under and on top of the ovens. For efficiency, you can stack the ovens one on the other. I have an instruction book that tells you how many coals to use for oven size and type of food. You can really cook just about anything in these. It was a windy day so I grabbed what ever I could find to build a wind break. An outdoor summer kitchen would be ideal. I’ve since moved into the garage and bought an iron folding table with shields made for these ovens to make cooking easier.
These are Lodge cast iron cookware. They sell the cooking instruction manual and recipe books, and metal cooking stand.
Here‘s the beef stroganoff. Believe it or not, it didn’t take any longer to cook than a conventional stove/oven, especially if you get your coal chimney going while you chop and prep for cooking.
Dinner is served!
A point of showing the dinner service is to illustrate how rewarding and “civilizing” life can be even in a changed world, as long as you’ve prepared for it. After a hard day of work, you can imagine, after washing up, sitting down to a handsome, tasty meal for dinner which someone in the household has prepared. Maybe it’s just on Sunday, or a holiday.
The white covered dish that the stroganoff is served in is Ironstone. It’s very durable and beautiful. It can be tempered with hot water or in an oven. Ironstone was the Tupperware of its day from late 1700’s till mid1970’s. It gets its name because the earliest forms had iron slag in the pottery. People figured out that wasn’t a good idea. If you happen to find some from the early 1800’s (and you still can) don’t use it in the oven or microwave. Better, maybe only use it’s as decor because you don’t really know what’s in the glaze either.
Ironstone started as a product for the early and growing middle class to emulate the higher class in England. It grew into its own wonderful form. You can find Ironstone in almost any antique store. It’s not very expensive. A common American maker was Red-Cliff, and is easily found.
Here’s the peach cobbler baked in the cast iron Dutch oven with homemade whipped cream. Yummy! If I say so myself.
A technique with baking cake and breads is to set a trivet in the Dutch oven then set in the round pan for cake, breads, cornbread, biscuits, etc. so you don’t burn the bottoms before the food is baked through - smart.
One thing you learn learning old ways is just how smart, cleaver, and creative our ancestors were. We really owe so much to them. A lot of our modern techno conveniences are just very mechanical versions of the old methods for efficiency Remember our ancestors in your prayers with thanksgiving.
Have you ever wondered why old china and nice China sets come with so many seemingly useless service pieces that no one ever uses, but maybe for Thanksgiving or Christmas? It’s because cooking with the old methods was dirty, smutty, really hot, and often in much larger pots. One needed something at least clean and not scalding hot and in a manageable size to bring to the table, even if the cook was basically turning around from a cast iron stove or fireplace to a dinner table to serve. We don’t understand these practical needs anymore with our stove-to-table ware, but we may relearn these things in time to come.
One other lesson from learning old ways of getting human activities and survival done, you need many more hands. Today, we really believe we’re islands of independence, but we’ll learn to be larger families and village communities again.
Peace+ Br Tom, cmj.