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06/27/2005 Archived Entry: "Keeping it Simple, Stupid!"

Keeping It Simple, Stupid!

Raving reporter Thunder here. Many of us in the freedom-loving community have embraced the concept of gulching. For those not in the know, might I suggest this short primer. Well, as we all know there are different types of gulches. Some people may choose to vacate themselves to the backwoods of New Hampshire, some may retreat to the mountains and hills of one o' dem square states. Heck, some may even retreat to the desert surrounding the strip of Las Vegas or Palm Springs. Many will build their homesteads off-grid, utilizing wind, solar, or hydro power. A few may even utilize all three, if the resources are available.

The main hurdle once you're generating your own power is not using too much of it. The electrical resources that one will have when generating their own are

much more limited than one could get if they are on-grid. Conservation of that resource is the key to having that power last. One has to become conscious of all of the potential power drains. Even the clock on your microwave or VCR takes power to operate and needs to be accounted for.

What I believe to be a key element in the conservation of that energy is a healthy return to the basics. Electricity is a relatively new invention in the grand scheme of things. Our ancestors got along just fine without it and we can too. We don't have to give up Edison and Tesla's inventions (Edison invented the DC power generator while Tesla invented the more efficient for transmission over long distances AC power) completely. I mean come on! We've gotta be able to access Claire's blog, Hardyville columns, and TCF, right? What we can do is reduce the amount of electricity we use for other things, saving the juice for that all-important Internet. An added bonus is that a lot of the simpler gadgets out there can be found relatively inexpensively.

Since I like to cook, let's take a look at a few things that we can use in the kitchen that operate on good, old fashioned muscle power. First off, let's look at chopping food. Preparation of food is one of the most time-consuming of tasks in the kitchen. Because of this, a lot of inventive mind-power has gone into making life a bit simpler for the cook and we have several different options to choose from.

Nothing can replace a good, sharp knife. Just the other day, I stopped by an estate sale and for a budget-busting $3 I bought a wonderful all -purpose knife. It has a high carbon steel blade about 12 inches long that has a wonderful "zzziiinnngg" to it when you sharpen it. Yes, it's a behemoth, but it is a good general purpose knife. It's beefy enough for butchering, yet versatile enough for cutting and chopping. The carbon steel blade will take and hold a good edge with only minor occasional sharpening needed. The darn thing is probably older than I am and will probably be around long after I'm gone. I'd say that alone makes it a good $3 investment.

You say you don't want to do all of your food prep with a knife reminiscent of Excaliber? Fancy-schmancy electric food processors are nice, but who needs them if you can do it yourself without electricity? Look into getting a hand operated food processor. These things are relatively inexpensive and they work quite well and quickly. I have one and use it quite often when I'm cooking. They'll chop up an onion in about 10 seconds. Not only do these things chop well, they usually come with a recipe for some AWESOME salsa! They also usually come with several attachments that turn it into a mandolin. I've used it to slice potatos into thin, uniform slices, reducing the cook time a bit when making mashed potatoes thus saving energy of the stove as well. I've even made meringue in it using the beater blades and it was much easier and faster than using a hand whisk. I do have to note that while these things work great, the handle on the bowl can break relatively easily, too. Plastic isn't known to be the most indestructible of substances. If we could just get one of these things with a glass or Pyrex bowl.......

If turning a crank isn't your cup of tea, how about something that you can work your aggressions out with? (Who knew saving energy could also be therapuetic?) My mother had one of the plunger-type food choppers that I'm sure you've probably seen on TV. Her's dated from probably the 50's or 60's, so these things aren't new ideas. They consist of a thin blade bent into a zig-zag pattern on the end of a spring loaded plunger. You place it over the food you want to chop and proceed to whack the crap out of the plunger a few times. Voila! Sliced and diced in 30 seconds or less. You may be able to find one of the older types at a yard or estate sale dirt cheap or if you'd like, you can buy a new one for about $20 or less.

One can't forget the various food grinders and mills that are out there as well. The designs for these things have been around for over a hundred years and they are usually built out of cast iron, so you know that they'll last. Again, yard sales or estate sales would be great places to pick one up. If you have to buy one new, they can get to be a bit expensive, but you are buying a quality, lasting product.

Don't be afraid to let the electric Cuisinarts go. They are nice, but why bother if you can have something that'll reduce your power draw, give you a little bit of exercise and will last a lifetime.

Posted by Thunder @ 07:50 PM CST

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