Julie Webb-Pullman reports

Hot weather food for thought

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Forget ice-cream – there’s no electricity for the fridge, so it’s melted. Going to a shop to buy some doesn’t help – you walk in the door and slide several feet in the melt-water from their fridge, almost taking out the shelf of packet-food you grab to steady yourself. You’ll have to settle for a warm bottle of something sickly-sweet, because they don’t even bother stocking ice-cream anymore, and the water is all sold out.

The donkey-drawn vegetable cart outside has a pile of cool green cucumbers, and blazing red tomatoes – gazpacho comes to mind, so you buy a kilo of each. You rush back home trying to get there ‘on the hour’ to catch the elevator during it’s five minutes of operation, mentally calculating what else you need and dismissing it because if it’s the choice between a fresh red pepper and a ten-floor hike in this heat, the pepper loses.

You make it. Dumping the bags on the bench, you go to the fridge and draw back at the musty smell that emanates from within. You can’t figure it out – it can’t be the butter, that melted and had to be thrown out days ago. The cheese left of its own accord the day after. The wizened lemons wouldn’t smell like that, nor the bottle of soy sauce – and there’s not much else left in there.

You open the vegetable crisper and get out an onion that is miraculously still crispish, and the red pepper that looks more like a sun-dried tomato – but hey, it’s going to be liquidised anyway.

The recipe suggests a couple of slices of french bread. In the absence of such a luxury, you open the freezer to get out some pita. You almost fall over backwards – THAT is where the smell is coming from. The precise source is best left undisturbed. The bread, despite being inside a plastic bag, is soggy and wet. You take a piece into your bedroom and set it on the sill in the sun.

Back in the kitchen you chop garlic, the onion, the wrinkly pepper, a couple of cucumbers and the tomatoes and toss them in the blender. Uh oh, no electricity.

You go into the next room and check for the indicator light in the fuse-box – have they turned the generator on yet? Yes! Last month, you bit the bullet and had cables installed to connect you to the neighbour’s generator – for a flat rate per month of only seven times the municipality rate per kw, plus more for whatever extra you use over that allowance, he promised a continuous supply, except for  when the grid is on (two hours a day) and one hour for it to rest – even generators get tired in this heat. But that was the soft-sell – in reality it comes on randomly, sometimes at the same time as the grid – but often not at all, for days on end…

When the electrician came to connect you up, and put in a light so you could see in the kitchen as well as use your laptop and internet, he offered  to connect a wall power-point too. As you carry the blender into your bedroom and unplug the bedside lamp to plug it in, you congratulate yourself on his foresight.

After a few minutes whizzing, you get the now-dry and brittle bread off the sill, and go back to the kitchen for the vinegar and olive oil to drizzle in. You remove the little cap from the blender lid and start it up – and your sheet turns into a Jackson Pollock as the contents spray out.

Undeterred, you pour half into a bowl, and do it in two stages, using two bowls – something you should have done from the beginning because you knew it was too full, but you wanted to save on dishes because there is no water to wash them with because two hours of power a day is not enough for the water pump to fill the roof tanks….

Back to the kitchen – the bed must wait until there is electricity and water sufficient to do a load of laundry…….

You  add the salt and pepper, adjust the seasonings – and now all that is left to do is….chill it for several hours.

The one thing you cannot run off a generator is a fridge – even if you could somehow lug it into your bedroom to plug it in.

You decide that warm gazpacho is actually very tasty.

And that sleeping on the one square foot of clean sheet left really is perfectly bearable…

 

 

 

 

 

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