Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Back to (old) school

In a strange state of affairs at Maid In Australia Manor recently, we were forced to go back to basics.

Unthinkable I know, and I can tell you it was quite traumatic.

One afternoon, I arrived home to be greeted by a visibly anguished  Mr 17. Before I even had a chance to ask what was wrong, he revealed that a terrible thing had happened while I was out on one of my regular forays to hunt and gather stock up on groceries.

"Mum!" he said, and the tone in his voice was almost accusing. "What took you so long? I had to reheat my pizza. In the oven!"

I know! I was shocked too.

Meanwhile, Man Child took my shopping bags from me and motioned for me to sit down. He faced me, and I knew we were in for a Very Serious Discussion Indeed.

"You have no idea what it was like," he continued. "The pizza took ages to get warm enough to eat, and when it did get hot, it was dried out!"

A tear may have rolled down his face right about then. (I may have exaggerated that part.)

"It's not good Mum," he continued. "I was looking forward to my pizza and it was ruined. We can't go on like this!"

Clearly we had a crisis on our hands.

I was failing in my role as a mother and provider of easily heated snacks in our home. And it was time to make things right, dammit. No child of mine would live without second dinners, or subsist on substandard snacks in-between meals.

I did what any caring parent would do. I looked my son in the eyes, and promised that I would fix this. I would find a microwave to suit our budget and our bench space, and he would be able to easily reheat food again.

You may ask where my daughter was in all of this. Well, she doesn't like to complain. However, as she has a medical condition that requires her to follow a high salt diet, there were a few times where she would say wistfully: 'If only we could put some popcorn on ... Oh but, yeah, that will take too long. I'll just go and lie down for a while." Ouch.

I tried to explain how we did it before the touch of a button, and how much fun it was, but I just received a pitying look for my troubles.

"But that was just because you had nothing else to do back then Mum," she said. "You like doing weird things anyways."

Okay, I can see why she might think that.

Yet, when our microwave died, in a dramatic shudder of banging, vibration and sparks, I didn't think it was that big a deal.

Naively. I thought we'd manage for a few weeks before finding a replacement.

You see, our location in a small country town doesn't make replacing a microwave when you are a tightarse, broke, shopper with fairly specific tastes, an easy task.

There are only a handful of outlets where one can buy a microwave locally. I quickly discovered that these stores only stocked much bigger and more expensive versions of appliances than I wanted. I tried shopping online but the cost of postage meant that wasn't viable either. That's if they even delivered here. It would have been fab to find a second hand one, but no one was selling either.

Meanwhile, life without this convenience was rougher than we thought.

I'd taken for granted how often we use this appliance, to defrost frozen meals, sauces, and meat; cook vast amounts of rice (who needs a rice cooker when you have a microwave and a mother?); and to reheat premade meals and leftovers for hungry teenagers throughout the day - and night.

We go through mountains of rice and ready to eat meals

With our old much-loved microwave going on to perform a new role serving as a country mailbox,  we were now limited to cooking from scratch, or making meals which survived an oven or stove reheat while still remaining edible. Heaven help us if someone had to eat dried-out pizza!

The whole situation had the kids wondering how people coped in the old days, like when I was a girl? (Actually, how did my mother cope with a family to feed, especially when visitors came to stay? And how did my brothers survive their teenage years without a selection of meals available to devour every few hours?)

Living with a teen with a really high metabolism who needs to eat often, means there is a rotating stash of easily reheated, nutritious food in the fridge. I could make my son cook, and he often does. However, we've found during sleeping hours it's best for him to be up for as little as possible. That's when reheating and eating is the answer, so that he doesn't properly wake up, doesn't wake anyone else, and goes back to sleep quickly, with something filling to help him sleep soundly. 
I thought naively that we'd bond over making popcorn in a saucepan, planning meals more carefully, and increasing our awareness of what we ate. Instead, we were reduced to buying crap longlife food which my son could make in the middle of the night, and asking visitors if they had plans to stay for meals, so we could plan accordingly.

Quickly cooked ramen noodles. Yummy, but without adding the usual goodies to bulk them up, not much substance to satisfy a teenager for long. Two-minute noodles, and pasta packets came in handy  during our Back To Basics period too. (The teen doesn't do toasted sandwiches or cereal.)

On the plus side, I became a little more canny. Instead of putting leftovers into meal-sized portions, I used them in other ways - incorporating veggies into breakfast as bubble and squeak, using pasta and roast veggies for a fritatta, creating corn beef hash from a meal made earlier. That was a good result of going Old School in the kitchen. But it also meant a lot of extra cooking - and washing up.

It was Aldi to the rescue, for the word had gone around, that the specials from the latest catalogue had arrived.

I nabbed the only $89 microwave left. At that price, it was not what I wanted, and I could have bought the same thing for less - or something better for more - if I'd  waited until we had time to shop in the city or at a bigger town.

But I had a Man Child hanging around the kitchen with a rumbling tummy at all hours of the day and night, and there was one left. Who knew when I'd find one at this price again? Thoughts of going to bed knowing I could leave Mr 17's hunger pains would be eased with ease went to my head.

Behold, our bright and shiny appliance. Now, no child at MIA Manor shall be in need of a hot snack or second or third dinner again.

Finally peace has returned to our kitchen and our mealtimes are a bit more adventurous. There is a fresh supply of home-made meals for the kids to reheat when in need, or when friends drop by, and rice is cooked to perfection every time.

Finally we can all get some sleep. And hot pizza.

Readers have you ever been forced to, or chosen to go back to basics? Was it a simpler way of living or did it just make life more complicated?


Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I've never lived with a teenage boy but I've heard that they can eat gargantuan amounts of food. It sounds like indeed the case! I don't mind going back to basics for a short time but I also like modern conveniences.

Unknown said...

I'm with you Lorraine. Basics are often the best, but there are reasons why some conveniences were invented! And yes, the amount of food a teenager can put away is astounding!

Jo Tracey said...

When we were away last year we got a panicked call from Miss 20. We'd filled the freezer with homemade pasta sauces, curries, lasagnes & even pizza - and then Cyclobe Debbie hit & the power went out. 'How am I going to eat?' she wailed. 'Defrost some pasta sauce & cook the pasta.' 'Uh derr, we have no power.' 'Uh derr, we have a gas cooktop,' I replied. 'That's great, but how do I defrost it?' 'The old-fashioned way - take it out in the morning.'

Sydney Shop Girl said...

Can't live without my microwave. When my previous one died, I lasted all of 48 hours without it and had to use my gas cook top and good old steam to reheat a few things... slowly.

SSG xxx

Unknown said...

Oh dear Jo! I think my kids would be the same. And Sydney Shop Girl, we lasted about 10 days before The Talk. That's when I started serious shopping. I felt sure we would manage until I could get to the city, but these days a microwave is a necessity more than a luxury.

Sammie @ The Annoyed Thyroid said...

It's amazing how much one can miss a kitchen appliance isn't it? I can't remember being without a microwave in living memory and so think I would really struggle, but it does make you think how we managed in the olden days? Our oven died earlier this year and I found it so hard to cook without it, even though I didn't think I really used it that much (apart from my out of control baking obsession!) I'm so pleased that you're back on track - praise be to Aldi!

Unknown said...

Thanks Sammie. The timing was perfect for Aldi's specials, that's for sure. Funnily enough, our oven door imploded a couple of years ago and it took about 10 days for that to be replaced too. But it was easier to get by without that than our trusty microwave!

Denyse Whelan. said...

I admit I cannot remember much of life without a microwave. Oh dear your son does need life lessons...aka cooking.. ! poor you.

Thank you for linking up for #LifeThisWeek. The optional prompt next is: 39/52. Last Thing I Bought. 24/9/18. Denyse

Unknown said...

Haha. He's actually a good cook Denyse. It's just cooking in the middle of the night that we don't like. All that clattering of pans doesn't make for a restful sleep!

Sue said...

I definitely use my microwave much less now that there are no teenage boys in our house, Bronnie, but it's still so very handy for all sorts of reheating and I wouldn't like to manage without one. On another note, I wonder if your "man child" might find protein and fat keeps him satiated for longer? Avocados? Bacon? When I changed to protein and veggies with healthy fats for breakfast, I found I wasn't hungry until lunch time. A big change from when I used to have toast or muesli for brekkie and be starving for a muffin by morning tea!! Ah, I do remember the years of the teenage boy feeding challenge though, it wasn't so long ago!!