Friday, August 30, 2013

Refridgeration or Not? and in a van...?

Refrigeration or coolers or ice or don't ice or dry ice or 12 volt coolers or way expensive 12 volt refrigerators or low-tech zeer pots or ....

This was a simpler decision once - living off grid with no electricity and minimal at best solar or battery operated stuff.  Living as a raw vegan - growing my own food in a land of year round growing seasons.  Add to this my love of all things natural and home made...and 2 years spent living with NO plastic (there is another story for another day)

So now, living in my Simply Van - I have chosen not only a mobile lifestyle but also a life inside a dark colored passively solar heated (when you want it or not) small metal box with windows!  I live inside an oven.  Yes, I can, thankfully, open all of my windows.  Unfortunately not every van can do that.  I have chosen not to install a rooftop vent or an air conditioner.  I haven't added Freon to the air conditioner system that came with the van and I don't use the air conditioning system - because if I used it while driving, then when I stop for the night or evening, I would possibly be hot and miss it at night - so why get used to it.  Besides it just adds to the wear and tear on the engine and lowers my gas mileage.

I prefer to eat fresh veggies and fruits.  I carry dehydrated foods for when fresh is not readily available or for when I decide to take my food with me on a hike.

It's incredible how habits get formed.

In my childhood, we raised chickens, bought a side of beef for the freezer each year, had a half acre vegetable garden, canned at least 1000 quarts each of green beans and tomatoes, pickled, jellied, jammed and kept foods stored in the smaller corner and cooler room of the basement.  I remember mustard pickle barrels.  My Aunt and Uncle's northern Maine home had a basement under the garage/woodshed where they raised rabbits.  Another part of their basement had a fresh water spring fed cistern where they raised fish.  Potatoes and squash were layered in straw.  I baked only Whole Wheat-Oat-Honey bread that kept on the counter for a week if no one ate it (which didn't happen in a house with 8 or more people).

When I moved to Central America, and into an Indigenous village.  I thought it different and a bit odd that refridgerators were simply filled with very few and odd things and freezers often only had plastic bags filled with water that became ice, while the outdoor kitchen area might have a rack of bananas or platanos hanging and a basket with potatoes or yucca.  Often a pot of meat or soup would sit at the side of the Fogan's ever ready pile of warm coals.  After I learned enough Spanish to communicate, I learned that the village had only gotten refrigerators in the past 8 years.  Many homes had them, tho more as a status symbol.  I took the opportunity to learn (of course I love learning the old ways anyway - so I just had to know 'how Grandma did things").

After a cow fell down a hillside and broke its leg.  I got to learn the old way of processing meat - because the cow had to be slaughtered and that was a village and family process.  How kewl to learn to keep meat over a week! of course it was kind of hard to keep any of the dried and jerkied meat because of the neighborhood kids and not so kids just visiting!  This Gringa is a good cook!

Another lifesaver I learned after receiving the gift of an bout with parasites from visiting another village, and as well having a family dog near death from depression.  Was the very life saving Leche Agria - sort of a kefir or yogurt like naturally fermented raw milk.  Taken a few days past its prime, you have a natural fresh cheese.  Wonderful stuff - and take my advice, if you travel in other countries it will do your health good to have some (doesn't take much) of that country's fermented milk product to give your body the healthy bacteria that will help fight off diseases.

So where is all this leading?  For the time being, i have decided to insulate an old basket for food storage and to carry a bag style cooler mostly for carrying water bottles and keeping a few things cooler than the air inside the van.  I would like to be living plastic free again and that is a constant thought process as I continue to work with my life.

I may write about foods that dont need much cooling at some point, for now, im just carrying pickled beets, pickled eggs, other pickled veggies like okra or dilly beans, saurkraut, occasionally rice cakes (why plastic bags to hold waxed paper packages can we get less trash please), a jar of ghee (long shelf life butter), a jar of really raw honey w wax particles (btw why is it that farmers markets have to use plastic tubs for honey in the comb now),.  I also try to carry a chunk of really hard real and raw if i can get it cheese for pizzas,  and kippered herring im still searching for a way to get this without all the cans which are just trash after use.  I carry rice flour for pizza crust, a tube or can of tomato paste also for pizza, a bag of wild rice and dehydrated brocolli incase i need a company meal, rice udon noodles and rice papers for spring rolls, and spices, herbs, peppermint tea, coffee which i cold brew and drink room temperature unless its bitter cold and there is a crowd and fire when nothing but cowboy coffee is appropriate :)!  Lets see, i also carry raw cocoa/cacao powder and coconut sugar for hot chocolate on cold nights.

I often buy or pick fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, berries I have quite a few that I dehydrated while visiting a friend recently, carrots, leaf lettuce....stuff like that oh and a couple apples and 2 or three citrus fruits.