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In these days of blizzards, flooding, closed highways and power outages, we are reminded we may need to invent novel solutions to our household dilemmas. It’s time to make do—if we can.
The young wife looks at the kitchen and throws up her hands in dismay. “Oh, I could never work in here!” she moans. “I can’t cook without granite counter tops! There’s not enough space!” She glares at the real estate agent as though he has brought her to a savage land.
Those of us whose guilty pleasures include watching episodes of House Hunters on TV have heard exactly that phrase any number of times. Some of us chuckle—or grimace. We know the young lady is expressing a trend, not a necessity. I once served a bison roast dinner complete with mashed potatoes and peas from the top of my woodstove with no kitchen at hand at all. The electricity was out, and our neighbors were hungry. If we hadn’t had so many people in attendance, we would’ve cooked eggs on our little camp stove.
Some experienced camp chefs can serve gourmet fare from a campfire and a bucket. My mom made bread in a frying pan. What about the RV owners who serve all their dinners in an RV? Our home kitchen is a cousin to one in an RV, and we’ve served 12 Thanksgivings and countless dinner parties. (You can balance a cutting board over the sink if you position it on a diagonal.) Martha Stewart doesn’t come, but the people who do never go away unsatisfied.
Lest you form the opinion that my family is a model of practical adaptability, I’ll tell you that long ago we moved to a semi-arid portion of the country, bringing our queen-sized waterbed along. By the time we had attempted to fill the first tube, we had emptied our well. Oops. Bereft of water, we had to break through the ice on the tops of our rain barrels to scoop out the algae-laden goo that had to pass as water to set in pails in the shower stall–goo we could use to flush our toilet. The smell was earthy.
In trying to protect our children from want, we may have accidentally prevented them from needing to be resourceful. Years ago, we were delighted to be invited to visit the mountain cabin of some friends to check on its welfare. It was winter and the water lines were frozen. Forewarned, we carried in large containers of water from the grocery store. After an energetic day of sledding, our teenaged son wanted to take a shower. We told him that was impossible, but he was welcome to heat water and take a sponge bath in the sink.
He looked at us with disgust. “I can’t fit in the sink!” he snarled. When we stopped laughing, we explained what we meant.
Do you remember the scene in the spoof movie Galaxy Quest when the Captain Kirk-like hero (Tim Allen) is threatened with being crushed by a gigantic rock monster? A crewman (who is happy to represent plucky comic relief) radios a suggestion from the safety of the starship. “Look around. See if you can find the materials to make a primitive lathe…”
Being inventive requires some practicality.