This little piece, freshly edited, is from a journal entry I wrote a couple years ago.
Loss of Power is a Gain
Dave met me just beyond L— Park on my walk home from work. We sat on a black iron bench speckled with scattered remnants of the morning’s rain and gazed over the fall landscape–flowers in rich reds, deep mustardy yellows, royal purples, and still-crisp greens.
“I did a bunch of really smart things today, and one really stupid one,” Dave broke the silence.
Well, that explains the unexpected meeting… I thought to myself.
“Which do you want to hear first? Please let me start with the good stuff.”
I sighed and agreed. As it turned out, he really did have quite a list of successes for the day: At SC, he designed a functional rocket for a demo; developed lessons for school programs sold, but not yet planned out; and showed his advisor a nice logo he’d quickly designed for an upcoming Digi Camp.
“Well, those are all fantastic,” I began, “…but what’s the bad news?”
“Don’t get mad. I kinda misread the day the power bill was due—turns out it was the 13th, not the 18th—and it was the last notice, so…we don’t have any power in the house anymore. I really did just misread the bill. I had the money in my account to pay it, I just didn’t do it in time.”
After a short discussion, and a few suppressed near-tears on my part, Dave optimistically reminded me our enjoyable power outage in a freak summer mega storm.
“I think we should do it again. It won’t be as hard this time because we’ll be able to get ice easily without having to fight the neighbors for it! We can buy a couple bags from the T— Mart on the way home, throw them into the deep freeze and turn it into a giant cooler again. It’ll be fun.”
“That WOULD actually be kinda nice,” I admitted. “And we’d save a little bit on the electric bill if we went a week without power.”
Soon, the matter was settled. We would wait a few days before calling to restore the power. Thanks to an odd snub on payment for a design job Dave completed, his starving artist bank account was lower than expected and any extra time before paying the bill was heartily welcomed.
Our biggest concern about lack of electrically during the summer storm had been our diminished ability to prepare meals. At that time, even the backyard fire pit was off limits due to a burn ban. Not so anymore.
The first evening, we successfully fried an egg, then hardboiled two more. The second night, we were feeling more ambitious. The menu for our evening out began with thick slices of delicious homemade bread, purchased from a local farm, sautéed in butter in a cast iron skillet set on a smoldering pile of fiery red embers. Atop those crunchy cuts of golden-brown goodness we heaped my homemade bruschetta. The tasty appetizer was followed by cubes of stew beef seasoned simply with salt and pepper and skewered between chunks of fresh onions and green peppers. We cooked the shish kebobs carefully over the coals, dodging the occasional burst of flame as juices dripped from the meat. Delicious! Simple fare is simply some of the best, and anything eaten under the stars with good company automatically earns extra points.
The next night, Dave stopped over at his brothers’ house, so I started a fire and sat in the backyard alone. I found myself staring at the wooden spoon wrapped in my fingers. I’d used it countless times in the kitchen with hardly a second thought, yet as I sat atop a dilapidated hay bale beside a smoldering pile of coals and gray ash, gazing on occasion at the gathering clouds in the evening sky, while pushing liver and onions from side to side of the iron skillet, the wooden utensil started to stir my mind. I analyzed its smooth lines and asked myself how hard it would be to craft one with AMA carved into the handle instead of the branding mark “Pampered Chef”.
I’ve made this meal many times in the past, but there is something enlightening about being beside a campfire, something alluring about being an Adventurous Cook instead of a Pampered Chef. I’m not truly adventurous, of course, and I hardly qualify as a cook, but compared to the average American food preparer, I am certainly slipping off the well-beaten path of pre-made food and microwave ovens. Sometimes the well-worn path has its benefits, but in this case, I think the change is a welcome escape, unpredictable though it may be.
How does this new understanding apply to our future as I see it? I see a dream kitchen with an inviting outdoor element, a simple covered cooking porch with a fire so it can still be use in light rain or even snow. I’m simultaneously unearthing two loves: Cooking nourishing food and deep appreciated for the great outdoors. Why not combine the two into a simple, useful, functional, and memorable space? Seems logical to me. A great idea may have just been born out of an unexpected power outage. I love discovering the places life carries us if we care to come along for the ride!
(Originally posted on my old blog, Interim Arts, on December 14, 2013)