Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Your privilege is baked

This past Saturday was the best day I've had in about eight or nine months.  That was the day my new stove was installed.

Sometime around June- or was it May?- of last year, my oven would not turn off, even when we turned it off.  We ended up unplugging the range (and turning off the gas) until we could figure out what the problem was.  When a repair person came over, they explained that one of the mechanisms that controlled the thermostat stopped working.  It might have had something to do with the oven door that didn't entirely close.  We would either need to repair or replace the oven.  Because I don't like to throw big appliances away when I don't have to, I wanted to repair.  Either way, we were looking at more than $500.

Unfortunately, I didn't have that kind of money on hand.  (Paying tax and dental bills will do that to you.)  I looked around my kitchen and focused on my griddle, which I'd previously used primarily to make pancakes.  To me, it bore a close resemblance to a hot plate.  It wasn't very quick to, oh, boil water, but it could do.  About a week later, my oldest and I figured out that we could turn it into a makeshift oven by putting a little rack on it and covering the food with foil, with some space for venting.  It was on this griddle that I made some delicious vegan, gluten-free donuts, as well as numerous stir fries and pots of pasta, rice and beans.  There were also brownies, cookies and even some granola bars (courtesy of my oldest).

We bought a small, inexpensive rice cooker, but unfortunately that didn't last too long.  We also bought a used bread maker from a nearby thrift shop for $10.  That did last, and I made not only bread but also cake with it.  It also did a good job of making baked potatoes.  Again, everything took a little longer, but it did the job.

Over eight or nine months, my family of six ate the majority of our meals at home, and by many standards we ate well.

So to those who say that if people with limited means were just a little clever they could still eat healthfully, I can say only this: shove it.  Or, as my oldest suggested, shove your oven range.  I'll leave it to your imagination as to where.

We talk about people who have very little money and have to- yes, have to- eat things that many of us know are unhealthy and tsk.  Don't they know better?  Can't they get a hot plate?  Can't they do math?  Eating even those Dollar Meals adds up after a while.  If they could just conserve a little here and there, they could make an investment purchase and then eat less expensively and more healthfully.  Or they'd be able to pay the electric or gas bill that's keeping them from using the appliances they already have.  Or they'd be able to afford the security deposit so they could move to a place with a working kitchen.  Or they could afford the cab fare so they could buy more food when they went shopping.  Or they could buy a bigger refrigerator so they could store more food.  With a little intelligence or creativity, they could fix all of the other things they lack that forces them to pay more for lower quality food.

This is one of the stupid arguments people make when they can't see past their own privilege.  I didn't cook at home because I'm so smart; I cooked at home because my problems with wheat and dairy- and my family's vegetarianism- makes us kind of special.  Those value meals don't go a long enough way for people like us.    But there were many nights that I would have been happy to have ordered pizza if I could have eaten it.

I didn't tell my family about my problem.  (I only mentioned it to my mother when I was waiting for the new range to be delivered.)  Why?  Because I have a generous family.  If I had, at least one of them would have offered to help me out.  I didn't say anything because my family does enough for me and my children as it is.  (Just now I had to talk one of them out of buying me a Kindle just because she had some extra cash lying around.)  My children were not in danger of starving so I could make the choice to be silent.

I hope anyone reading this recognizes that a family willing and able to help is a privilege.  It is not a guarantee.  I know people who don't have that.

Oh, and to those people who bemoan the modern, western decadence that forces people to believe that we need a stove, I will tell you that my life is much easier now that I can boil water, cook pasta in under 30 minutes and bake bread in less than an hour.  And you know what?  I bet the majority of people who don't have those things would agree as well.

Finally, yes, that is a new oven- I didn't repair the old one.  Why?  Because the cost of doing so would have been greater than the cost of the new oven we ended up with.  I wish it weren't so, but it is.

Excuse me, my range and I have some baking to do for my oldest's birthday cake.  It's going to be delicious- and quick.

Deb in the City

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