Homesteading 102 / 2020

I will be the first to admit that I grew up as an incredibly privileged expat child, surrounded by maids, gardeners, laundry women, with air conditioning in every room, and so on. If the household staff wasn’t picking up after my spoiled diva ass, then my mother was – or made sure she shouted loud enough for me to kick into action. The point being, it was only when I began living in a dorm during my university days that my feet touched the ground, beginning with the fact that I had a roommate. Goodness gracious, I freaked out when I learned I was not allowed to have my own room, and even worse, I had to keep my side of the room tidy (spot inspections) and clean up after myself. The floor did not sweet itself apparently, and much to my horror, the trash didn’t take itself out either. Bummer.

Although my mother tried to teach me how to cook, I got married at 26 with very little inkling about cooking things from scratch like my mother-in-law did all the time. I operated pretty much on a trial and error basis, but had some wonderful teachers along the way that rescued my dignity and restored my faith in kitchen wizardry. I was always daunted by life in Germany and fascinating though it was to me at the time, the passion for being self-sufficient and DIY-driven as a fundamental standard eluded me completely. So you can well imagine that it has been a very long fall from grace, and I only began to take pickling and bread spreads seriously two years ago. I do, however, stubbornly draw the line at jams and jellies and continue to refuse to cross that line.

I suppose I have to credit this blessed lockdown for catapulting me into homesteading at a whole new level. Becoming flexitarian has opened my eyes to the astronomical costs of organic food items, which are not financially viable or sustainable for me. Once again I find myself in the sink-or-swim pool and pondering the issue that .if I want variety in my diet I am going to have to step up my game and start experimenting big time. Well, like most other things I undertake, I asked myself “why the f*#k not?”

Today was a very different manner of starting the week. No, I didn’t have gnocchi for breakfast while reading about a cannibal running loose in Berlin… instead, gave my electric chopper a heck of a workout, for which, if it were an animate creature, I probably would have received a letter of resignation afterwards, and witnessed the offended walkout of an exhausted gadget. In any case, I transmogrified into Froggy the VampireSlayer, pounding and chopping up inordinate amounts of garlic for my monthly supply of garlic paste. This is something I adopted from India and can’t live without anymore, but back then I would simply buy the readymade version around the corner.

Next on the list was two vegetarian bread spreads. My daughter and I have established a system of I-buy-you-figure-out-what-to-make, which left me with some fun ingredients to work with. The sunflower seed and olive paste ended up looking like a vampire on blood withdrawal symptoms, grey and grainy, but not bad. Continuing on the vampire theme… the mushroom and red bell pepper paste looked like the missing blood my imaginary vampire was looking for, but would have spit right back at me because I added fresh rosemary, honey and quark (cream cheese).

Moving right along… I proceeded to make another batch of FrogDiva tea – which basically consists of placing all the leftover or dwindling teas into a jar. Let me backtrack a bit here… I am a staunch defender of the looseleaf tea faith, and teabags are absolutely forbidden in my house. So I have assorted packets of different flavoured looseleaf teas, mostly rooibos, green or jasmine, and consume them at different speeds. There comes a time, however, when I find myself staring helplessly at a bunch of indignantly dinky quantities that should really be consumed sooner rather than later. So my FrogDiva mix is unpredictable as it is irreplicable, and as I discovered this evening, this new batch is far weaker than last month’s and I have no idea why. Oh well…

Before I hit the much needed showers, I ended my vampire homesteading by topping up my chai spice, which I love to add to both coffee and milk tea. Last batch was way too heavy on the cardamom, and I’m afraid today I was a bit heavy handed on the ginger and star anis. Oh well, coffee that tastes like stew instead of gingerbread should be interesting…

Needless to say, I was not meant to be a pioneer homesteader in the 1800s prancing about in the prairies. Nope. I am far too incorrigible for that, but modified homesteading is incredibly satisfying and cathartic. The apples and bananas are already quivering in fear, and the mixer is plotting a mutiny!

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