Getting used to hard peas and candle-lit baths

2008-01-22 00:00

“I’ll bet you can’t write anything amusing about power outages,” remarked my friend the other day. This while we were employing our questionable girl-guide skills trying to ignite a little gas burner to boil water for tea. We’d planned to enjoy it with a soggy-centred muffin, the full baking time of which had been rudely interrupted by the power cut.

I’m very jumpy around gas bottles (and anything that’s smelly and potentially explosive for that matter), so I prodded nervously at the gas lever while my friend scratched away with the only good match in a box full of used ones, broken ones and ones missing their heads. Frankly, it would have been quicker to go outside and rub two sticks together.

Having worked up a sweat as opposed to much else, we finally resorted to drinking cans of iced tea, while they could still be considered as such, from my rapidly defrosting fridge.

It’s all very frustrating, but if Eskom would only stick to their load-shedding schedule, you could at least plan your fumbling about in the dark a little better.

No matter how you look at it, or indeed try to disguise it, par-boiled potatoes, bullet-like peas and pork chops that are still oinking, do not constitute an appetising dinner.

It’s also advisable to steer clear of recipes involving potentially hazardous ingredients unless lighting conditions are anything but optimal, because any romantic benefit gained from eating one’s supper by candlelight, is swiftly nullified on biting into a red-hot sweat-inducing chilli.

I think someone should compile a cookery book entitled Dinners in the dark and include recipes cooked by candlelight using one temperamental gas ring and potluck partially defrosted ingredients from the freezer. Because no matter how highly you rate your creativity, you’d need to be a cordon bleu genius to produce anything remotely edible when stuck in the dark with a pack of mutton curry pieces and a charcoal braai.

Aside from culinary concerns, there’s the slippery issue of getting caught in the bath (and the buff) during an unscheduled power outage. If you’re lucky enough to have someone around to find the torch and pass the towel (or vice-versa, depending on who that someone is) you’re likely to emerge unscathed — although probably unwashed. If you’re alone, however, this can assume all the elements of a kamikaze mission.

After skating the length of our tiled passage in my birthday suit, in search of a torch — the batteries of which were flat anyway — I’ve since remedied this perilous situation. Our bathroom is now adorned with so many candles that it looks like a shrine and stocked with enough towels to soak up a moderate flood.

But while I’ve been splashing around in the dark, some folk have handled the problem with aplomb. My gardener arrives for work every Friday knowing that he has only two hours in which to cut the grass before the electricity is turned off.

Equal to the challenge, he hurtles up and down with the mower in true Olympic fashion and has yet to be caught out halfway through, leaving us with a Mohican-style lawn.

By complete contrast, I’m not much good at schedules or time-keeping and frequently have to skulk off to the mall with wet hair and wrinkled clothes, in search of my morning caffeine fix.

In fact, it’ll be a miracle if I manage to submit this column before the power goes off ag …

• Heidi Steyn is a freelance writer who lives in Pietermaritzburg.

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