Third in a series from my work in progress
The realizations and irritations of electricity free living continued to reveal themselves, enlightening and annoying in turn. Some days it was the music I missed the most, others I was amazed that for thousands of year’s people read only by candlelight at night. It is not romantic. It is inconvenient at best; enduring the eye strain as the candle flickers, the bugs flying into your face, your book and your flame. My books are full of squished bug spots. It took a while to remember all the ways I use electricity. When getting ready go out in public, I would think, Oh, I’ll just iron that blouse, oops, guess I’ll wear a T-shirt. It is definitely a day for the fan! Guess not. But we can do anything for four months I reminded myself.
December rolled around and harvest came to a slow, disappointing end financially. After the final tally and all of the more important necessities were met, such as making sure we had enough money to support our animals thru the dry season, there was not enough to get our electricity reconnected. We had consulted the company and were told we would have to install five concrete electrical poles at $1000 apiece. It would not have been enough if we’d needed nothing else, also that amount would put us half way to a solar powered system, so we declined. By this time I had lost my creek to the dry season, and we were looking at an indefinite time sin luz( without electric light). It was solar or bust.
We are both resolute people, we made our adjustments. I bought a lavadero, a long sink basin with a wash board in the bottom and rigged a hose to have running water over it after a month of using a big rock on a table. I read during the day and we played cards at night. We considered buying a guitar and learning to play. We both like to sing, and we have always enjoyed sitting under the stars for an evening of entertainment. One night I said to Felipe,
“I feel like we are perpetual campers.” He took my hand his rakish grin glowed in the moonlight.
I won a lot of respect with the Doña’s (a name of respect for a mature women) during this period of time. They were already impressed that I ground my own masa, made my own cheese, butter and yogurt, and rode a horse. But while we were without electricity they asked me every time the saw me,” No tiene Luz?” (you still don’t have light).
“No Dona”, I’d reply, “no tenemos.” (we still don’t have any). They would then go thru a pantomime of all the things a women must do to run a household without electricity, hand washing, grinding masa and salsas, with obvious amazement that a gringa would ever consent to live that way. Then they’d take ahold of my hands and look them over to see the truth in the calluses, give me a sympathetic smile, pat me on the back and walk away.
How to eat a chili
Poverty and living without electricity limited our diet, but gave us a greater appreciation for food: the simplicity of a fresh egg, a tortilla with salt and lime, and chilies eaten whole and raw so hot they make you sweat which cools you off. We have come to understand the luxury of meat, a Mojarra from the river, a snared quail or rooster finally grown to fruition. We now fully comprehend the significance of carefully tended plant, or gift of foraged fruit from the mountain. This is the happenstance, and inspiration of our diet. It is a vital way to sustain oneself.
Sometimes an unadulterated green chili is the perfect complement to a meal. Felipe taught me to eat them like this so your lips don’t swell and make you miserable.
Ingredients: 1 chili Serrano or spicy chili of your preference
Pick up the chili from the stem and place ¼ inch or so between your front teeth. Bite it off and flick it back to the molars. Chew. Smile. Do NOT lick your lips! Do not touch the chili but on the stem. Do not touch your lips to the chili. If you like you can bite off the end of your chili and then dip it in salt before proceeding. This is nice if you are eating it with a piece of corn or a mango.
I prefer chili Serrano for their perfumey quality.
Plain raw chili is best with black beans, a fried or scrambled egg, and of course a tortilla
If eating whole chills is not for you, this is a relish with similar sensation that is a little less intense.
¼ white onion thinly sliced
1-3 chilies green
¼ cup lime juice or mild vinegar
salt to taste
a pinch of sugar
Mix all and let sit 15-20 minutes
Felipe’s Favorite way to eat a chili
1 fresh corn tortilla
½ of a lime
pinch of salt
1 whole Serrano
Take the tortilla from the comal and rub it with lime, sprinkle with salt, roll it and squish it so it is like a baton. Take 1 bite of the chili, and then a bite of tortilla. Repeat.