Soco Beans

The final installment of the perpetual campers series from my memoir, Humble Pie

This was the foundation of our diet when we were without electricity. It is Felipe’s favored bean recipe, the way his Mama makes them. They are so vsvevg!

Soco Beans

1 cup of beans
Water
Aprox 1/4 cup oil
Salt
1 chopped onion

Boil the beans until almost cooked and add salt. Continue to cook until Continue reading

Perpetual Campers

Fifth in 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, 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. 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 woman) 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 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

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. Continue reading

Swallowtails

Second in a series from my work in progress.
The first obstacle was learning to maintain food without refrigeration. Fortunately, my mother-in-law had much knowledge to share, having lived many years without electricity. I learned to keep my cooked beans under water, and to fry or re-boil them any time they were touched. I kept my milk fresh by boiling and re-boiling as well; we had milk cows, it will stay unturned for two days with this method. The sour milk I used for baking and animal food. We relinquished the idea of a cold beverage, no easy task in southern Mexico’s heat.

Life becomes significantly more labor intensive without electricity, especially when your weekly budget, which was 300 pesos a week at the time, does not allow for convenience anything. I learned to rely on my knives and molcajete (a lava stone mortar and pestle) instead of my blender and spice grinder. Because I had no refrigeration, I could not make a pot of food other than beans and have a few meals for the week, nor were there any bits of this or that to remake or fill out a meal. I could not even grind masa in advance. This meant every meal was made from scratch—handmade tortillas, molcajete salsas, hand squeezed juices all made at the moment, every meal, every day.

I must admit we ate questionable foods during these months. Continue reading