Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Becoming Martha Stewart

I am becoming Martha Stewart whilst living here in Lesotho, or so my wife said the other day. I do not know why. It is not as if, within the space of about one day, I successfully deployed a mouse trap constructed from an old cardboard toilet paper tube, made a carrot cake from scratch - including the icing - that was so good my mouth still waters when I think about it, and then built a necklace rack for my darling wife out of materials left over from the screens I made for our windows and doors. Oh, wait, I did...

So maybe she is right. I am becoming Martha Stewart. But the X-Games version. After all, since moving to Africa, I have not merely taken up baking. I have also taken up snow boarding. You will learn more about that in an upcoming post. For now, I merely offer it as evidence that, if I am becoming Martha Stewart, I am also one-upping her.

I think the baking has taken me by surprise more than the snow boarding. (I had never even purchased vanilla extract - they call it vanilla essence here - or cocoa powder before and now I am getting the large sizes when I buy them.) But I have found each to be its own form of therapy. I am not certain which makes my wife more nervous, though. I may crack my head open on the slopes, for sure, but brownies are just as deadly in their own way.

As for the battle with the mice, that was all about contested territory. Mice may gross out my wife, but not so me. However, when they think they can mark the kitchen counters as theirs, they have got another thing coming. No creature great or small may use my kitchen as its toilet. So the mice are gone. For the record, two mice have so far been relocated, and they are now roaming free in a field near the U.S. Embassy.

I also fought a similar battle with the Rock Doves (a.k.a. Speckled Pigeons) which had decided that the beams over our porch were their perch, and the deck their dumping ground. Again, the left overs from the screens proved to be the key. I mounted some fitted pieces of screen across the openings between the ceiling and the beams where the doves liked to spend their days, and we now have no more piles on our porch. Let's see Martha climb our rickety old ladder to win a battle like that! Just sayin'...

And speaking of birds, I have begun to keep a list of the birds Kathy and I have identified here. Neither of us is a bird-watcher, per se, but we are having fun with it. Besides, I have enjoyed watching birds since childhood. I had a book called Birds of North America, with which I spent hours. In particular, I remember trying to identify birds on Bowen Island with my grandfather. I still have the binoculars he gave to me, which we also used to use to watch the ferries. Anyway, the birds here are just so interesting. We even got Birds of Southern Africa to help us give them names.

And, as a final in your face to Martha Stewart, who I doubt has ever baked anything in Africa, I am also going to keep a list of the items I have learned to bake while we are here. (Links are to the source recipes, and do not include any modifications I may have made. If you want those, please ask.) Please keep in mind that many of them are still works in progress. We are talking about vegan baking, after all, performed by someone who never baked a thing before setting foot in Africa. (I am getting almost all my baking recipes online, from VegWeb.com.) Fortunately, I have Kathy's volunteers to help me test out my trials. (Do I need IRB approval for that?) They certainly liked the snicker-doodles. I have a big Thank You note on the fridge from one of them, for whom I made a birthday batch after she had dropped a few hints. Just recently, I sent two batches of my peanut butter and chocolate bars with Kathy to a gathering of the newest group of volunteers to arrive in Lesotho. I asked her to report back on which variation they preferred. Apparently, they took the endeavor quite seriously. And now I know which version most folks prefer. I call that win-win.

So I am not only baking and snow boarding in Africa, but I am feeding hungry Peace Corps volunteers and conducting culinary science experiments. When I am not catching and releasing rodents, or writing articles on how I did so - which I did for the Peace Corps Lesotho newsletter, Khotso, so that the volunteers could learn how a cardboard tube can rid them of unwanted intruders in their rural rondavels. Martha Stewart is looking like a slacker now...

P.S. I think I will try making chocolate muffins this weekend. But do not tell my wife. Just yesterday, she said "No more baked goods for a long, long time!" Well, we shall see about that...

1 comment:

  1. Show Off! Geez, here I am thinking I was doing a darn good job of being Martha Stewart with making pickles (2 kinds), relish, pizza sauce and pasta sauce and preserving it last year and expanding on that this year to making apple juice, plum preserves as well as all the other stuff. Guess I got nothing on you. LOL! You sound so incredibly happy, that my heart just sings for you! Peace and be well!