A few weeks ago I blogged about loading up the “pod” and our upcoming move to Lexington, Kentucky. The Pod is long gone, which means my husband and I are camping in our own home. My youngest son is here, so he’s camping too. The only things we have in the house are things that will fit in my car and my husband’s pick-up truck, or stuff we plan to give to the Salvation Army.
It’s amazing to discover just how little we need to live. We have a couple of beds, a love seat, an old chair that belongs to the dog, one television, a coffee table, and few other pieces of flotsam and jetsam.
My kitchen is empty except for one cabinet that has a couple of plates, cereal bowls, one fork and too many spoons. I’m not sure how that happened. Somehow I kept out all the spoons and only one fork. I’ve got one mixing bowl, one cooking pot and my favorite microwavable bowl.
Compared to what was in the cabinets three weeks ago, we’re down to bare essentials.
You know what? I’m enjoying the simplicity. No clutter. No mess. With my life stripped down to basics, I’ve thought often about that Conestoga wagon and how people took care of themselves.
When it’s dinner time around here, I put a frozen pizza in the oven or head to Subway for sandwiches. Pioneers traveling by covered wagon cooked over campfires. That meant gathering fuel for the fire, either wood or buffalo chips. I hit “start” on the microwave, or turn a knob and hear the clicking of the electronic starter on the stove. The women traveling west struck a match and tended the fire as they made meals from what they’d brought and what was available.
Local plants and animals supplied much of their food, but they had to haul along flour, sugar, coffee, beans and other essentials. They could make some purchases from forts and trading posts along the way, but you know how prices go. When things are in short supply, prices go sky high. And there were no guarantees supplies would be available. Me? Lately I’ve been heading to the local market (Giant or Safeway in this area) and picking out pre-packaged cold cuts, frozen dinners, potato chips for my husband and Mighty Dog for Hartley (our beagle / Jack Russell mix).
The men and women traveling by covered wagon packed bacon in 100 lb. sacks with bran to preserve it in the heat. They carried 100 lb. sacks of flour, double bagged and carefully stitched. Vegetables were desiccated before the trip. They were cut thin, pressed, dried and as hard as rocks until cooked in water. Canned vegetables could be taken on the trip, but they were heavy and took up space. Me? I can buy fresh, frozen or canned vegetables ranging from corn to jalapenos and I don’t think twice about it. It’s all so easy, and I take it totally for granted.
Some early travelers took things for granted as well, and they learned a hard lesson. As I was researching this blog, I came across a story in A Hand-Book for Overland Expeditions by Randolph B. Marcy, Captain U.S. Army. He wrote: “I once traveled with a party of New Yorkers en route for California . . . They soon learned that Champagne, East India sweetmeats, olives, etc., etc., were not the most useful articles for a prairie tour.”
Can you imagine being hungry for a real meal and finding only olives and champagne? That’s the kind of snack that makes you appreciate home-cooking. So does frozen pizza! My goal for this move is to be settled by Thanksgiving so I can make a big turkey dinner.
What about you? Have you ever lived a stripped-down life? If you were moving and had to reduce your kitchen to bare essentials, what would you have in your fridge?
And one last thing . . . Next week the Fillies are doing a Western Recipe Week. Check in for some great meal ideas that don’t come with microwave instructions!