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Cooking Sans Frigo

February 4, 2013

If you’ve been following the blog, you might remember that my lovely apartment has one rather inconvenient flaw: The refrigerator doesn’t work. And I learned it doesn’t work after signing the lease and moving in.

Aaaand two weeks later, it’s still broken. I’m pretty sure the small cut in the electrical cord I discovered has something to do with it.

Now, this isn’t really that big of a deal. There are many, many worse things that could be the case: Termites, noisy neighbors, mold, broken heater, a floor covered in lava. Heck, I’m lucky enough to have moved into a building with an elevator; no one in their right mind would want to take my luggage up six flights of stairs. So yeah, a broken fridge I can deal with.

I just have to be a bit creative. I have to get better at making things other than sandwiches since there’s no way to keep meats and cheeses. I mean, I’m not terrible at cooking.

The Great Couscous Disaster of 2013

The Great Couscous Disaster of 2013

Okay, I’m kind of terrible at cooking.

I can boil water. I can put things in boiling water. Things that are meant to be eaten, that is. I’m usually pretty good at remembering not to stick my hands or cell phone in the water. I am not the best, however, at remaining calm when water boils over and the pot of couscous erupts and flows onto the hotplate, forming a dark sediment of hardening grain.

But I mean, who would, really?

Couscous makes up a relatively large part of my diet these days. Lunches and dinners are usually either canned vegetables mixed into it or pasta or soup and bread. Breakfast is usually dry cereal, bread, or eggs (the French don’t often refrigerate eggs in stores, and — I have tested this* — unrefrigerated eggs are perfectly fine as long as they’re used quickly. Thankfully, the French don’t often sell in bulk, so I’m never trying to use a dozen eggs in three days). Snacks include fruit, granola, and these delightful things that the French grocery stores call breakfast crackers but are actually just cookies. I continue my non-vegetarian life with sandwiches at the school cafeteria.

Now, these foods look really limited, and I’m sure a working fridge would give me far more dietary opportunities. But in a way, a broken fridge forces me to try new things to stave off monotony. I can only get soups that come in individual-sized boxes, so there’s not really room to be picky. Whether or not I can decipher what vegetables are pictured on the boxes (my French vegetable vocabulary isn’t specific enough to just go off the soups’ names), I’m going to try it. I’m really curious about the box that seems to depict potatoes and pine cones.

It also forces me to find ways to like things I really, really don’t like. Example A) Apple sauce. I cannot tell you how much  I detest apple sauce. I always have; I vividly remember an afternoon in elementary school where I was starving through after-school care but refusing to eat the provided snack because it was apple sauce. Apples? Great. Cinnamon apples? Wonderful. Cinnamon apples pureed to the consistency of baby food and flavors intensified? I gag a little just thinking about it.

But, it turns out, on bread, apple sauce makes a fine replacement for jam. Sure, there’s too much in the cup to go on two slices and the rest must therefore be chugged, thrown back like cough medicine so I don’t feel bad about wasting food. But any that’s on bread is totally acceptable.

So, to my fellow broke college students, to my fellow renters playing phone-tag with their apartment agencies, to anyone working with a broken appliance they’re so used to having and realize have taken for granted all these years: Carry on. You can make it work.** With a bit of creativity and a numb gag reflex, anything’s possible.

*Let’s just talk about how this is proof that I’ve grown as a person, since I’m naturally inclined (read: always desperate) to follow the advice given at 1:43.

**Oh wait, sorry, that’s Tim Gunn.

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