Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Electricity stew...

So, due to an unfortunate confluence of events (like, for example, an accidental overdraft, a bank holiday and a long line of people who proceeded us in these circumstances), we went without electricity for two days. There is nothing that makes you feel "ghetto" quite like having a major utility (and they all are major, let's face it) turned off. On the second night of being conspicuously "lights-free," our neighbor, a very nice but busy-bodied senior citizen, came out of his house like a shot the moment John stepped into the back yard after work.

"So," he said, in a voice reminiscent of Grandpa Simpson, "how are things, John?"

"Fine. And you, Ed?"

"All right. How's business?"

"Picking up, thanks."

"Keepin' busy?"

"Yep. Pretty hectic."

Ed still lingering.

"Well, have a good night, Ed."

The first night, after a frantic call to ComEd established that it was not a power shortage that caused our neon peace sign in the front window to stop shining but an oversight on our part, we packed up our necessities for the night and did the only thing feasible to us: we rented a room at the new Trump hotel downtown. Nah. We went to my mommy's condo. This is a woman who I don't think ever has bounced a check, let alone paid a late fee: I distinctly remember her combing through the books at our town's library, searching through the stacks for a book it was claimed she hadn't returned. She found it. The point wasn't that the library had made a mistake: it was that my mother was never, ever late with anything, whether it be a bill or a library book. Lord, how I have rebelled. I think that I am well on my way to financing my own wing at my local library. (It's my little way of doing my part.) (Actually, once my mother was legitimately late for something, but my brother and I were born nine months later.) Given her nature and our past disputes, I have to say that my mother was surprisingly gracious about the whole thing involving her grown-ass daughter and shaggy son-in-law showing up with her grandson in tow and several canvas bags overflowing with pajamas and assorted vegan breakfast items. I think she was grateful for the company.

The next day, John went to pay our bill and was told that our power would not be turned on until the next day, most likely. There were many more people in line in front of us. So we didn't have power again yesterday - which means no lights, no oven, no telephone, no computer - but we decided to tough it out and sleep at home last night. "We'll make it into an adventure," John told me, all Wayne Dyer-style and the poor guy had Nancy Spungen for his audience, hissing and heckling at him. But, still, I had to admit that he was right: it would be an adventure. Hadn't I suggested going on an energy fast a couple of years back in solidarity with an anti-war group? Yes, but then it was my choice, which feels very different. Anyway, we got the flashlights and candles together and we did it. John and our son made dinosaur shadow puppets and a sheet fort for a screen that the cat insisted on attacking, and I read my beloved Flannery O'Connor by flashlight. I had to grudgingly admit that I enjoyed the break. It felt very 19th century and lovely, which was how we presented it to our son, which really is much more age-appropriate then "Let's Pretend To Be A Typical Family in Fallujah!"

This morning when we returned from my son's piano lesson, I saw that the lights were on. Hallelujah! The computer was fired up and all those coveted penis enlargement and bored girls in Russia messages were subsequently crammed into my email box! I could screen my phone calls again! Modernity has returned to us and I am no longer muttering under my breath whenever I see a illuminated house, "Goddamn show offs with all their fancy lights!" The patina of ghetto living is no longer on me but I have to say, I like having lived through a mini energy fast. It has made me very aware of all I take for granted and how wasteful I can be. As I write this, nearly eight o'clock at night, the only light on is the one in the room with me. I'd like to maintain this.

Anyway, with the electricity, I now have a working stove again. (Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches can messily kiss my ass!) I have to say, this is a good recipe. Make it and appreciate all the blessings in your life. It's kind of like massaman curry but without curry as I am fresh out and I had to improvise with what we had left after the refrigerator had been turned off for two days.

Electricity Stew*

3 small to medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 Tbsp melted coconut oil or olive oil
3 tsps cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsps tamari or soy sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400. In a parchment paper-lined rectangular pan, mix the sweet potatoes and the other ingredients. Roast for twenty minutes or so, stirring midway.

Meanwhile, puree in a blender for about a minute until fully integrated:
1 14 oz. can 'lite' coconut milk**
2 Tbsps smooth peanut butter
2 Tbsps pizza sauce (sounds like a gross combination, but trust me on this. The Muir Glen pizza sauce is particularly good)

In a large sauté pan on medium high heat, melt:
1 Tbsp coconut oil or olive oil or light sesame oil

To this add:

1 diced red bell pepper
3 or more cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp tamari

Oh, yummy. Stir this up for about five minutes. Add the sweet potatoes and the sauce from the blender. Add to this:

1 15 oz. can or three cups cooked garbanzo beans

Cook this together until it is at a low boil, then lower the temperature and cook for about three minutes. Stir frequently with a spatula to keep the sweet potatoes from sticking. Season again with cumin, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Serve over rice or rice noodles.

Even a confirmed sweet potato loather like my son ate this happily.

Nice additions/substitutions: this needs something green, like defrosted petite peas around the time of adding the garbanzos, and you can leave those behind if you wish. Steamed broccoli florets would be nice, too. Toasted, coarsely chopped cashews to sprinkle on top at the end! Tamarind paste instead of pizza sauce. Lemon grass and/or lemon balm at the end. Sliced jalapeno peppers to dress it up at the table. Curry powder in the blender with the sauce. Sriracha sauce for the grown-ups at the table, most def!

*It is really annoying when people are all like, "Oh, I don't know the exact measurements because I'm like a improvisational jazz artist just throwing things into a pot," but I have to say that these are approximate measurements. Yes, because I am like an improvisational jazz artist...

**I know foodies are all like, "Lite coconut milk! How tacky and bourgeois!" But the thing is that I am not a foodie but a food lover, and the sauce was rich enough with the peanut butter.

Enjoy and shalom, everyone!


  1. Hello. "Electricity Stew!" At first, I thought it had something to do with generating power/electricity on your own (at home).

    Nonetheless, it was a creative attempt to generate something beneficial out of an unfortunate situation.

    I'll remember this one for a long time. "Electricity Stew"

    Your Drugstore in a Bottle

  2. Thanks, Frederick! I wish I could generate power at home, maybe through coconut oil. ;) I appreciate your feedback.

  3. Hi Marla! We're already using coconut oil to power our vehicles here in the Philippines to an extent. I hope powering our homes using coconut oil to some degree is not in a distant future.


  4. 3 Researches PROVE Why Coconut Oil Kills Fat.

    The meaning of this is that you literally burn fat by eating Coconut Fat (including coconut milk, coconut cream and coconut oil).

    These 3 studies from major medical journals are sure to turn the conventional nutrition world upside down!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.