When I was young, I promised myself I wouldn’t learn to cook because I didn’t want to be a housewife. The majority of my existence, I suppose, has revolved around wanting to be free, wanting to avoid domesticity. I haven’t wanted to be tied down by possessions, relationships, or negative thoughts that I couldn’t do whatever I wanted to do. Perhaps this is why I fell in love with the Beat Generation and their fervent rejection of the common belief system in the 1950s. They didn’t want wives (well, most ended up marrying only to have a constant influx of lovers), houses, kids, or to live square lives inside of square walls. I would have been a perfect Beat Poet, only I’m not a man, and my poetry could use some work.
The main objectives in my life: to travel, to write, to love, and to be free. Many people who see me struggling toward a life on the road tell me, “Grow up. Settle down. Life is not a vacation.” And to that I politely retort, “Fuck that. This is my life, and this is what makes me happy. Just because I’m in my thirties doesn’t mean I have to be boring.”
Anyhow, I digress. Over the years, I’ve discovered that I love to cook. Especially since I became vegan in February of this year, I prepare my own meals on a daily basis. (Don’t get me wrong, if I weren’t frugal and saving for my next trip, I’d eat out everyday. After all, Portland is the land of fat vegans. Just look at me! 😉 ) Cooking is a sort of meditation on what I’m putting into my body. It’s an art, and one that can help you save a ton of money while on the road.
As with anything, there is a downside to cooking. It is DANGEROUS! I recently moved into an old Victorian house, and everything is old school. There’s a little chute for your laundry to chuck it into the basement, the bathroom has an original claw-foot tub, and the stove/oven unit stopped being produced in 1938, which means it’s probably from the late 1800s, early 1900s. The brand, ironically, is called “Favorite.”
Last week, I saw my life flash before my eyes. No, it was literally a blanket, a deluge of flames that rushed upon me. I hadn’t yet used the oven, and couldn’t get it to turn on. I was making vegan nachos, and because I didn’t have any faux cheese, I decided to make a recipe that was based around broiled eggplant. The oven was preheated to 450 degrees. The smell of gas permeated the room. The damn oven wouldn’t turn on. I stuck my head in the oven, trying to figure out what was going on. Sylvia Plath’s death flashed into my mind, and I extinguished that thought immediately.
Aha! I had used a gas stove before. All I needed to do was use a cooking lighter. I found one in the drawer, and it worked! The next moment, as I stuck my hand in the oven to light it, all I heard was an ear-thumping “whoooosh!” as the air popped with conflagrations. My hand hurt like hell. My face stung. I smelled burnt skin and hair. I was terrified to look at myself. Looking down, I saw that my clothes weren’t on fire. I rushed to the bathroom, doused my hand in cold water, and peered anxiously into the mirror. My eyebrows were still intact, but my eyelashes were half their usual length. My sideburns and a few hairs on the crown of my head had been singed off. The hair on my right forearm was gone, and my hand felt like it was still on fire.
Still, I exhaled in enormous relief. My whole face could have been scarred for the rest of my life. I could have lost my eyesight. I could have set the house on fire. I could have died. And then it hit me- that’s how life is. We take its permanence and cozy safety for granted, especially while living off the road. Our whole existence could change in a matter of seconds. This is no fucking joke. We all need to take advantage of each moment we have and do what’s important to us.
Lesson learned: Domesticity is seriously dangerous business. And if I die, please let it be while I’m exploring some distant foreign country- not cooking EGGPLANT IN THE KITCHEN!