Housekeeping has never been my strong suit. I was almost 30 before someone showed me that the stovetop lifts up so you can clean UNDER the burners. Who knew?
I’m not horrible, but I was. My freshman year of college I was still living at home, going to the local University. I had years of junk accumulated in my room – most of it on the floor. I could pretty much put my hands on anything I might want. Maybe it was a subconscious tactic to keep my sisters out of my room. No one but me could walk through without fear of stepping on something with disastrous result. Even I would occasionally pull an embroidery needle out of a bare foot.
One afternoon we had a fire. It was pretty dramatic. My mother caught it in time to call the fire department and save the structure. But everything was badly smoke damaged and the kitchen was gutted. The men who cleaned out the house and packed it all up were either sent by the insurance company or the fire marshall. I’m told they took one look at my room and took out the shovels. Literally shoveled my “stuff” into boxes for storage. How embarassing! Never again! The blog post on Clutter is a pale comparison.
What I can do is cook. I don’t even remember when I started cooking on my own. I know I had kids cookbooks pretty much from the time I was in grade school. I’ve always been interested in food and experimenting. Both of my parents cook, read recipes for fun and are adventurous about food from other cultures. Our “standard Christmas dinner” wasn’t standard at all. We would pick a country around Thanksgiving and then my folks would do some research and come up with a menu that reflected that cuisine.
At 7 years old, cheese stuffed peaches with horseradish weren’t at all appealing. They still don’t sound nearly as good as they taste. The year they did Beef Wellington my sister brought McDonalds carry out to the table because she wouldn’t have anything to do with Pate. We almost burned the house down again the year my Dad and the sons-in-law did a dinner of Chinese appetizers. 3 men and 3 hot woks in a small alley kitchen, with me in and out coordinating. Can you picture it? My mother sat white knuckled in the easy chair. It was not the break for her that we had intended.
I’ve done camp cooking, event cooking, rituals that centered on the food. I’ve learned a lot about diets, nutrition, allergies and accommodation. You’ve seen the pie in the Lammas blog and the wild rice soup in Leftovers. I didn’t actually use a recipe for either of them. I tend to do a lot of my cooking “off the cuff.” Sometimes I blow it, but mostly it’s good and occasionally I can be brilliant.
So 500 words in and I finally get to the topic of this week’s post: Barter. My dear friend Bonita has some serious food restrictions. She’s really trying to get healthy and improve her diet. She can follow a recipe, but she doesn’t love to cook. What she does love is cleaning, especially bathrooms. She says it’s like a meditation. Do you see where this is going?
My dear friend Bonita comes by once a month just to work her way through my list of household chores I haven’t managed to “get around to.” Sometimes they are actually chores that I don’t even have a clue about how to approach! In return I fill her bag with single serving frozen dinners. Homemade and entirely appropriate for her current diet, which is currently gluten, nightshade, and dairy free.
We both seem to be enjoying the challenge. I know I’m enjoying a much cleaner house!
Have you ever used barter to get something you need?