15 December 2014

What I Can't Live Without: Clean Water

What can you not live without?  A cousin asked me that excellent question after I wrote my last post about minimalism in the kitchen.

I'm on sabbatical at the moment, living in a furnished apartment in the UK, with a tiny kitchen containing far fewer pots and pans and gadgets and appliances than my kitchen, or rather storage locker, in New York.

And even my New York kitchen is fairly small by white upper-middle-class American suburban standards.

I've been mulling over that question for the last several days, because I've also spent a fair amount of time cooking in even more minimal conditions on camping trips.

What I can't live without includes a knife, a cutting board, a pot. But it also turns out to include fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and some variety of gluten-free flour. Home-made jam and applesauce and thai curries and Indian utthapams and bhajis and vegan soups and stews. Enormous salads. Bowls of cooked greens.

And lettuce and other greens, as I discovered during the lower Manhattan blackout after Hurricane Sandy, require large quantities of running water for cleaning. You can scrub root vegetables in a small amount of water, then rinse with another small amount. Most fruit can do with just a quick rinse, and legumes don't require too much more than cooking water.

But greens -- kale, collards, chard, spinach, bok choy, and lettuce -- I wouldn't want to have to live without those, not for the long term.

We take clean running water casually, so terribly casually, for granted, in North America and Western Europe.  Even as we buy vast quantities of bottled water, we forget that in large parts of the world -- and even in parts of the US -- the water isn't safe to drink or take a shower in.

I am very glad not to have to live without clean running water.