Electricity, South Africa

Load Shedding Meals: 1. Take Away

After being lulled into a false sense of load-sheddinglessness in recent weeks, it has returned with a vengeance. Having again resorted to emergency baked beans on toast cremated on full heat setting and dished up in the dark, I decided to think seriously about the alternative methods for providing a hot meal for the family, particularly as the beans were stone cold by the time Mr Incredible got home meaning he was left with a cheese sandwich.

“We’re due for load shedding. Bring the kids over and we’ll order pizza” my friend AudreyHepburn offered last week. Great plan. More and more small businesses are investing in generators so that they can function when the grid’s switched off. At least it seemed like a great plan UNTIL we tried to order.

AudreyHepburn:      “My phone has a flat battery. Can we use yours to order?”

Me:                              “Of course.”

Audrey:                       “Do you have the number for Piatto’s?”

Me:                              “Erm, no.”

Audrey:                       “Can you Google it for me?

Me:                              “Hmm, not without an internet connection. Why don’t we use a car charger, we’ll charge your phone a bit and get the number and THEN call from my phone.”

Audrey:                      “I can’t, my husband’s taken the car today.”

Me:                              “We’ll use my car.”

I walk to the car. Audrey, who is temporarily on crutches, follows. Once Audrey and her crutches are squeezed into the passenger seat, we realise that my charger doesn’t fit her phone. So, she extracts herself from the car and hobbles back to the house to find her charger. Upon her return, crutches wedged by her side again, we sit companionably, waiting for her phone to flicker on to get the number.

Somewhere close by an enormous dog starts bellowing. It sounds like it’s in the garden. We laugh, then we look at each other worriedly and I go to check the garden and the children, just in case there actually is a giant angry dog. Thankfully there is not. There’s still no pizza either though.

The sun is setting and it’s getting quite nippy, but we keep the car doors open to listen out for squabbling children and imaginary dogs. Eventually Audrey’s phone splutters back to life. Bingo. Only Piatto’s number isn’t there.

New plan. We decide to ‘phone a friend’ to get the number. We wonder why we didn’t think of doing so earlier. But as we scroll through our contacts we realise that most of our friends have joined the summer/winter expat holiday exodus and are scattered about the planet in different time zones, which is not terribly helpful. Eventually, we hit upon a phone-a-friend friend who is in-country and being in the same powerless situation might also be pleased to bring her kids and join us for the pizza that we haven’t yet managed to order. However, there’s no signal on either of our phones. We sit, for a quite a while longer giggling and waving our phones about until we eventually get a signal.

Audrey: (Gabbling lest the signal should go again). Hi, it’s me. Do you have the number for Piatto’s? Can you sms me asap? Do you want to join us. We’re having a pizza party because the power’s out.

Phone- a-friend friend: “But Audrey, what are you talking about, the power’s been back on for 20 minutes”.

We return to the house to warm up and order pizza.

I told this story to friends. They had a briefer and better one. During lunch with the in-laws everything else was in hand or on the barbeque. However, cream absolutely needed whipping for pudding. My friend’s husband (whose car is a strict no food zone) was ordered by his mother to take the cream and mixer out to his car and somehow rig it up to whip the cream. Of course he obliged and dessert was a roaring success.

This got me thinking that perhaps I could consider using my car as an alternative to my oven. I vaguely recollect seeing something once on TV where somebody cooks and egg or maybe it was a three-course Sunday roast on his car engine. I consulted the oracle (Google) and seemingly need to track down a copy of Manifold Destiny. This book sensation from 1989 includes recipes and requisite mileage for producing them. Sitting here in the dark with my laptop battery waning, feeling slightly nauseous at the thought of any more last minute baked bean meals, I’m prepared to give pretty much anything a whirl. If anybody has a copy they want to lend me I’ll road-test it (brings a whole new meaning to road testing doesn’t it?) and let you know how it goes.

Piatto's fridge memo

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