A Bachelor, A Camper Trailer, And Some Sketchy Food

I was hungry again.  It’s not uncommon for me to be hungry, especially at my age. I stepped into the kitchen, and looked at all the dirty dishes stacked on the counter. I quickly made my way back to the comfort of my seat in front of the computer…but that nagging hunger just wouldn’t leave. Once again, I got up and made my way into the kitchen (a distance of about 5 ½ feet). Once again the dirty dishes sat there, motionless on the countertop. It had been nearly one day now, and none of them had washed themselves yet. The situation wasn’t improving.

I’m currently living in a 30-foot travel trailer for the summer. The kitchen is nearly eight by eight. The countertop takes up only a small portion and fits between the sink and the stove. There’s just enough space on the counter for a box of cereal and a bowl—you have to hold the milk. Across from the counter is the table. This would work as a counter except that it also works as an office….

The refrigerator is worse. Originally, there was a decent-sized gas refrigerator. Unfortunately, it had quit working and had been removed. The refrigerator I am currently using is about 5 cubic feet. To give you an idea of how small 5 cubic feet is; if you wanted to put a pillow in the refrigerator—not that you would—but let’s suppose you wanted to, you’d have to take the pillowcase off, smash it down real small, and if you try real hard, you might fit it in the refrigerator—the pillowcase, that is—what were you thinking trying to put a pillow in a 5 cubic foot refrigerator? But I digress.

I went back to the computer. As I sat in front of the computer listening to my stomach rumble I decided it might be worth it to do some dishes. I realized that if I was going to eat with a fork, I’d have to wash it. However, I was out of plates as well. This meant that I’d either have to wash a spoon—as eating out of your hand with a fork isn’t pleasant—or else I’d have to wash a plate as well.  I went back into the kitchen….

The sink is smaller than the refrigerator. This makes doing dishes somewhat tedious and frustrating. It’s not uncommon for me to get more water on the countertop and floor when using a full-sized sink and with a sink this size, it’s even worse. But my stomach was still rumbling, so I started running the water.

To hold me over, I got out the peanut butter. I then opened the overly crowded refrigerator to search for the celery. As I bent over (the refrigerator is about knee-high) I saw the celery—surrounded by about a dozen other objects. I carefully began extracting the celery. Thump. The soy sauce fell out of the door. I put it back in the door and quickly closed the refrigerator door before the mustard tried to escape as well.

Now I set to work washing dishes and munching on celery sticks with peanut butter. I only own two plates, two bowls, eight spoons, eight forks, eight knives, one wooden cooking spoon, one spatula, two pans, a skillet, and one glass. All but two knives and the spatula were dirty.

One of the pans hadn’t been used, but was still dirty. This is due to the leaky stove. Well, technically it’s the vent above the stove that leaks. I use this pan to catch the drips (sometimes as much as two quarts of slightly brownish water). If I don’t catch them, they go down, through the stove, and onto the carpet in front. There’s not much carpet to get wet, but it’s all I have to walk on and it’s not pleasant to walk on we carpet first thing in the morning. But I digress again.

I finally got all the dishes washed, and nearly all the peanut butter eaten. I find myself eating things simply so they don’t go bad or get “any worse.” I suppose peanut butter won’t go bad very quickly, but I’ve thought that more than once. It’s something like this:  I open the fridge in the morning.

“Huh?” Wipes eyes. “This hasn’t been in here that long.” Sniff, sniff. “Hmmm. It doesn’t smell too bad yet. Humph, spaghetti for breakfast… Well, I gotta eat it before it gets any worse.” And who knows what Tofu really smells like anyway?

Well, that’s what was on the menu tonight; salad, because the lettuce was frozen—I’ll get to that in a moment—spaghetti, because I didn’t know how much longer it would hold out, and spaghetti sauce that’s only been open for 3 days (I’m trying to plan ahead).

I opened the fridge again. Thump. There was the soy sauce again. I pulled out the carrots, spaghetti in a zip-lock bag (moldable and space-saving), a green pepper, the spaghetti sauce, lettuce, and a slice of soy cheese. I put the soy sauce back in the fridge and thought, “Wow, it looks so empty.”

I began inspecting the objects I’d just pulled out of the refrigerator. I looked at the tomato first.

“What is that? Ewww. This has only been in there one week. Well, maybe two—I don’t know. I guess I could just cut that part off.”  Sniff, sniff. “Whoa, forget that! No tomato in the salad tonight.”

Then the lettuce.

“Oops. It’s frozen. I guess I can’t store it in the freezer.” To most people such an observation might seem a bit, “well…DUH!”  Here’s the scoop: having only 5 cubic feet to work with, I was confronted with a choice last time I bought celery sticks. Either the celery stays out, or the lettuce goes in the freezer.

The refrigerator has one cooling coil that doubles as the “freezer.”  I packed some stuff around the lettuce to insulate it and prevent its coming in direct contact with the coil, hoping it wouldn’t actually freeze.  For those of you living in 30-foot travel trailers with 5 cubic foot refrigerators that are thinking of doing this, let me tell you now—it doesn’t work.  I’m sorry, but you’ll just have to let the celery sticks wilt.

The spaghetti sauce looked fine, which was to be expected. Then I grabbed the spaghetti….

“Spaghetti in a zip-lock. Heh, it looks a bit like a brain.” I opened it up. “Doesn’t really look slimy. That’s good!” Sniff, sniff.  “Whoa, that doesn’t smell right.” Sniff, sniff. “…it doesn’t really smell wrong either though.” Sniff, sniff. “What is left-over spaghetti supposed to smell like anyway?” Sniff, sniff. “It smells like garlic. Did I put garlic in the spaghetti when I made it? I know I put some in the sauce. Did I put some in the spaghetti too—I can’t remember. I guess I’ll have to taste it.” Taste. “Hmm, can’t tell.” Taste, taste. “Hmm, still can’t tell—I guess it can’t be too bad.”

The pepper was fine.

I failed to mention that I have one well-used cutting board (I had just washed this as well).  I pulled it out and began chopping up the veggies. I put the sauce in the pan and began heating it. I put the spaghetti in the microwave just to be safe. The idea being that 7 minutes in the microwave will kill anything living in the spaghetti. I heard that ants are the only thing that can survive in a microwave. If I’m wrong, please don’t tell me.

I looked at the lettuce. “I suppose this is what frostbite would look like on a green human. At least nothing is growing on it….” I pealed off the outer leaves, and found a decent amount that was salvageable. I used what I could, and threw away the remainder.

With carrots, celery, green pepper, lettuce, soy cheese, and dried cranberries, I was able to produce a very tasty-looking salad. As with all my edible-looking creations, I took a picture of it.

The sauce was ready, so I got the spaghetti out of the microwave. I was feeling pretty safe about it at this point. I put the spaghetti on the plate and poured the sauce over it. I put away all the vegetables, making sure none of them were in direct contact with the cooling coil. It was looking good, but something seemed to be missing. Garlic bread! I pulled the bread out of the “pantry” (similar to a medicine cabinet). And retrieved the toaster oven from its cupboard—under the sink….

I won’t tell you about the toaster oven right now, except to say that it took me a while (and lots of very strong chemicals) to become comfortable about the idea of my food actually touching it. I needed the Smart Balance, so I opened the fridge. Thump. Clatter, bump, rattle, thud. The soy sauce was out again. This time ½ the contents came along—including the carrots.

“Lord, I don’t know how you give me such patience.” I put the carrots, soy sauce, curry, sweet and sour sauce, and rice back into the fridge. Quickly, I shut the door. I then “buttered” the bread and put it in the toaster oven. Then I returned the Smart Balance to the fridge—or at least tried. The door wouldn’t close. I rearranged the orange juice and milk, put the spaghetti sauce, rice, and soy sauce on the other side of the fridge, and tried again. Still, nothing. I put the carrots under the jars. This time it worked.

I stood up, proud that I’d repacked the fridge so well. Sniff, sniff. “It smells funky in here.” I turned around. “Oops…” I’d forgotten about the bread. Quickly I shut off the oven and opened it. “Hey, that’s not too bad.” I scraped off the worst of it and added some garlic salt. I sat down to eat. “Finally.”

The salad was very good. The spaghetti wasn’t bad, and I’m still feeling okay, so I might be able to finish the rest of it tomorrow….  The bread was pretty good—I even made seconds on that, and I forgot it again….

Finally full, I stacked all the dishes in and around the sink. I looked at them sitting there, motionless. I walked over to the computer and sat down. “I’ll do those later….”