Friday, August 23, 2013

Making Mayo in the Dark

“You know that you are back in Papua New Guinea when you have gone through three boxes of matches in just one week.”  That’s what I was thinking to myself last night a little before 9:00 when I was trying to light our gas stove. 

Our stove is not particularly difficult to light, but PNG matches are.  The match sticks often break, or there isn’t enough of the red stuff on the end to be able to strike a flame.  Or, perhaps there is too much of the red stuff, and as you strike the match, it bursts into flame and the flaming bit breaks off and lands on your arm (ouch!) or on the white Formica countertop, singing it (grrr).  The good news is that matches are one of the few things that are really cheap here, so if it takes you half a box to light the stove, you’re not out much money at least.

The stove-lighting process was making me dream about my new stove.  The one that some great people back home donated money towards while we were on furlough.  We bought it in the US, and sent it out over the ocean several months before we left.  It arrived in Ukarumpa the week before we did.  The new stove has an electric start, so I shouldn’t need to use matches. Yippee!  But the new stove is just a teensy bit bigger than our old one, and so before we can install it, we had to have our kitchen countertops trimmed so that it could fit. 

Actually, I thought, being without counter tops for a day was a nice solution to the hassle of the child safety locks that we have on all of our kitchen cupboards.  I could reach everything on the top shelf without undoing the lock!

So why was I lighting the stove at 9:00 at night?  I had just decided to try making mayonnaise for the first time.  I am NOT a mayo eater myself, but Brian likes it.  And I wanted some for a salad dressing recipe.  We currently have an overabundance of lettuce, and the store has no salad dressing on the shelves.  You might have noticed in my last post that our PNG neighbors had given us a lot of garden produce.  In Papua New Guinea, relationships are all about reciprocity.  I wanted to continue the relationship building with our neighbors, and so last night I sent Brian and Greg over to deliver a loaf of pumpkin bread and some of the rolls that I had made for dinner.  But here is the funny thing about reciprocity in PNG – you don’t ever want to be “even.”  You always want one party to “owe” the other party… that way you are sure that the relationship will continue.  If you give me something, and I pay you back exactly what it was worth, it’s like I’m saying “this relationship is now closed… we are even and don’t need to continue giving.”  So of course when the boys delivered the bread, they had to give something else in return.  Which turned out to be a huge bag of lettuce.  Did I mention that our yard meri had planted our entire backyard garden in lettuce right before we came home?  That means we have lettuce coming out of our ears, and we need some salad dressing!

I had heard that making cooked mayonnaise can be a little tricky, so I was carefully stirring my egg mixture in a double boiler when the lights went out.  I counted to ten.  Usually ten seconds after the electricity goes off, the backup generator starts.  But it didn’t.  So here I was, still carefully stirring my mayonnaise in the pitch black, with only the little blue gas flames to guide me.  I asked Brian to come light a candle for me.  “Where are the candles?”  I told him to get the flashlight from on top of the piano (where we always keep it) to find some.  But the flashlight wasn’t there.  Oops. I had left it up in the attic earlier in the day when I was unpacking boxes.  So Brian and I fumbled around in the dark, trying to find candles and matches, and all the while I kept running back and stirring my mayo so that it wouldn’t curdle!  I finished my mayo by the dim light of two candles, and as soon as I finished, of course the lights came back on.  The mayo turned out just fine (according to Brian… like I said, I really don’t know what good mayo is supposed to taste like).

This morning I made up my ranch dressing.  I would like to say it turned out as well as the mayo, but it’s actually a bit thinner than I was hoping for, and a little too salty.  Still, it will give us something to put on our salads anyway.

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