My day begins usually with my cat, Paintbrush, stepping on my feet and legs to wake me up for her morning ration of canned salmon cat food. I dont have an alarm clock (or I do, if truth be known, but it doesnt work. And thats a whole other blog in itself.). The day begins more slowly than in my work-a-day world past. But there are many things that are missing in my life here in Mexico that I used to take for granted back in the States. Some of those absences have proved a blessing while others, well, Ive just learned to work around them.
Still its amazing when I consider all those things that I used to have that I thought were indispensable and now find were mere conveniences. Such as. There is a TV in our house but it resides in mute fashion in our living room atop the credenza against the one wall without an electrical outlet. It was put there purposely to more conveniently use our electrical sources for our art work tables. We dont watch TV since we refuse to pay for cable in order to get English-speaking channels. However, I must admit that weve belatedly connected the TV to our DVD player (liberated from our storage locker after one of our trips north this year) and strung an extension cord to bring it to life for the occasional DVDs. One must have some sort of enlightened entertainment, after all, if only to carry on up-to-date conversations on the latest releases.
There is no dishwasher in the house. Or at least no mechanical one. Both of us take turns doing the honors by hand after meals. I find it to be contemplative and not that time consuming. Go figure. In cool weather the hot water on my hands is a pleasure, making me feel warm inside.
Walking is a lot easier than trying to drive most places, traffic and the lack of parking spots being what they are in San Miguel. In the time it takes to maneuver through the circuitous routes of one ways streets through Centro in order to find that illusive parking spot, you may as well have walked from home, as your car is likely not to be much closer for the effort.
While we do have the use of a washer and a dryer (the latter considered a particular luxury in this land of sunshine) our kitchen is absent many a modern gizmo. There is no blender, food processor, or electric mixer. We slice and dice by hand, and such things as the hefty lime squeezer have been known to be pressed into service as a nutcracker when duty calls.
Which brings me to the lemons. Our gardener, Gabriel, gave us a dozen or more lemons the other week, given to him by a neighbor. Limes are the more common commodity here (we have two trees of different varieties), and so lemons are a real treat. But 12 lemons all at once require that you have some use in mind if youre not to forfeit them before they shrivel and go bad. Lemonade came to mind, but just as rapidly, that was displaced by visions of lemon pie. Chiffon, to be exact. But having never made one of lemon chiffon I was soon researching wildly on Google for an appropriate recipe. And there I hit a roadblock. No matter the variation, all of the recipes seemed to require either meringue on top or beaten egg whites folded into the filling. I dont have a mixer, as noted above, in my kitchen. What to do.
I do have a stylish black, rather modern-looking whisk, but I dismissed it off-hand as too time-consuming and likely to wear me out before stiff peaks appeared in my egg whites. Still, the idea of a pie would not abate and the lemons were sitting forlornly, if fragrantly, on my counter. What the heck, I decided to give it a go, as the Brits are wont to say, and set about making my lemon chiffon. I creamed the butter and sugar (with fork and knife), added the lemon juice and zest, milk, flour, and egg yolks, and then took up the bowl of whites as my challenge. As I stood with my deep plastic mixing bowl in hand, beating frantically away at the egg whites with my whisk, I suddenly had a long-forgotten memory of my mother doing virtually the same thing in our long-ago kitchen. Except that her whisk was wire, in a shape not unlike a snowshoe, flat like a spoon with loops of wire threaded across the frame. The whisk had belonged to her mother and was the proper tool for beating egg whites in a matter of minutes back in the day. Id watched my mother work them from their slimy yellowish state to a froth with effortless, efficient strokes, and then magically into white, thick foam, and finally into stiff peaks. This could be done! Id seen it! How could I have forgotten?
Too many conveniences sometimes get in the way of some simple pleasures. We sometimes forget that we dont need them to have what we want. Like a lemon pie. And doing without can actually give us time to remember many things too long forgotten.
And, yes, the pie (with stiff egg whites!) turned out fine.