Kitchen Appliances

Some of this topic has already been covered under the heading of “convenience” but we all know that most kitchen appliances are for convenience. Coffee makers are great if they have a clock on them and can have the coffee ready when you wake up, but that’s only critical if you have to be up at a certain time!  If you don’t have to be anywhere to work, then how do you know what time you are going to get up… or what time you are going to go to bed, for that matter?  If you don’t know those things then how do you know what time to set the coffeemaker for?  OK, so I’m being facetious here, but there is truth to that!

If you wake up on your own, what’s wrong with making the coffee “after” you get up? And if you have to do that, then why do you need one with a clock on it? Who cares what time it is?

We’ve had two power outages here in the last couple years that lasted overnight or more. The one with the big ice storm lasted three days. We were without heat, power, telephone and even a cell phone. We got by just fine.  OK, I cheated and hooked up to the 1500-watt inverter on the camper to provide power for the refrigerator and furnace after the first day. But to conserve, we shut everything down at night… at the end of January… in Arkansas!  Yeah it got down to 54 degrees in here by morning, but we slept just fine. We had what we “needed” to have. With all the ice outside, we could have transferred the refrigerator items to our coolers, and got by just fine. Sure the heat was nice to have, but if we had been prepared, we could have used a little Mr. Heater Portable Buddy, and confined our activities to a smaller space. We wouldn’t have “had” to use the inverter for power!

We had our two-burner Coleman camping stove for cooking, a smaller inverter in the van (from which we ran an extension cord in through the front door to run one fluorescent light and the police scanner) and we still had water, so basically we were in much better shape than many people who were totally unprepared and had to leave home for up to three weeks! If we had to, we could have melted ice for water, and used candles for light. Convenience appliances are just that…conveniences… not necessities!

The one kitchen appliance that we “don’t like” to live without is a microwave. There are so many on the market, available from nearly every store, that we’re not going to try to sell you one here. For your minivan conversion, you can buy a fairly small one, and it will work fine. We recently bought the smallest Kenmore we could find at Sears, a 700-watt unit,  and we found it to be just the right size, and fairly lightweight (22 pounds) making it ideal for our use. It’s big enough to hold a standard 10-inch dinner plate, and that’s all we need it for. Some of the larger rectangular dishes that we had used in larger microwaves won’t work in it, but that’s OK.  Our minivan camper conversion is for traveling light and easy, and we don’t plan on doing major cooking on the road!

Some of you may say that you never use a microwave and wouldn’t use one in a camper! One guy said that said he likes to steam his vegetables. Guess what… what do you think a microwave does? And it does it with only a couple of tablespoons of water (if that), instead of two cups of water! The only thing it won’t do well is to brown things, but from everything I have read in the health magazines, the darker you brown things, the closer it gets to the charcoal stage, and the unhealthier it is for you! There are many ways of fixing meats without having to brown them!

Cakes? No problem! Many people have said their cakes are dry. I can tell them that their heat setting is too high! That’s the fault most people have with microwaves… they think because it is supposed to be fast, that they can cook everything on “high”, because they are in a hurry!  I have made cakes in the microwave already on the PROPER settings, and they come out just fine, except that they aren’t browned on the top. But if you put icing on them, who is ever going to know what the surface looks like? Or you can cover them with fruit, and let it cook in (YUM!) or you can sprinkle the top with powdered sugar or a crumb topping! There’s ways to make it work that are delicious!

Want to make puddings or gravies? I’ve never scorched anything in the microwave! Nor did I have to sit there and stir it constantly to keep it from burning on the bottom!

And what about rain days, where you’re stuck inside in 80+ degree heat and humidity? The last thing you want to do is heat up a stove to cook! A microwave releases very little heat into the air… not like a stove burner or oven! And in a minivan, most people will tell you to not even think of using a flame type cooking appliance in such a small space, unless you have some kind of extended top so you don’t catch the ceiling on fire or spatter it with cooking grease!

In our minivan, I can sit at a nice comfortable recliner or work at a table, with the microwave within arm’s reach, and cook anything I want to without heating the space up or making a mess! AND, I can do it healthier than most stovetop or open flame methods, and do it quicker! And since I can cook in the same Pyrex-type dishes that I serve in, and often right on the same Corning Ware plates and bowls that we eat out of, or even with throw-away plates, bowls and containers, there’s a whole lot less cleanup afterward! I don’t think there’s anything I can’t cook in a microwave if I “have” to, but obviously, there ARE some things better done by other methods. That’s why we have learned them all, so that we are prepared for ANYTHING!

Oh, what about power when you’re out boon-docking, you ask? The 1500-watt inverter connected to the van’s engine battery is enough to take care of that for the short times that the microwave runs, which is usually under ten minutes at a time. Sure, 700-watts divided by 120 volts equals 5.8 amps, and when that is factored into the inverter at only 12 volts could end up being 58 amps on the battery side, and it uses a lot of power. So, most vehicles, especially with a lot of electronic toys, like the Chrysler Town & Country, already have heavier duty batteries and alternators. But even lesser vehicles these days have alternators that put out around 65 amps. Let’s see… yep… that’s more than what the microwave uses, so the simple answer to keep the battery from running down while using it is… (you guessed it).. put as much or more into it at the same time it’s being taken out!  l start the engine while using it! No auxiliary generator or huge secondary battery bank needed! Everything you need is already available on the van, so why complicate things by spending more money on things you don’t need and then have to work harder to pay for them?

For other appliances, OK, so there are few things that a blender works better for than a whisk… like making whipped cream… or egg whites for meringue… or Fuzzy Navels… unless you can move really fast!  But who needs either one when you’re out seeing the country! Buy a dessert at some specialty shop if you get a sweet tooth! Go get piece of lemon pie at a restaurant. Go to a tavern and get a drink (only one, though, if you’re driving!) and then come back to your camp site and relax. You don’t need to cook every meal at home!  Unless you fix really good steaks, of course!  Sometimes those are hard to find!

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