The most noticeable thing missing in the kitchen of Romelia is something that most people take for granted – a refrigerator. The most notable item in the kitchen is the wood stove. Without electricity, Romelia is without common appliances that I was used to using back home and after taking on the role of fill-in cook when Antonia has her days off, I had to adapt to the way I prepared food – both in the way I cooked it (using only the wood stove) and the amount (no refrigeration means that leftover food goes to waste). Also, due to our location and lack of accessibility, our fresh produce is delivered weekly, our dried and canned goods delivered monthly. This means that we need to use all produce before they go bad, be conscientious to budget food for each meal, and decrease excess food in order to decrease our amount of waste.
This is vastly different to the way most see and experience food and cooking. Because of refrigeration, there is less concern with excess food, which can be saved, and vegetables and fruits can be used at leisure as it’s shelf life is extended. Also, due to the accessibility and ease in which one can buy and obtain food, there is no need to use only what one has to create a meal.
When I returned to the US after my first Romelia experience, I was shocked at the amount of food in my family’s kitchen. It seemed as if my mother had stockpiled food for the month and yet we would still go to the store to buy food to cook a meal we were “craving.” Although I enjoyed my break from rice and beans, I still tried to carry on the habits I had learned at Romelia. I cooked only what I needed, made sure to use all produce in a timely manner, and used what I had before buying more. I decreased my waste and also saved money. I think that this experience has made a lasting effect on my life, a lesson that can be applied to more than just food, and that is, “Waste less and use what you have before buying more.” Jennifer Adams