Here I was again, needing to cook dinner for the family. I had everything prepared–the ingredients, the cooking utensils, my tummy yelling of hunger (ooops!). The petrol tank was replaced earlier today; hence, I knew that I would be able to finish cooking in no time at all. Well, for those who don’t know, here in the Philippines, a cooking stove is fueled by a petrol receptacle, called LPG or Liquefied Petroleum Gas, that’s directly connected to it via a rubber tube and a control valve.
So, I switched the stove on and began heating up the pan. A couple of minutes passed when, suddenly, I heard a distinct hissing sound coming from the LPG container. I attempted to sniff the air, carefully waving my hand to-and-fro (more of to- rather than -fro, actually) so as to correctly distinguish the petrol fumes. Once I ascertained the fact that the tank was leaking the foul-smelling odor, I immediately switched off both the stove and the control valve.
You see, there are many reported cases of petrol tanks exploding due to rubber tubes, valves, and receptacles that are faulty, substandard, or worn-out (Filipinos are known for their cheapskate ways, after all!). Thus, to be on the safe side, it was necessary to just switch everything off and, similar to the previous “chicken problem” (Check When Forced To Dress A Chicken), beg my mom for much-needed rescuing.
Mom hurried to the kitchen and demanded to know why I was whining once again (Why is your voice so loud? Do you really have to yell?! asked Mama). I informed her about my latest predicament and she attempted to fix the issue right away.
Now, you ought to understand that my mom is also an outstanding handyman (handywoman?). She knows her way around the varied implements that’re normally wielded by men, mostly. Thus, she tinkered with the different parts of the complete cooking apparatus whilst I pretended not to be such a coward, literally cowering like a trembling little chicken in the corner (Well, what if the tank decides to explode?! I don’t want to die, you know!).
Off she went fiddling with the controls, grumbling (and muttering expletives, going “beast mode”) about the fact that it still didn’t seem to work. I tried not to visibly cringe, pathetically compelling myself to cheer her on as she solved the problem. After all, we needed to eat dinner, right?
Unfortunately, the tube still leaked out gas. So, we decided to leave the matter to the petrol-tank-and-cooking-stove experts (meaning, contact a professional whose job is to fix faulty petrol-operated cookers or simply buy a new cooker soon).
It was already seven in the evening and I still needed to cook dinner, though (Hello, snivelling tummy!). Hence, I went out to the yard and prepared the kalan (Filipino clay stove used with either charcoal or wood as fuel). Imagine my chagrin when I realized that there wasn’t any firewood on the ready. Nevertheless, there were lots of used paper available (scrap paper, used notebooks, old newspapers, and whatnot. We’re a family of writers; so, paper here, there, and everywhere!) and, since there wasn’t anything else to use, I decided to ignite a fire using paper for kindling–and stand-alone fuel.
So there I was, fanning the kalan, vigorously, praying that a fire would appear soon. I placed the pan onto the kalan and coerced it, literally, to heat up. Suddenly, the rain opted to descend just then, making it even more of a struggle to maintain a steady conflagration on the kalan (Duh! A mighty downpour in a place where it rarely rains, right?! Thank you, climate change! Or not.) Hence, I heaved and huffed, pulling the hefty clay stove into the covered area. It would’ve been a blessing to poor me if the so-called covered place was thoroughly protected by good roofing. However, the unforgiving roof elected to leak at that instance and, eventually, an irksome drip-drip-drip steadily made me wet in the process.
Fortunately, we had that treasure trove of paper–thanks to my family’s proclivity to save everything that can still be reused and recycled (Yeah, Filipinos are indeed famous for that trait). After a few hours, I was able to cook dinner and even boil some water for coffee merely by the use of the ubiquitous paper. Who knew that the humble paper could be so valuable as to really cook a full meal with it?!
The thing is, paper isn’t a common stand-alone fuel for cooking. Charcoal and wood are the typical tinders used for the traditional kalan. Yet, dire conditions need absolute creativity (uh, don’t forget patience, as well). Thus, the end justified the means. Now, my family has added justification as to why it’s entirely reasonable to set aside used paper. Ah, another precious lesson learned whilst living in the countryside–collect scrap paper!