Archive for the ‘House & Home’ Category

Cooking in Ancient Egypt

They had kitchens and prepared meals in them in ancient Egypt. They were outside, probably in a courtyard with a thatched flat roof. There might have been a primitive equivalent of a wood-burning stove, but more often than not an open fire was the only place for cooking alongside a clay oven. If you were sent back in time, you would see all kinds of activity from boiling and stewing to frying and grilling. Without a George Forman grill or a Cuisinart, it was all manual labor, lots of it. We still chop and dice like they did, but faster and more efficiently with our chef’s knives and electronic slicers.

They ground spices like cumin, dill, and coriander. They had mustard seed, cinnamon, marjoram, and rosemary. Some diehards still use something like a mortar and pestle to get “back to the land,” but our culinary gadgets can do the job in seconds. Flash back to the Pharaoh’s land, flash forward to today. A lot and a little have changed. Same spices, same type of cooking with salt and oil. I like the idea of sweetening things with honey and wine. We do that sometimes. I love garnishing with raisons, dates, and figs. I don’t know about root of chuba but am willing to try. They had fish and meat. No corn, potatoes, and tomatoes. That was New World. I imagine it was pretty tasty although plating food elegantly was not yet an acquired art. There’s lots more about it on the Wikipedia article about Egyptian Food, which I could probably study for days.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Food has become an obsession with so many these days, and the more exotic the better. It would be fun to recreate a meal from this ancient time and place. For now, I will settle for descriptions and speculation. We do know that kitchen vessels and utensils were found in tombs along with bowls, pots and pans. I think the food preparation took place on the ground, a major difference from today’s practices and one I hope will not make its way into modernity.

Give me my blender, mixer, bread maker, rotisserie any time. Some are hi-tech now with digital systems that give you such facility whatever you make. We don’t do much like the old, old, olden days but we do like to get our hands dirty in the kitchen. With so many different kitchen appliances these days, we have to rely on reviews of the best hand mixer to help us choose which one we should be using in our kitchens, rather than just using whatever tools that we would have been able to find in the environment around us if we lived in ancient Egypt. We may not knead the bread and grind the meat much anymore, but we get a simulation of these processes with our fancy equipment.

Where the wealthy ancient Egyptians had it over us was in tableware. Bronze, silver, and gold sure beats cracked china and paper plates (for those who prefer to keep their dishwasher pristine). They ate with the fingers, however, which is where I draw the line. I do like their idea of cleaning the hands in water bowls. The Egyptians seem to go quickly from the primitive to the sublime. While I am told they did not have the variety we enjoy today, their practices are more advanced than one might expect. For now, however, I will keep to my simple, healthy fare produced by the wonders of modern technology.

What I’m Doing About Winter This Year

I’ve got one of those rooms that just doesn’t seem to stay warm when the weather turns cold. Pretty sure it’s because of the insulation in the walls, but there might be something in the heating system too. I don’t mind a little chill in the winter because it helps me to sleep, but there are some days that the condensation inside the window freezes. This year I’m going to prevent that, I think, by adding a secondary heating system to my home.

I’ve got 3 reasons why I’m doing this (besides the need to stay warm, of course!)

  1. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be able to save money.
  2. I’m hoping that my cold room is going to stay warmer throughout the season.
  3. It’d be nice to have my home be a few degrees warmer.

I read somewhere once that with my electric heating system, it costs me an extra 1% to raise the temperature of  my home by just 1 degree per month. It’s also cheaper to cool a home than it is to warm it up, so I’m going to invest in a wood burning stove to counter these costs.

Why a Wood Burning Stove, You Ask? 

I’ve decided to go with a wood burning stove because it’s cheaper than a pellet stove. Both of them seem to do a good job for home heating and it would be nice to have the automated features of the pellet stove, but I just can’t afford it. After spending some time reading some reviews at this web site, I discovered that I can get an excellent wood burning stove for about $800, whereas it would cost me at least $2,000 to get a pellet stove to meet the needs of my home.

The good news is that I can use the current exhaust system in my home to route the stove pipes from the wood stove to the outdoors. My plan is to buy a couple cords of wood now before winter hits (I’ve been told I can save $100 per cord by purchasing them now) and then stock the wood downstairs so it can be nice and dry. I’ll have to line the venting system of the house, but that’s only a couple hundred dollars extra.

I’ve run the numbers. Between the cost of wood, the stove, and the upgrades that I need to get installed, it’s going to cost me about $1,400 in total to install the new heating system. In return, I expect to save about $450 per month on the four coldest months of the year. That means this new stove will pay for itself (I hope) in the first year!

I’m Going To Brave the Installation Myself 

The biggest fear I have about installing the new wood stove is how to get it into the house in the first place. I’ll fire it outside a couple times because that seems to be the consensus on the internet to eliminate a burnt paint or plastic smell, but the stove I want weighs over 400 pounds! I talked to the delivery company and it’ll cost me almost $400 to have them bring it inside the house, so I’m thinking about enlisting the help of the neighbors on this one.

Either way, I’m really excited about getting a new wood stove installed this winter. I could save money on the first year! When the cold weather hits, I’ll keep you all updated on how successful my plans have been to keep my cold room warm and how much money I’ve been able to save.

It Turns Out My Home Isn’t As Well Built As The Pyramids Of Giza

Egypt_Sphinx_PyramidYou have to give the Ancient Egyptians credit where credit is due, when they built something to last, it lasted. Now having thousands of people at your beck and call to do all the building work, as well as large amounts of gold to pay for whatever they needed certainly helped. Now it took a tremendous amount of labor and effort to build the pyramids of Giza. It also took a great deal of large sandstone blocks to build them too. Sandstone certainly being more durable than most materials modern homes are built out of. I know a great deal about the Ancient Egyptians and I consider myself an amateur Egyptologist.

There is just something about ancient civilizations that has always fascinated me, especially the Egyptian one. Their buildings were extraordinary for the times, in which they were built, and the pyramids of Giza remain the most outstanding achievements of them all. The pyramids have already lasted thousands of years, and only the industrial pollution of the last two centuries has had a harmful affect upon them. After all tomb robbers were only usually after gold, and other treasures.

I simply love going on my field trips to Egypt, I have been to other places but none of those other destinations are as good as Giza, or the Valley of the Kings. There is nothing as special as the pyramids, and the Sphinx in my opinion. Which, is why I go to Egypt as often as possible. It costs a fair amount of money for every trip, yet as far as I am concerned it is worth every single dime.

Unfortunately, my modern home in Fort Worth, Texas is not as enduring as the pyramids (not that any of us would still be around in two or three thousand years time to find out). The main problem with my house is that there is a lot of wood in its infrastructure, and wood as I have just found out to my cost is vulnerable to termites. Once termites get into your home they can cause considerable damage, that needs to be fixed straightaway or it can seriously ruin your house for good. In some ways, I wish I had remained blissfully unaware of the damage that termites could do to things. I also got to thinking that a home built of stone, although expensive would be a good idea as it would at least be termite proof.

Not only was I ignorant of the damage they could do, I was equally ignorant of how much it costs to treat the house to get rid of them. The answer is that it costs an awful lot of money to get rid of termites, and to make sure my home is treated afterwards to deter them from ever coming back. Let’s just say that the termite treatment cost, in terms of paying professional pest controllers to get rid of termites from my home, and to stop them from coming back has postponed my next trip abroad. Paying for the termite removal has used up the majority of the funds I had saved up for my next visit to Egypt. Postponement is not my preferred option, but it is probably the best one to take at the moment.