DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Feb 1 2013

Needful Things

by Veronica W

One of my earliest kitchen memories is of my mother, who didn’t own an electric mixer at the time, holding a big bowl full of cake batter in the crook of her elbow and vigorously cake and spoonbeating the batter with a big wooden spoon. At the time I wasn’t impressed. I just wanted to lick the spoon when she was finished. Not until I tried it myself did I really appreciate the amount of work and energy that went into her famous pound cakes. Trying it also taught me to love my mixer.

I have always been fascinated by stories of the Amish way of life. The traditional old order groups—sometimes called The Plain People—eschew many of our modern conveniences, such as electricity and cars…and zippers! Terri Blackstock has written a wonderful science fiction series in which a catastrophe causes all the electricity and electronics in the world to fail, shutting off just about everything; refrigerators, cars, televisions, computers, alarm systems, electronic games, telephones, heating and air, furnaces, hair dryers…need I go on? Hardest hit in the story is the upper middle class, whose lives seem to be controlled by microchips. At first, when everyone thinks it’s a temporary power outage, it’s almost fun, like roughing it at camp.  However when food gets scarce and clean water is at a premium, survival takes on a more serious and dangerous meaning. The first book in the series is Last Light, followed by Night Light, True Light and finally, Dawn’s Light.

Of course, after reading the series I looked at my house—and my day—with new eyes. For example, I am very fond of hot showers and toasted bagels at the start of the day. Also, have you noticed how really hard it is to put on makeup by candlelight?  Hmmm, then there’s the matter of clothes. These days, washboards and wringer dryers are pricey antiques and besides, after washing and drying them, how wrinkled could I bear to be without my iron? Having never learned to ride a bike, I would be stranded without a car, cab or bus (temperamental knees, can’t walk long or far).  I haven’t even touched on less frivolous, maybe life threatening needs.  A little less facetiously, a bit more soberly, I realized I am spoiled.

Perhaps you would like to do what I call a “chips and volts” assessment. What do you use now that you would be really hard pressed to live without?  Considering that a large portion of this world does not have the things I consider so important, I may need to work on shortening my own list.

True Light

Dawn's Light

Night LightLast Light

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Lesley B February 4, 2013 at 10:41 AM

I read your post just after finishing this story about a Russian family living in isolation in Siberia for 40 years: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/For-40-Years-This-Russian-Family-Was-Cut-Off-From-Human-Contact-Unaware-of-World-War-II-188843001.html

No electricity, no metal (the pieces they took with them rusted and they couldn’t replace them). Their survival is impressive, but I know what you mean about seeing your house with new eyes. We live in incredible luxury.

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