Sunday, 13 April 2014

Cooking on (bottled) Gas

Cooking on gas  - to be making good progress and to be likely to succeed. Unless, of course, it's bottled gas we're talking about.

When we looked around rental properties, one of the things that drew me to the one we are now living in, was that it had a gas hob. Now I wasn't naive enough to think that in the mains gas desert that is West Wales, we could somehow miraculously have stumbled on the one house that had somehow fashioned its own pipeline to the North Sea, but the heating appeared to be run from a gas tank, and I assumed the hob would run off the same - the advantage being that there's a gauge on the tank and you can see how fast it's going down, and when you're likely to run out. You can also just ring up a man, and he comes along with his truck and fills the tank up. You don't even have to be at home. Magic.

Alas, it was not to be, and like everyone else who cooks on gas around here, I am a slave to the butane cylinder, lurking behind the hedge a few metres away from the kitchen side of the house, with a dodgy connection to boot. It feels very rural here. Far more rural than 'pseudo-rural' Hampshire (as I now think of it). I'm not complaining. There are the downsides though - 40 minutes to A&E on a good run down some very windy roads. Not yet tested in an actual A&E situation, but basically = bad; driving to get practically anywhere = bad; Cooking on bottled gas = very, very bad. It's been hanging over me like a veritable sword of Damocles every tea time. I don't even know why, because we have an electric kettle, an oven (electric) and even, after many many years without (a long story) a microwave - so it's hardly likely that we're going to starve. And even if it did run out, it's not as if we couldn't get another bottle very quickly (well stocked garages at regular intervals along major A roads = good), but go with me here - it's made me nervous.

So the Damocles moment arrived as it inevitably would, at the worst possible time. Friday night, I had already gathered the kids up from the school bus at the start of their Easter hols, and had to return to school once to collect Pink's flute which she'd forgotten, and then, again, when half way down the road from the flute recce, Blue remembered that he'd left his jumper at school. If it had just been the weekend, I'd have left it, but as it was the start of the hols, I felt duty bound to return. Grr.

My mother in law was due to arrive for the weekend at 5.30 and so as the result of the sallying back and forth for various forgotten items, we missed the opportunity for some post-school beach. We arrived home. Curry for dinner. The dahl was nearly done, the curry paste whizzed, and I was just about to get the rice on for the kids who were eating before us when I noticed the flame had reduced dramatically. Gah!

It was 5.30 exactly. No sign of the mother in law; kids were firmly installed in front of their Friday treat DVD. The dog thought my to-ing and fro-ing between gas bottle and hob trying to work out if the gas was really running out, and if so what to do about it was some kind of great game, which didn't help, as did discovering that the gas bottle was connected to the pipe into the house by nothing more than a little bit of vaguely perished rubber hose. I know I scoff at our health & safety culture, but I did feel a little nervous...

It took me a few attempts to get the regulator off the gas bottle, then to get the bottle into the car. It was about as tricky to turf the kids out of the house to come with me on a gas hunt. "Come on kids!" I rallied. "But we're watching 'Frozen'!" (translates as "You are a cruel and wicked mother we have worked so hard all day and now you expect us to sit in the car so that you can get the wherewithal to cook us tea"). Yeah. Get over it. I wrote notes for the mother in law in case she arrived while we were out. In fact I needn't have worried - at that same moment she was sitting in a desolate spot about 7 miles the other side of Newcastle Emlyn, arguing with her sat nav which had told her that she had reached her destination...

We got to the garage, and had a nasty moment when the attendant wasn't sure if she had any of the small bottles of butane left. But all was well, and I managed to get some beer in too.

Back to the house, more struggling with the regulator to get it back on to the bottle and then to arrange bottle in a spot that would allow it to connect to the pipe, and all is well. We are once again cooking on (bottled gas). It feels like a rite of passage - another tick in the box of our life here - in the same vein (although admittedly less frustrating) as dealing with the utterly rubbish broadband connection and finding out that tamarind paste is not readily available. And ultimately what it means is that I will finally get round to buying the second bottle that we kept telling ourselves we ought to buy.


  1. There's quite a nifty trick to cooking on bottled 2 bottles!

  2. We cook on bottled gas here in France and I was so paranoid about the bottle running out that we bought a spare within days of buying the house.
    The bottle runs out approximately once every four years!
    (But we are only here for a few months each year......!)
    By the way, nearly all French cooker hobs have three gas rings and one electric ring, for the occasion when both the current gas bottle and the spare are empty!

    1. Hmm ours ran out 8 weeks after we'd moved in. I wonder if that means it was 3 years 46 weeks old when we took over the house... No electric ring here unfortunately!


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