Now you’re cooking with(out) gas!

According to a quick Google search, the phrase comes from a 19th Century ad for gas stoves, touting their superiority to wood stoves.

Most of my life, I’ve cooked with electricity, although for a short time I had a gas stove in the US where the gas company kept the gas coming!  But in Benin we have gas stoves that work with bottled gas, which runs out from time to time, always on a weekend!  There’s a spare, but I’m always a little afraid I’m going to blow myself up trying to change it with a pair of vice-grips, so when this past 3 day weekend (local holiday on Friday) the gas ran out, I decided to do without.

I’m a guy, and we enjoy our toys, even in the kitchen, so I have a Foreman grill, a crock pot, a microwave (the embassy provides that last one), waffle iron, etc.  So I decided I could get through the weekend that way.  I made a big pot of gumbo in the crock pot, grilled some salmon on the Foreman and had a grilled salmon salad one night.  Defrosted a bunch of cooked shrimp and some tortillas and made shrimp wraps.  All in all, it worked out fine, and Monday I changed the gas cylinder.

Which brings us to my next adventure in cooking, rice pudding.  I love rice pudding, and like many things, in the US I just went to the supermarket and bought it.  Preparation was putting some cinnimon on top.  But, not in Africa.  I got a couple of recipes off of the Internet and my first attempt a few weeks back came out very edible, but sweeter and thinner than I really liked.  So last night I increased the rice by 1/3 and decreased the sugar by a few teaspoons and it came out perfect.  In case anyone cares, here is the recipe:


  • 3/4 cup uncooked white rice (I made it 1)
  • 2 cups milk, divided
  • 1/3 cup white sugar (I made it 1/4)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2/3 cup raisins
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. In a medium saucepan, bring 1 1/2 cups water (I used 2 since I used more rice) to a boil. Add rice and stir. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. In another saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups (I used 2) cooked rice, 1 1/2 cups milk, sugar and salt. Cook over medium heat until thick and creamy, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup milk, beaten egg and raisins. Cook 2 minutes more, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and stir in butter and vanilla. Serve warm.

 Since rice is a staple in many parts of the world, finding different ways to cook and eat it is always useful!  Fortunately, I really like rice.

My final cooking (using the term loosely) adventure this week was cole slaw.  This one involves no recipe, just taste.  I chop up some cabbage (I don’t have a food processor, so the pieces are always bigger than most cole slaw) and add mayo to coat, wine or cider vinegar to taste, and then spices (coarsely ground pepper is important to me, some paprika for color if I have it, and after that I just fool around until it tastes good).  It’s always best if you can wait 24 hours for it to meld in the fridge before eating, but of course, you never can.

Plans for the near future:  I have to get back to bagels.  I’ve never made potato salad.  And since I’m going home for a week and can bring stuff back, I’m going to bring back pickling cukes to make some half sour pickles.



Filed under Foreign Service Stuff

6 responses to “Now you’re cooking with(out) gas!

  1. I’ve never made potato salad, either, and I LOVE the stuff. You would think that I would have tried to figure out a recipe for it by now?

    Maybe – onions, chopped pickle, mayo, hardboiled eggs, maybe celery? Think I’ve seen chopped red bell pepper and maybe green too?

    Good for you for cooking so much and being so flexible! I look forward to hearing how your foray into potato salad goes!

  2. rkolker

    Well, here’s Red, Hot and Blue’s recipe, but I’d divide by at least 5. I love their potato salad, so I have to try this.

    Red Hot and Blue Potato Salad

    16-17 lbs red bliss, size B potatoes
    13 eggs, cut into eights
    2 1/2 cups green onions, chop 1/8-inch size
    5 cups mayonnaise, they buy from Ben E. Keith food distr.
    2 1/2 level tbsp. celery seed
    2 1/2 level tbsp. salt

    steam spuds for 45-60 minutes

    cut into small pcs and mix ingredients- do not refrigerate

    Tonight – Nestle Toll House cookies! Found the chips in Lagos.

  3. Rich, you know you’re always welcome at the Andersons if you ever run out of gas! For some odd reason, we have an electric stove. Maybe it has to do with the local canister convenience-issues. 🙂

  4. rkolker

    Thank you,

    From what I understand, we’re replacing gas with electric as is necessary, or new people arrive. For example, when I lived in Tony’s house it had gas, but his stove is now electric. I apparently was the last to miss the changeover.

  5. Pat O'Neill

    Haven’t you managed to get a barbecue grill? Or is charcoal hard to get? I’d think the weather in Benin would make year-long outdoor cooking obvious!

  6. It’s Friday, and that means that the Third Weekly State Department Blog Roundup is up – and you’re on it!

    Here is the link:

    (If I quoted your text or used your photo(s) and you would rather I had not, please let me know. Please also be sure to check the link(s) that I put up to you, in order to verify that they work properly. If you would rather that I had not referenced you, and/or do not want me to reference you in the future, please also contact me.)


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