Losing the air conditioner did not come naturally to me. First and foremost, my blood is Germanic and my natural habitat the cool climate of Wisconsin. I have always professed to hate the heat, and even in milder temperatures like 90 degree summers in WI, I dutifully stayed in my shaded room next to the air conditioner. You want me to run in a T-shirt at 10 degrees through the snow? Hells yes! But please, please don’t turn off the AC, okay?
Well now I’m older, and wiser, and I’m paying for my own electric bill. As I watched my first California summer approach with dread I thought to myself, people didn’t used to have air conditioning. A hot CA summer of 110 degrees doesn’t even compare to some areas of the deep south. If they can do it, why can’t I? Furthermore, the environmentalist inside me protested the use of carbon emitting power for something so useless as my own comfort. Did you know that air conditioning use in the USA releases 100 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere a year? Yeah, I didn’t! Thus began my life at 100 degrees. My mom thought I would die of heat exhaustion just trying to sleep in my own apartment!
WARNING, acclimating feels a little like going insane, and in intense heat and humidity you have to be very careful. After the temperatures top 98.6 degrees F (our natural body temperature), we have to lose all that extra heat through perspiration and evaporative cooling. A healthy person can sweat up to two quarts of water in an hour, so in order to break even you’ll have to drink a ton. You will often times be thirsty, sweaty, and (if polite company isn’t over) halfway naked. For the first two days it is incredibly hard to sleep. The days weren’t much better, and I thought I might be going mad. Three days in and it… wasn’t that bad. Truly, you can acclimate, and here are five vital tips to help you along with the process.
- DRINK UP. Whatever it takes, however long it takes, drink so that you pee normally, and the color is light yellow indicating proper hydration. It SUCKS, but this is how you stay safe. Did you see the 2 quarts of water per hour statistic?! If you can, make sure the drinks are cool. Ice slushies with lemon to me are the best.
- Use a cooling towel. My mom sent me these for running, but who carries a towel when they run? I wet them, snap, and it is a blessed relief that I wear around my neck during the hottest portions of the day.
- Shut and cover the sunny windows. Your house is a greenhouse. Sun=heat so don’t let it in!
- Normal activity now requires a sports drink, and don’t skip the sodium. As an experiment I bought some cheap powdered Gatorade and wow! What a difference in my energy level! I’ve done some research on a natural version, and I’ve concluded that buying a natural powder is a waste of money. For one thing, natural often means no sodium, and sodium vital in the summer. Second, if there is sodium, there is no potassium! And that is also important during the summer. Thus, the best solution I’ve found comes from Vintage Amanda. Her recipe for a natural sports drink involves apple cider vinegar, salt, and honey. Apple cider vinegar is high in potassium, salt (of course) has sodium, and the honey is a nice little sugar boost.
- Spend the hottest part of the day outside in the shade. The difference is amazing.
- Don’t wear cotton. Seriously. The sweat sticks to it, becoming damp and heavy, and it makes you even more hot.
- Create cross ventilation in whatever space you are in. This means that you want air going out, and air coming back in. Again, you want to lose the heat through evaporative cooling, and you can’t do that if the air in your space is stagnant. If you only have one openable window (like in my one room apartment), you can try using your bathroom fan. Bathroom fans suck up air, so it creates a current from the window, through the apartment, and to the bathroom.
- Cook in the morning. Stoves heat up spaces, so cooking at 4pm for dinner when the weather is hot is miserable. I try to do all my inside work and hot cooking in the mornings, when the weather is relatively cooler.
- Go to the beach, run through a sprinkler, or set up a kiddie pool. Seriously. The pleasure of cold water on a hot summer’s day? Priceless.
With the economy the way it is, tons of people for economic and environmental reasons are ditching their AC. Amazingly, most of them find out they like it! For more reading on this subject, check out the below links, including my favorite article from the New York Times.
This Week in Updates: Awesome Produce and Polenta
A few different receipts here, because a free gift of a green tomato and the ensuing recipe searches for fried green tomatoes (still working on perfecting that one, stay tuned!) led me to corn meal and therefore polenta. I just HAD TO try the recipe right then and there despite the fact that on my moped my carrying capacity is zilch. Thus, I made a quick little trip on the way home from work. I used to think polenta was this stupid thing you had to buy pre-made that people said was gourmet but really I thought was just okay. Turns out that you can make your own on the cheap! And it is really good! My mind has been spinning with ideas, but I covered the most simple one first this week: Homemade polenta with black beans and my 15 minute chunky basil tomato sauce.
Also, I am proud to say that my $11 produce budget is working out well, even completely at the co-op. Broccoli was only 99 cents a pound this week! Squash was on sale too. This is certainly introducing more variety into my diet, and I like it! Shopping sustainably for local products that are in season is not only thrifty, but it is helping me be more creative too! I think I really like this food and fitness blogging thing. I spend my weekends eating, cooking, writing, and working out. What could be better than that??????? Well, maybe if Jesse was here.
The Recipe: Homemade polenta with black beans and easy 15 minute chunky tomato basil sauce
This meal is as cheap as it is delicious and nutritious. If you are good with multitasking too (and if you soak the beans overnight), the whole thing (which serves 4-6 depending on your appetite) will take only 35 minutes. I can’t believe I never did this before!
1 cup cornmeal
4 cups water
1 cup dried black beans
1 Tbsp Oregano
3-4 Med Sized Tomatoes
A sprig of fresh basil
Salt to taste
For the black beans, soak overnight. Boil a couple cups of water in a pot, and put the soaked black beans into it. Cook until soft and then drain. Usually takes about 30 minutes.
For the polenta, I followed Gourmandelle’s on her delicious (and very well formatted I’m jealous!) blog. To cook, boil the water, and add the cornmeal by the handful to avoid clumps. Constantly stir (work those arms!) for 20 minutes or until polenta is very thick and pulling away from the sides of the pot. Dumpinto a pie pan and let cool. If you do this right, your polenta and beans should be done at about the same time. Now all you need is the easy sauce!
Easy 15 minute chunky tomato basil sauce
Okay so yes, you could boil this whole thing down for another 15 minutes to make it thicker, but who wants to do that? The way it is, so fast and delicious from the fresh tomatoes and basil that I will never buy canned tomato sauce ever again. If you want to make this even more wonderful you could add some garlic, however for simplicity’s sake, the only ingredients you need are basil and oregano.
Boil the 4 tomatoes in water for 10 minutes or until skin is falling off.
Put one tomato in a bowl and mash/cut up with a fork. The other three go in a blender with the basil, oregano, and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Blend until smooth. Mix the chunky tomato and the smooth sauce in a pan and bring to a simmer. Once it is simmering you are done! Use as you so desire, in this case, on top of the wonderful polenta and black beans.