Friday, June 13, 2008

"Retcro©": or how retro is eco

Take ironing for example. As a young child one of the first tasks I was allowed to do was sorting the clean clothes, folding them up neatly, and putting them away.

Then I graduated to being able to 'moisten' the clothes that needed ironing. This entailed getting an enamel jug of water and sprinkling water all over the clothes with some deft wristwork and rolling them up.

I've often wondered why we didn't just iron the clothes while still wet, rather than wait for them to dry and I had to wet them again. These were then bundled up in a large piece of cloth for a few minutes.

Then Mum would do the ironing. She would have a bowl of water with her and would sprinkle the clothes with water when she saw fit.

That was 'steam ironing'.

Later I watched for the first time my sister-in-law use a steam iron and I thought how marvellous the steam iron was.

In my married life -- just coming up to ten years -- I cannot remember how many steam irons we'd gone through. The hard water here means the holes get caked up. Sometimes I banged really hard on the ironing board for the limescale to clear.

Or they start leaking!

Once someone managed to trip the relay, cut off our power supply, triggered the security alarm system and somehow the men at the local fire station got a message that there was a fire in our house. (When these hunks/"men in uniform" arrived I was trying to get my toddler son to sit on the potty. They were bemused, pointing out, "That is a real emergency.")

In short, these steam irons do not last. They soon end up in landfill. As far as I know my mum used one iron in all the time I lived with her!

My son's organic cotton school shirts and trousers are hellish difficult to iron. I've recently returned to using the "spray - wait - iron - sizzling steam" method. Works a treat. (Using a spray bottle designed for watering house plants.)

Then there are the wicker baskets that my mum and everyone in her generation used when shopping at the 'wet' markets.

Even my father used a bamboo basket -- his 'briefcase' -- when he was a butcher. (It contained his float -- which he sometimes let me prepare if I was good, a notebook and pen, and his KNIVES, very sharp ones. What would the local police think?) These baskets were mended and used for as long as they were safe to use.

Yesterday my cousin flew in from Singapore and brought me some bak chang -- glutinous rice with all sorts of fillings wrapped in leaves shaped into a tetrahedron and then steamed. Yum!

Put the bak chang in the microwave to reheat it -- perfect! The leaves (I can't say what sort of leaves, but they are long and narrow-ish) are a perfect 'container'. No need for glass or plastic. Totally biodegradable, too.

What else can I think of which is retro and eco?

Too late now. Good weekend to all!

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