For most people, a hobby is a passion, a pastime, some thing you do for fun that takes you out of your usual world. It’s indicative of having a little bit of spare time, and maybe depending on what the hobby is, indicative of having a little spare change.
When people used to talk about hobbies, I used to find myself a little sour on the subject, because all my spare time and a great deal of my spare money was taken up by one thing: allergy maintenance. I needed to wash every fabric in my home (shower curtains, bathmats, living room curtains) at least once a month and bedsheets at least weekly. Floors needed to be steam cleaned and HEPA filter vacuumed twice weekly. I had (and still have) an air steriliser in the bedroom. To keep invisible mould that resulted from high humidity of my tropical fishtank at bay, I had an automatic dehumidifier running with it’s own hydrostat to switch on and off. This kept my allergies at a level that meant I could sleep through the night without waking up asphyxiating. And that was without factoring in that I needed to make each meal I’d eat. So, my weekends were a blur of cleaning, grocery shopping, meal planning and cooking in batches, and sometimes googling recipes for making replacements for things I very much missed – like coffee flavoured or orange flavoured liquor, ginger snap biscuits, madeleines or traditional christmas cake (including making the marzipan, since I can’t have the store bought stuff). I tried to fit a social event or even two in there, but could rarely stay for long, nor did I have the energy after all my activities of the previous days.
The very low humidity of Madrid has made my environmental allergies so much easier to manage. Dust mites are not able to thrive in low humidity, and mould doesn’t stand a chance at the 35% relative humidity factor. I can take the tube without sneezing violently the whole time, which is a big boost for overall energy. I also work at home, which means I have zero commute time. In short, I have more free time and more energy than before*.
Which means I can take up more complex food projects, like making home made chickpea miso and using a little of that that to make Raw Vegan Mascarpone cheese, and using that to make…((angels sing)) dairy free tiramisu ice cream!
*N.B: it would be “a lot more free time than before” if I could actually do all my grocery shopping in one (or even two) place(s) instead of four or five- not including separate trips to pharmacies and beauty stores for things I would normally pick up in the same one supermarket (cotton wool, aspirin); if veg box deliveries existed at reasonable prices (the veg bought from the markets goes off faster than even the stuff from Tesco, which I guess is why stores vac pack and radiate their produce. Never thought I’d prefer that to fresh veg, but there you go.) Fresh veg boxes are 30 euros a box minimum per box, because they need to be transported from the farms 5 to 6 hours away from Madrid, so I usually buy veggies a few times a week to minimise spoilage; if stores were open on Sundays or even past noon on Saturday, and if things like the Laundromat and printer shop wouldn’t shut down for no apparent reason without any notice to their customers as to why, or if it will even be open the next day, meaning I need to roam around with a bag load of wet laundry like a nomad. But, hey:
b) Tiramisu ice cream and less cleaning, amiright?
The thing about the lack of convince here isn’t just so much about my convenience: it bothers me because it tells me people don’t want more out their lives. Imagine what else you could do with the time it takes to visit 5 shops to get errands done.
When Michael Pollan discusses the benefits of cooked food, he said:
“Our hefty cousins, the apes, spend half their waking hours gnawing on raw sustenance, about six hours per day. In contrast, we spend only one hour. “So in a sense, cooking opens up this space for other activities,” says Pollan. “It’s very hard to have culture, it’s very hard to have science, it’s very hard to have all the things we count as important parts of civilization if you’re spending half of all your waking hours chewing.”
The same can be said of convenience culture vs the running of chores. I don’t like to defend the existence of big stores and the practices they use to keep prices low or stay open on Sundays, of cooked ready meals and takeouts, but they do enable people to do more with their lives -something I never appreciated until I spent enough time in the kitchen to refer to it as “my second office”.
It’s why slow cookers came out in the seventies, when women were starting to join the workforce and the demand for something that freed up time in the kitchen boomed. Not only are slow cookers unheard of outside the UK in Europe, but the buzzer entry button to let guests into the building we live in is actually placed in ..the kitchen! Where the hostess is expected to be.
Furthermore, the suggestion of convenience, of shortcuts, of using a slow cooker instead of making a 4 hour casserole on the stove top is met with suspicion or defensiveness that this is a better way to live. I look at the hours my mother in law spends cleaning and cooking, and look at her husband who takes language classes, computer classes, tai chi classes with all that spare time.
Shallow horizons and self made cages bug me.
I think some middle ground can be achieved if people wanted to have more from their lives without encouraging worker exploitation, but I’m not seeing a demand for it.
On the other hand, all the running around has improved my health and durability a lot, so while I gripe about it, it is making me healthier.