Generator sandwiches

This article type thing was published in the Guardian, 16th July 2011.

(And I can prove it, so there:

We love to eat: Generator sandwiches


Sliced white bread

Cheddar and edam cheese, grated

Thinly sliced or chopped onion

Butter, if you insist

When I left university and moved on to my first houseboat with Tom, we had unlimited free electricity because there was an abandoned substation in a disused building next to our mooring. You can’t get through that much power on a 40ft barge, but we could use things such as electric heaters, hairdryers, and my beloved toasted sandwich maker without thinking how much power they used.

When we started a family, we moved here to our lovely but off-grid mooring near Bristol. From April to October, depending on the weather, our solar panels give us as much power as we need, pretty much. But in the winter, we have to use a generator. Anything with a heating element will overload our batteries, so we can only make toasties when the generator’s on, hence the name. The toastie-maker goes in a cupboard in the summer, but in generator season, it stays on the worktop, dripping little puddles of cheese and bringing crispy, melted, diesel-powered joy to both of us, and now to our little daughter too.

The recipe is obviously too simple to describe – it’s a sandwich – but in the old days we argued about whether butter was needed. (And I do mean properly argued, possibly because of the way the toastie’s popularity rises exponentially post-pub.)

Now, in our sobriety, we agree to differ – I’ll eat Tom’s oily, exo-buttered abominations (and I’ll secretly enjoy them – there are no calories in butter you didn’t choose to eat) and he’ll tolerate my crunchier variation (“dry”, he claims – whatever).

Our almost-two-year-old doesn’t seem to have a preference, yet, but prefers her onions finely chopped.