David, my violinist, has been incredibly patient about this whole ordeal. (Doesn’t everybody have a violinist?) (Just kidding. He’s my housemate who plays violin, and he’s the cats’ beloved uncle.) He has some of the same incentive I do–that we’ll have an amazing kitchen (and dining room and music room) when it’s all done–but as my tenant, he shouldn’t really have to put up with this kind of crap. He pays rent for a livable living space, and that’s not exactly what it’s been around here lately. Before the work started, we agreed on a reduction in rent to acknowledge his higher costs for eating out, buying ready-to-eat groceries, and so on, but still, it’s a pain, and he’s been a saint about it.

Recently, though, David commented that it’s been getting harder. He’d expected it to get easier as we start to see it looking more like a kitchen, but he’s found that it just gets harder.

I, on the other hand, am finding that it’s getting easier as the end draws nearer. I suppose it’s partly because now I can see that it will end some day–see it, not just know it–and partly because it’s exciting to see how beautifully it’s all turning out.

I think I’m also getting more used to camping in the house, and I’ve drastically lowered my culinary expectations for the time being. My main gourmet effort these days is to make many, many pots of coffee for Jon, George, and me. I eat lots of salads (assembled in the loo-kitchenette) and cold leftover grilled meats, and on weekends for a special treat I scramble eggs on the campstove. I’ve gotten in a habit of hard-boiling a batch of eggs for the rest of the week’s breakfasts, and lunches I just sort of scrounge from cheese, cold-cuts, and so on. If I do eat out or pick up take-out, I make sure to order too much food so that I’ll have leftovers, and believe me, that’s pretty exciting.

The real difference, though, might be alcohol.

I remember an episode of M*A*S*H whose conceit was that a MovieTone News reporter was filming a slice of life at the 4077th. He asked Hawkeye (or was it the Padre?) whether the MASHers drank too much. The response was something like, “You should be asking, do we drink enough?” His quip makes sense to me now.

As I wrote a while back, my colleague Katrina in Boston suggested that I should infuse vodka with some of those berries.

(Raspberries? blackberries? Turns out there’s a zillion indistinguishable [to me] species of the genus whateverus, and while mine look more like raspberries than many of the other choices, supposedly raspberries don’t grow in this half of the country. I’m ready to throw in the towel. I’m calling them Montclairberries until somebody else figures it out. Calling all botanists!)

After a few weeks, I had a rich, dark purplish stuff that I strained off into a different bottle and threw in the freezer. So now it’s a hard purple slush, and every so often I urge a few inches of it into a glass and enjoy some kind of Montclairberry Cosmo Slurpee which tastes so good I then have to urge a few more inches of it into my glass…

And when you’re “cooking” in a half bathroom and salads with leftover grilled meat or reheated Thai are fine dining, you need a glass of wine, that’s all there is to it. When I bought the plastic-jug vodka to make the Montclairberry stuff, a new brand of… wait for it… wine in a box caught my eye, and I thought, “Why not?” It seemed about right–camping wine for camping cooking in my construction zone. I’m eating weird things off paper plates, when I’m lucky. This is a time for alcohol on tap, not wine snobbery. I bought three boxes–a Black Box Chardonnay, a Black Box Merlot, and a Handy (white box) Shiraz. I put the Chardonnay in the fridge, and the other two I put upstairs on my bathroom counter. I know–wine ten feet from my bed doesn’t sound like such a healthy thing, but this is temporarily The Apartment.

It’s not bad stuff. Really, it’s not.

So last week, after David and I had been commiserating about the situation, I pointed out to him that he wasn’t drinking enough. With that, I drew him a glass of box wine, and we toasted the much-awaited day that we have a real kitchen again.

As for the rest of you, you really ought to plan a visit to come taste Frozen Montclairberry Cosmos soon, while the bottle lasts. Bring take-out for extra credit.