We got some island blues going on over here, a propane shortage in the Picard area that has lasted for a few weeks. I have re-worded Clapton’s Cocaine and made a song about propane, but I’ll spare you the details 🙂 . These are the kinds of things we do on the island when we have way too much time on our hands. I have no idea why there is a propane shortage this time but you kind of get used to dealing with it and get creative about how to put food on the table for your family, ie. trying to microwave pasta, been there done that in Dominica. It also helps if you have a crock pot, rice cooker, george foreman grill etc. to use during shortages.
For those of you who are not on island, most stoves/ovens here run on propane tanks. It’s like your BBQ set at home, but inside in the kitchen. I grew up on an electric stove but I have to say I like using gas better. It’s easier for me to gauge temperature control for even cooking. Also, when the power is out, I can still cook. That is a major bonus for an island that is subject to hurricane season.
There are a couple of propane tanks in use here-a white one, a blue one, and large, tall one that restaurants use. Our blue beauty is pictured above. I have to admit that when I first got here I needed some coaching on how to swap out that device at the top. You have to actually push down and turn till where it catches, then pull up. It is one of those rites of passage here in Dominica. Once you do it you’re like, “yeah I’m a local now”. Normally when you need propane refilled you take your empty tank to a local store like James Store, Tina’s, or the Texaco station in Portsmouth and swap it out for a new one for around 34 EC (13 USD). You can also pay A-1 taxi to do this for you to make it easier on your back.
Since these tanks have no gauge to let you know when they are running out, what tends to happen is that you will be in the middle of cooking something and poof the flame goes out. Usually there are propane refills available, but once in a while we have these shortages. Once the tanks start coming in, many people are in need of them at once, so then you have to really be on your game about calling the stores everyday to find out when their next shipment is, and sometimes they just don’t know. This is one of those times when it helps to have a local connection. If there is a local you are close with, it helps to ask them for their assistance. Sometimes they will take your tank to another part of the island that does have propane and swap it out for you.
After I got stranded with raw food on the stove for the second time, I decided to buy a spare propane tank. Most stores around Picard will only allow you to swap out a tank for tank (the exact color) and will not let you buy a tank by itself–once in a while I meet people who were able to buy a spare around the university, but it seems to be rare. What I finally did was purchase a spare tank from IGA Whitchurch Wholesale, which is behind their main grocery store in Roseau. The total cost is 134 EC -34.00 for the propane and 100.00 for the deposit. When you leave the island, you return a tank to IGA Whitchurch and get your money back with proof of your receipt. Transporting the tank was the only hurdle I had. I wasn’t sure if I could transport a tank in a pubic bus, so I ended up taking a university sponsored trip to Roseau and had the driver pick up the tank once I purchased it.
So for all of you stranded out there and tired of peanut butter and jelly, think about giving IGA a call and seeing if they have tanks for purchase. It will make your life a bit easier.