Traveling Meals: Cooking when On Vacation

Cooking on vacation is the kind of activity I often day dream about when planning a trip. In my head, I’m setting out a colorful dish rich in seasonal produce, seasoned with the right fresh herbs and large flake sea salt to a room of friends and family just toweling off after a swim in the ocean. I am of course, dressed fabulously, and my skin is glowing. Or, I might be setting out a platter or artisan bread, fresh fruit and jam while my family rouses from their slumber, caffe on the stove, early provincial light coming in through the window of the kitchen.

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In reality, it looks like a hungry toddler asking for the 17,000 time if she can have a snack, at 7PM, because we’ve completely forgotten to even eat dinner and the patience of her two loving parents whittling grown to the thinnest of threads as we are also very hungry, having forgotten to eat dinner. Of course eating out when on vacation is always an option, that truly is part of getting away from it all. But if you’ve rented a house or are staying with friends and family it seems like a shame to let a full kitchen with a working stove/grill/oven/DISHWASHER go to waste (things I don’t always have).

Recently, while staying with Family in Michigan, ill planning caught me completely dumbfounded when it came to whipping out meals for Ella and Matthew.

All I wanted was to grab a few fresh items and whip up something magical. But the inspiration would not come. “Does Matthew’s aunt have cumin? I thought as I ran through some of my favorite quick fixes, Misor Wat, Black Bean Soup. “I’m sure she has balsamic vinegar,” Roasted Portobello mushrooms..” “What is in those enchiladas again?”

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After cooking for the better half of my life, I thought at this point, I’d have a collection of recipes tucked under my belt, easy to churn out at any second in any space. At its core, when cooking on vacation, the food needs to be simple. It isn’t about complex sauces and multi-ingrdient main dishes. This kind of activity, in a new space requires you to slow down, rely on a though out traveling pantry/tool kit, and let go of your expectations.

At home, black bean soup with a side of cornbread seems almost too simple (I’ll add a roasted red pepper cashew cream!!), but in a rented house it is a meal a pantry can make without your help. Roasting Portobello Mushrooms and serving with a side salad at home would greet me with looks of, “where is the rest of dinner?” Yet on vacation, it somehow is enough when the salad is abundant with fresh vegetables and herbs.

Still a bit shaken by my inability and confidence to come up with something tasty and impressive on the fly (much iPhone cross referencing), I’m committed to filing a few vacation recipes under my belt, including this Black Bean Soup, and this Lentil Dish, and making sure I bring along a few tools- a micro plane and paining knife, and seasonings, this salt.

What are your top three dishes you throw together when you travel? Do you travel with any special ingredients or kitchen tools? I have a friend who travels with a whole kitchen kit because her job has her on the road 3/4th of the year!

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