Notes From A Traveling Cook

Traveling and cooking have, and always will be, a very important part of my life.

 

Both spark excitement and creativity. They broaden my perspectives on how we communicate, not only with the world and those around us, but with ourselves. Both show me new parts of the world, making me vulnerable and adaptable. Coincidentally, so does cooking.

 

When vacationers and travelers take off, they plan to spend money on going out to eat. Either they don’t want to lift a finger so they can relax on the beach somewhere, or they’re so busy working that they need quick bites. Whatever the case is, fueling up with food is a must so one continue relaxing, adventuring, or working. I think I can speak for most of us when saying that we’ve been on a vacation or business trip and we didn’t want to spend energy on whipping up a delicious, wholesome meal.

 

However, I’ve always thought that cooking  on a trip allows me to open up to the situations around me. Hotels make it so easy to just order room service. 

 

$36 plus a tip for a damn garden salad and croissant? Good one.

 

More annoying are the rental homes we book. I know how that sounds, but hear me out. Going on vacation and getting to a rental home that has no decent cooking equipment can be a heartache for me. Though, I understand no homeowner wants to let untrained vacationers use their chef knife, wooden cutting boards, or delicate pans. I know I wouldn’t.

 

My point here is that when you shake off the "burden" of having to cook while traveling, it is quite eventful and memorable.

 

I was recently on the pacific side of Mexico with a group of friends. We were flâneurs* who puttered around and cooked for ten days.

 

My friends and I spoke about this exact topic as we practiced our ingenuity by flipping an 18” Tortilla de Papa without a big enough cutting-board or platter. A clear example of how to get creative. I wish we had footage of this, because it looked very acrobatic.

(We ended up using the bottom part of a big boiling pot, successfully flipping it)

 

Later in the trip, two friends of mine and their dog joined us in their van. They worked their way from Texas to Panama (you can follow them @ExpeditionKindness). When they showed us their van, I was curious to see how they managed to cook on the road. As they opened their trunk doors, I saw a sliding propane-stove under their bed area. A wood stilt held the stove up. Attached to their back door was a fold-down countertop.  See here

 

Small, convenient, and useful I thought. One of them said to me, “It’s awesome because there isn’t room for anyone to get in your way while you cook.” I found that particularly funny and a tipping-point for writing this journal entry. I’m not a fan of having many people running around the kitchen, however, with the right group and jokes, this feeling quickly dissipates.

The need to adapt to our kitchen space and equipment is a reminder of how fortunate we can be to have a well-equipped kitchen back at home. The need to be clever and creative is a must. Being abroad in an unknown kitchen means that a cook might have to also become an engineer. Something as simple as tacos and guacamole can call for new ways of creation.

 

Fresh guacamole used two forks to mash

 

Being away from home means you might not have access to specific ingredients. This calls for adaptability. I make different versions of Chimichurri using local ingredients while I'm traveling. I've made Moroccan Chimichurri with local ingredients and even Portuguese Chimichurri with local ingredients.

My point is cooking while traveling can be quite fun, inviting, and memorable no matter how weird the kitchen is or how much time you have.

 

I have cooked big meals for entire hostels. I have cooked with Greek grandmothers in Airbnbs on islands off the coast of Croatia. I have invited Sicilian women to cook the best Italian meals in month-long stays, and I have performed open-flame grill outs with meats in the Southern parts of Argentina with my family. 

 

Each of these moments, I will never forget.  I urge you got give these chances in your life a shot, because I know you'll never, ever forget them!

 

I have closed some business deals by cooking for a company and its top executives. I have shown people what my brand’s vision is, and demonstrated that simple foods can make people happy. 

 

I’ve made friends, fans and partners because of this. And I don’t think I will ever stop.

 

You could argue that I’m particularly in my zone when I’m around food. I think it’s the act of breaking bread with those around you that creates the warm feeling of coming together.

 

Next time you’re on the road, carve out some time whether it be a business trip or a vacation. Cook a meal with those around you, invite people over, and make some magic in the kitchen.

 

If it comes out bad or good, I promise it will be something you’ll never forget.

 

_________

Flâneur - an idler or lounger.

 


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