Over the years we've accrued some travel cred. We've backpacked in or through Europe (East and West), Morocco, Egypt, Israel, Thailand, Vietnam, Mexico. We've done the $4 hostels and the $.20 Pad Thai. We trekked for days on trains and buses to get to the next destination, enjoying every bit of the road on the way there.
Yesterday*, we walked through the town of Dinard in Brittany, France, to catch the ferry to Saint Malo. Instead of large backpacks and (not so) secret passport holders, I wore Eve in my Boba and Brad strolled Claire through the medieval streets. No wifi, no GPS, just a book and a map. It was just like the good ol' days. Sort of.
I'm grateful to be part of a larger community of travelers and expatriates who happen to travel WITH their kids. Our travels have evolved. No more dodgy hostels. Bye bye overnight train rides to save on a night's accommodation. Bye bye days of dining solely on beer and good company or wine and cheese.
Fun times for sure, but glad they are behind me.
NOW, and how wonderful is this, my kitchen travels with me.
Well, we arrive at a place with a kitchen anyway. When traveling with little ones, it's really the only way to go, at least if you've got a good amount of time in a place. We're guaranteed some home cooked meals and likewise guaranteed stress-free meals out. Think leftovers for the kids while you're slurping down the freshest oysters you've ever had the privilege of meeting. Home cooked meals ARE a little bit of home which means comfort and safety and with those things you are inspired to explore.
So, what does a traveling kitchen look like? It's different every time. The kitchen itself, the equipment available, the utensils and dish ware, it's all a mystery. We had these mystery days in culinary school. Whole days dedicated to improvisational cooking. Much like cooking shows, you're given the ingredients and tasks. Then, GO! This could be the next hit cooking show: The Traveling Kitchen Cook-off.
How do you prepare meals you know and love in a mystery kitchen? The answer always lies in prep.
To mitigate the mystery, there are a few things I ALWAYS travel with. The list changes depending on where we're going, but in general, the following list has a secure piece of the limited real estate that is our suitcase(s).
♥First and foremost you need your chefs knife. No exceptions. Buy one specifically for travel. It feels more exciting that way. Seriously, you can NOT rely on strange kitchens to have decent knives. I've yet to enter a mystery kitchen with a decent knife.
♥Next, get your spices straight. For us it's; cumin, coriander, cinnamon, turmeric, all ground. They're flexible working well on meat, chicken, vegetables and beans. Cinnamon works well for both savoury and sweet so oatmeal and muselis are taken care of, too. Other regulars might be: unsweetened shredded coconut, nut butter, chia or hemp seeds, raw honey, coconut flour, spelt flour and cacao powder.
♥After that I add teas, specifically Miracle Tea, elderflower tea and chai tea bags. These are both medicinal (elderflower for fevers, miracle tea** for insomnia, stomach issues, chai for fun and for digestion) and for enjoyment.
Finally, know where you're going and pack an open mind. Can you get fresh herbs easily? Are the staples in your weekly meals available or are there suitable substitutions? Be prepared but also expect to be surprised. You're going to a foreign country after all.
There is a caveat for this way of traveling, however. Traveling with your own kitchen means that YOU WILL encounter some of the following adventures, plus any number of others not listed.
♦Going to and navigating around a foreign market and/or supermarket. The sights and smells are always amazing and new. Take reusable bags with you. Trust me on this one.
♦Learning new parts of a language that you usually wouldn't, to try and get what you
♦Being part of another culture in a very intimate way, through interaction with their food.
♦Feeling embarrassed or nervous or scared to attempt communicating about ________ (cuts of meat, foreign produce, where on Earth they keep the eggs, etc.)
♦But then feeling so incredibly proud because SOMEHOW you managed to get what you wanted, sort of.
♦Feeling like you've actually MOVED to the vacation country instead of visiting because you have to learn how to use the washing machine, use the heaters in the house, answer the door for the postman, neighbor, or whoever rings it and practice that foreign language again.
If you haven't traveled like this yet, I strongly recommend giving it a go. It's not backpacking, it's not resort life, it's like making a home where you're vacationing and it offers a glimpse of another life.
*"Yesterday" was when I started writing this post. We have since driven over 2000km through France and boarded a flight to New York where we are finally just getting over jet lag.
**Pack this tea in your carry-on. It settles kids (and YOU) incredibly well!
P.S. I also make sure that I'm traveling with a batch of date truffles and some form of sweet or savory quick-bread. These are good for anytime on the road or plane. You'd be surprised how these little numbers can work wonders on the road.