I have been really busy with work recently and have spent a fair bit of time in airports going backwards and forwards to Christchurch. Unfortunately, this tends to interfere with my daydreaming about cycling across lavender and tulip strewn idyllic landscapes and planning for the trip. I have however had some time to think about food, because when I’m traveling it needs to be tracked down rather than being conveniently found in my kitchen. How and where to get food, whether it’s palatable and provides a balanced diet are key concerns when presented with the usual suspects of fast food, expensive restaurants and the Koru lounge. Diet seems to get more important as one gets older. When I was traveling the first time, all manor of vaguely nutritious substances were digested perfectly well, but nowadays, my inner workings have become a lot more temperamental and demanding.
I am a big fan of vegetables but for some reason these seem to be the hardest to access when not at home. I remember that when we lived in France and were eating out, the closest we could get to a vegetable was often a small dollop of pureed carrot or pea on the side of the plate … as if it was a garnish rather than an integral component of the meal. Contrary to the usual perception of excellent French cuisine, we found that menus were often fairly limited with either steak or mussels and chips being the staple fair of most cafes and restaurants. I am very much looking forward to eating the ‘moules frites’ again. I have tried this dish in NZ but somehow the mussels in NZ are too big. Being a biologist in a former life, I find that being able to identify the different organs of the animals is somewhat off putting.
I also remember that toast was a bone of contention (or should that be a crumb of contention?). The French don’t ‘do’ toast – they have the most marvellous bakeries and the bread is ‘to die for’ but after a while the overpowering cultural need for toast is unavoidable. We used to guiltily acquire the most awful white sliced bread from an under-the-counter source at an eye watering price when the urge became unbearable. I am very interested to see if the same happens all these years later, or whether we can go a year without toast – I will keep you posted on our scientific experiment into toast dependency!
Another sticking point that was related to the toast issue, was bacon – or more precisely, a bacon sandwich. This culinary staple requires sliced bread, bacon and ketchup. ‘Bacon’ is not an item in France, as I discovered after searching for the appropriate term in the French-English dictionary to no avail and finally resorting to mime in the supermarket to try and get my message across. Blank stares were returned … accompanied by a few giggles … at which point I gave up. I should explain that the closest French equivalent is something called ‘lardons’, which are small bacon pieces used in pasta and salad dishes but spectacularly useless at forming a bacon sandwich. Once we became experienced expats, we went about the job of creating ‘bacon’. This involved befriending a butcher and sourcing the appropriate cut of smoked meat and then slicing it as thinly as we could … We never actually added up the cost of our bacon sandwiches but it was a rare and special treat.
With this in mind, I started to google for camping meals that would be suitable for the limited kitchen resources we will be carrying. It was actually more difficult than I first thought. Many of the instructions started off with being pre-prepared at home and were obviously for short weekend trips. Some involved the words ‘pour water into dehydrated meal packet’ or cast iron Dutch cookers for use over a log fire and transported by RV rather than by bicycle. There weren’t very many that involved real food that was purchased and prepared on site. I did come across a few real gems like the following video but personally ‘death by plastic bag chemicals’ was not the ending I had in mind for the trip.
I thought I’d share the few that I found and add them to a new page on this website. I will add more appropriate recipes as I come across them.
The basic principles for these recipes need to be:
- A small number of ingredients
- Ingredients that keep well un-refrigerated or are used quickly
- Easy and quick to prepare and cook
- Involves stove top cooking only (no oven or grill)
- One to two pot maximum
This could be a new niche market for my travel book. It could actually be very useful for those who are new to ‘real food’ and who believe the different nutritional food groups are McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Burger King! As an ‘almost’ unemployed person, I have been wondering what I should be when I grow up … and celebrity chef might be an good option!
If you have any tried and true recipes that you can add to this list, please add them to the comments. However, even with this new celebrity chef idea, bear in mind that I won’t be carrying liquid nitrogen or growing my own livestock although I wonder whether we could ‘drive’ organic pigs across Europe on Bromptons … might make a good reality TV show … the Amazing Race meets River Cottage meets Country Calendar?