I tried to slip deeper into the corner as the six or seven men crowding the room chopped and stirred with deliberate haste. The youngest of them crouched on their haunches, low to the floor, in that way some cultures seem born to do and I have yet to master. Chopping boards rested directly on the not so clean floor as they chopped and sliced fragrant garlic, onions and tomatoes. Upon seeing the amount of chilies being added to the mix, I knew we were ensured a fiery curry tonight! Two men worked feverishly over large, dented metal pots, cooking down the mutton and vegetables, as the fragrant smell of spices circled above them. In spite of the cool desert air, perspiration glazed their skin.
I stood in awe, incredibly honored to have been asked to watch the dinner preparation, for in India, women did NOT cook outside the home. Intimidated by being jammed into a 10X10 room with these hardworking cooks, I reflected on the miracles of time and place that had brought me here.
Three knives, two cutting boards, and a two-burner hot plate. That was all required to serve up a fantastic dinner that fed the entire camp of over twenty. It forever changed my view of the “necessary”.
To say we are foodies is understating the facts. Many dinner conversations turn into discussions on what to make for the next meal. At home, of course, the options are nearly limitless. Armed with dozens of cookbooks and the desire to experiment has led to a wide range of dining possibilities. The fact that we eagerly eat almost anything has created a global recipe file. Dinner tonight; Italian? Chines? Mexican? Indian? Thai? French? Moroccan? Dinner at our house is varied and ever-changing.
The challenge moving forward is how to continue to create these dishes on the road. One of two main sources of discontent while backpacking around-the-world was our inability to cook. With the purchase of our “home on wheels” we’ve alleviated that concern. Although certainly not roughing it it, our two-burner stovetop is not the same as a home kitchen here in the United States! To compensate, we have added a small Weber BBQ and a dutch oven to our arsenal. While weekend camp friends sport fancy trailers with ovens and microwaves, we make do just fine, thank you very much, with our less modern set-up.
In the interim of this seemingly never ending chasm between desire to depart and actually hitting the road, we are focusing our sights to the future and spending our time perfecting our future lifestyle.
Our camp cooking has evolved over the years, changing from the over-salted, freeze dried meals and a lot of top roman noodles of our backpacking days to a Coleman stove and ice chest during the car camping years. While we still occasionally throw on a backpack and hit the trails, truth to be told, most of our time at camp now involves the comforts and conveniences of our Adventurer truck camper!
I have always said that the true talent of a chef is measured, NOT when armed with all of the latest gadgets and three ovens, but when faced with few ingredients and limited resources. Whenever I start to believe I “need” something, I recall that the vast majority of our most memorable meals world-wide have been eaten in one room shacks, food carts, and off of those two-burner hot plates.
Noodle stands on every street of SE Asia. Hole-in-the-wall restaurants serving up “drop to your knees in thanks” tacos in Mexico. Roadside pasties in the middle of no-where Africa. THIS the food I dream of, the food that I want to create. Fresh, unfussy, but tantalizing with each bite of just the right intoxicating combination of flavors complementing the whole.
In my pursuit for food perfection on the road, some things do need to be simplified. Certainly, cooking up a multi-course feast is possible; but it’s not particularly enjoyable and the resulting clean-up a bit of a disaster. Having said that, we do tend to eat VERY well at camp; chicken enchiladas, lasagna, monkey bread, homemade cinnamon rolls in the dutch oven. The Weber can grill up anything imaginable from stuffed chicken to flank steak tacos with sides of grilled veggies and jalapeno poppers thrown in for good measure. My little two burner stove is beyond adequate for eggs benedict, banana pancakes, any pasta imaginable, and comfort food such as Thai Chicken noodle soup or grilled cheese.
Are you drooling yet? I hope the mere mention of such goodness whets your appetite in preparation for the addition of food and beer reviews and recipes on this site, as well as the introduction to our new site, out this fall, aptly titled Travel Often ~ Eat Well (more to come on this exciting announcement!)