Welcome to my blog about eating and cooking away from home. The week after our national celebration of nostalgic food consumption seemed like a good time to start my musings on what food means to us. When I took my first trip abroad, in addition to sensible sandals and appropriate airplane attire (I date myself), my mom packed peanut butter. Now, it should be said that my mom is an excellent cook from whom I take my mediterranean kitchen default settings, but my mom also loves her peanut butter (and chunky please; don’t even mention that other kind). Peanut butter packed, mom could be sure nothing bad could happen; no amount of truculent children (I am not an only child dear readers), missed turns, uncooperative weather, or other travelers’ challenges could conquer the power of peanut butter. That trip did not involve cooking, so the peanut butter was not for the last-minute peanut noodle recipe, or stir-in to up the protein ante in a banana bread, no, that peanut butter was going to be eaten with a spoon. Out of the jar. With gratitude. Just as when you scooped up that last bite of stuffing and gravy you were not so much eating as feeding the need for that taste.
When we are away from home, food changes from being the regular thrice-daily comfort of our bodies and soul, to something much less reliable. In foreign places unknown foods can make us long for tastes from home we didn’t even realize we liked. When in a vacation rental, making food that is up to snuff, without recreating our own pantry, can result in too many trips to the overpriced local shops. Holidays on the road are exciting, but often still need to have a taste of home. Combining local flavor, with a taste of home, and returning home without excess spending or waste – these are some of my food-related travel goals. I do not pack peanut butter, but she has been known to stash a batch of homemade pesto into her weekend bag. Now that I typically travel with at least one child in tow, the combination of food both exotic and familiar takes on a new dimension. Mimi hopes to share with you how to make eating and cooking when away from home fun, easy, and fulfilling. I’d love to hear how you accomplish that too.
This thanksgiving, I did what I have for a few years now: eaten two, yes two, thanksgiving dinners in the one day. I bring a dish; a divine version (if I do say so myself) of baked sweet potatoes that does not skimp on the bourbon. It cooks up quickly before I leave; is still warm for the midday meal; and does not suffer for the reheating in the evening. When traveling with a dish, pick one that improves by sitting in its own flavors a while. It tastes like home. And tonight, leftovers will be pureed to give fish a sweet but sturdy backbone.