Friday, 28 February 2014

The food lovers' suitcase

My inspiration for cooking comes from my travels. In the past, the only time I could afford to eat out when was travelling. I get thrilled by new ingredients, new dishes, discovered abroad. Often travelling cheaply, in self-catering or hostels, I learnt to pack some essential tools and provisions, to enable me to cook while on the road and some much loved condiments, especially Marmite, for that taste of home while on a long journey. Recently, a spice company (@spicekitchenuk) sent me a pretty flowered drawstring bag with small packets of cumin, coriander, cassia bark, cardomom, turmeric, chilli powder, cloves, enough to throw together a makeshift curry. I wrapped it in a plastic bag to ensure that my clothes don't stink of masala.
But even in London, I always have a few items in my handbag in case I should come across a bland meal, god forbid. I was intrigued to hear, and to me this was one of the more delightful nuggets of the awful gossip fest that her court case turned out to be, that Nigella Lawson habitually carries mustard in her bag. If ever I have sample sizes of food or drink in a press goodie bag, they get put aside for later use as a pocket book condiment. At present my handbag contains a small envelope of Maldon salt, a teeny bottle of tabasco, and one square of dark chocolate. In the past I've carried cloves of garlic, lemons, limes, miniature bottles of creme de cassis to add to particularly acidic or cheap glasses of white wine or bubbly.

I spent a year backpacking around South America, and, assuming I would be trying out great coffee from the Amazon to the Andes, I took a tiny Italian coffee maker, lodged in the side pocket. It was a shock to discover most South Americans drank Nescafé. Still I was popular at backpackers hostels, other travellers forming an orderly queue to use it.

Nowdays I'm lucky enough to have food, drink and travel as a job. I'm an addictive homeware buyer, trawling the markets and the shops for new kitchenalia, justifying it all as 'props' for photos. (By the way, one of my food travel pictures is a finalist for the Pink Lady Food Photography awards this year!)

My South African suitcase (so far)
On this trip I've gone a bit mad: two heavy-weight cookbooks, a turquoise whisk and rubber spatula, two glass bowls (how am I going to get those home in one piece?), several types of rooibos and a frankly ridiculous large 'mat' made of twigs and wire which I can't fit into my suitcase. I also have some mango pickle but that has been doubled bagged in a plastic ziplock.

I've come up with a list that will help the enthusiastic travelling cook below. But what would you add to it? What do you always take with you either to eat or to cook with? It might be a cocktail shaker, or a portable bbq or a cigarette lighter electric kettle...

Cooking: Swiss knife, a set of cutlery, a cup. In the old days everyone had a knife and a tankard hanging off their belt. Ziplock bags for saving things. A flat rubber bowl? (Although I remember being impressed when I camped in Patagonia, Argentina, I saw an Israeli couple, straight out of the army, who, lacking implements, used a thick plastic bag as a salad bowl to accompany their meat barbeque.)

Food: Marmite, salt, lemons or limes, (easier than vinegar), chilli sauce, teabags, mustard, spices, garlic, fresh chillis, herbs, a spill proof small bottle for olive oil (I lost an expensive camera due to carrying around a bottle of vinaigrette in the same bag).

9 comments:

  1. I'm sure that suitcase doesn't really look that neat irl! ;)

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    1. haha. It started off neat and gradually turned into a hot mess.

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  2. Any advice of what to bring to Germany? I'm moving from Australia and am thinking vegemite and bacon but I'm customs is pretty strict...

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    1. Ooh I don't know. It's been ages since I went to Germany. But vegemite should be fine in your checked in baggage?

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  3. I also strongly recommend zip lock bags, soy sauce (especially in China where you are more likely to get vinegar) a cork screw.

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    1. Corkscrew, deffo, but I figured the Swiss knife would have one on. Is that true about China? they don't give soy sauce? Interesting

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  4. I used to find travelling with corkscrew and bottle opener was guaranteed to help make friends. And those 'Sporks' and 'Foons' (spoon/fork/knife combinations) seem to be super popular. A recent holiday to France led to a whole host of goodies being brought back through customs- I do love the exoticness and thrill of a trip to an overseas supermarket

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    1. Me too. And I've written in the past about the fabulousness of French motorway shops. Have a look in the lorry drivers section. Basically you can plug a whole kitchen into the cigarette lighter facility of your car or truck.

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  5. Great post Kerstin and glad to see I'm not the only one who takes food stuffs on holiday :-D I never leave without a box of oats, loose leaf tea and a strainer. Always surprised how hard it is to get a bowl of Porridge for breakfast and a good cuppa. Tho I'm usually rewarded by the interesting foods I bring back.

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