Van appetite!

Van appetite!

08/14/2017

How a home chef adapted to cooking on the road

In my pre-van life, I would characterize cooking as a hobby of mine. It wasn't just a means to fill our stomachs daily, it was a ritual that I enjoyed. Many days were concluded with me listening to music, drinking a glass of wine, and taking my time preparing a meal from a recipe I'd found online or in a cookbook. Part of the joy for me was the anticipation of how it would be received. Many times my experiments would result in delicious meals, and many times we would choke down a failure with good humor.

 

The van puts certain new challenges into the mix. First off- Scout has a two-burner propane stove. There are a lot of possibilities with two burners- sautee, fry, boil, poach. A canister of propane lasts us about two weeks, providing we keep cook-times short. Most plug-in appliances are out- they draw too much electricity. Storage space is the next factor to consider. We have plenty of room for the things we need - really, plenty - but we don't have room for extras that will only be used on occasion. We have a small pan (8"), a medium pan (12"), and a 2 quart pot for all of our cooking needs. We have room for some spices, we have pantry space in overhead cabinets, and our refrigerator holds what we find to be about 3-4 days worth of groceries at a time. 

To boot, the van is not air conditioned unless the engine is running. This is no big deal to us most of the time, but as temps got into the 100s on the regular, no one wanted me cooking hot food in that tiny space. Grilling is a good alternative, but we don't have a grill on board, so only when there is one available at the campsite.

We don't eat on any strict diet plan, but a lot of trial and error over the years has helped us to focus our main daily eating to something of a "clean eating" plan. We don't eat much processed food and we rely heavily on fruits and vegetables and lean meats. That means that a lot of the obvious easy meals are off the table. 

 

I'm not going to lie, for the first couple of months on the road the food was awful. Healthy wasn't too hard if we could stomach salads 2 meals a day, 7 days a week. Don't get me wrong, we love salad, but salad every meal is not good for morale. Or the focus could be on easy, but in that case spaghetti, or mac and cheese from a box would fill us up and take no thought or effort, but too much of this would feel awful, and some of my efforts to dress such meals up were among my worst disasters. Most notable among these was the night I thought I could make Top Ramen taste like restaurant ramen. As it turns out, I cannot.

 

The path to redemption turned out to be a return to my roots. I began to plan my meals as I used to in the pre-van days: I would visit many of my favorite food blogs, or search for recipes online based on some basic criteria e.g. one pan meals, or an ingredient I had in abundance. I'd make a shopping list based on these searches and have my meals planned out for a few days. It wasn't always easy to find recipes that checked all the boxes, but the food was getting better tasting, closer to what we wanted to be eating. In the summer, the search string "no cook dinners" was a lifesaver, as was precooked shrimp, lunchmeat and rotisserie chickens.

Its an ever-evolving system, but these days we're eating pretty well. Bon appetite!

Stories

Two Years As Nomads

10/26/2018

Snow Chase 2018

04/20/2018

Cupid in a Camper

02/06/2018

PNWonderland

01/06/2018

The Camp Spots

10/15/2017

Van appetite!

08/14/2017

The Maneuver

07/23/2017

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