Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Pivotal Kitchen Experience

What does a family of whole-fooders with food allergies eat when they travel as often as we do? Well, we start by finding a grocery store in town. Most of the time, we stay in a hotel that has a kitchenette. That takes the need for extreme creativity way down. Residence Inn by Marriott and Staybridge are two of our favorites. If we didn't have to worry about allergies, we'd take advantage of their free breakfasts which offer some "real food" choices alongside the super-processed cereals and pastries.

Our current kitchenette boasts a refrigerator, dishwasher, two stove eyes and a microwave. There is no need to worry about the all-important work triangle when designing a kitchen this small. Every thing is within reach from one position. In fact, I found I could load the dishwasher while browsing in the fridge and watching some nitrate-free bacon fry in a pan. The most important cooking skill in this type of kitchen, may well be the pivot. Once that step is mastered, the hotel cooking dance is a breeze.

A nice feature of hotel kitchenettes is the brand-new nature of most of the equipment. I have some fear that hotel kitchenettes may fade out of existence as they are obviously, severely underutilized by guests. The hotels shoot themselves in the feet with this particular issue. Staybridge offers a reception three nights a week as well as breakfast every day. It is apparent to me. most of the time. that I am using virgin cookware: shiny, unmarred pots and pans. Nearly universal to hotel stove tops is the weird two-eye configuration where the elements are off-level and you have to press them down into place before turning them on. Occasionally they'll spring back up during cooking! It makes the experience a little more exciting. But, not to worry, one can just pivot from whatever else she may be doing in the kitchen and deal with the launched burner.

Our current hotel was not expecting our family to stay in this room. Though we have a skillet, a saucepan, a large pot, two knives and a cutting board, we have table service for three. This works out alright for plates as Hannah simply uses a smaller bread plate for dinner. But it means that someone is using a spoon when a fork is called for, or a fork when a spoon is called for. That's been the adventure du jour for this particular hotel cooking experience.

Most of the time, we also have a table, not so in this efficient suite. The kids get their own version of mini-tables (end tables) in front of the couch and someone sits on the bed, plate in hand, while the other lucky duck gets an office chair at the desk. Heads or tails: you can choose appropriate silverware or the desk. It's a balancing act to maintain fairness. With Theo off to work before the kids are awake most mornings, the distribution of tableware (sans table, mind you) becomes easier as the number of people equals the number of dishes and cups for breakfast and lunch.

The other morning, based on what was left in the glass selection, I poured three servings of apple juice. Hannah drank from a coffee cup and John was offered a choice between the wine goblet and the 8 oz glass. I explained that they both contained the same amount but that .... I was going to say that the glasses were just different but John nodded his head knowingly and said "...but this one is classier." Goblet it was, for my nine-year-old son who is so well-versed in all things classy. I drank out of the short glass suddenly aware of feeling a little like a second-class citizen. I should be so lucky to drink from a goblet.

This week our temporary mini-kitchen has produced bacon and eggs, rice-pasta with grass-fed ground beef and red sauce, Thai curry salmon, and buffalo burger patties as entrees. Side dishes have included fresh green beans, salads, sweet potato slices fried in coconut oil, brussell sprouts (don't knock them till you've tried MY recipe), corn and broccoli. We also got a small grass-fed roast hoping there'd be an oven available. Never fear, the hotel has propane gas grills available in the courtyard. We'll grill it tonight. It's been marinating in half a bottle of salad dressing for two days. There have also been copious amounts of grapes, grapefruit, apples and bananas. When our creativity sags, we have allergy-friendly bread and peanut-butter.

We celebrated my birthday while we were in Atlanta this week. Without an oven and some of our staple ingredients, making an allergy-friendly cake just wasn't an option. While we can occasionally find cakes that are safe for one child or the other, quite elusive is the pre-made soy, dairy, gluten-free cake. So we enjoyed some coconut milk ice cream and some safe cookies. We had no candle though. The kids suggested I try to blow the cookies off of my ice cream. Ummm, how is that a win for the birthday girl who would have lost her cookies AND had to clean up the mess??? I ate my ice cream from a goblet (classy, you know) while sitting at the desk. I ended up with the fork but a girl can't exactly have it ALL, can she?

Stay tuned for our next adventure in cooking away from home: Parking lots and whole foods. They aren't mutually exclusive afterall!

1 comment:

Carissa said...

Can I eat with you? ;)
Our local Saturday-only Farmer's Market started back last week. I made it there today to pick up our two chickens, fresh eggs, and our first taste of grassfed ONLY beef. Delicious!