I am writing this blog post as we fly back home over the Atlantic from a wonderful trip to Denmark, Holland, Belgium and Norway. It’s never easy for me to fly home. Don’t get me wrong – I love airports and flying – but it makes me sad to have a trip come to an end. My heart is filled with gratitude for the experiences we’ve enjoyed, but part of me wishes it would just go on and on. I guess that’s one reason why we are heading off into our vagabond lifestyle at the end of the summer! But as I reflect on all the incredible moments my family has shared over the last 3 weeks, one that stands out is the pure pleasure we get out of cooking together when we travel.
It is so much fun to shop in local markets and pretend that we live in the places we are visiting. We spent Christmas in Copenhagen with our daughter and her husband in their great little apartment so we got to shop at Torvehallerne, Føtex and Irma for everything we needed for a traditional Danish Christmas dinner. It is quite the experience to walk into a grocery store and be completely baffled by the signs, packages, and advertisements in another language. Chelsea and Sam have been living in Copenhagen for over 4 months and she absolutely loves everything about food, so she was able to decipher ingredients and answer our many questions. In the end we had some fantastic meals. Christmas Eve found us enjoying roast duck, broccolini, and a gratin of potatoes, onion, carrots and celery root, all accompanied by a Nebbiolo and a Barbaresco. Fabulous. Christmas dinner was red cabbage, little caramelized potatoes, and Flæskesteg, a traditional Danish pork roast with crackling on top. Accompanying wine was a Barolo from where Chelsea and Sam stayed when they visited in Piedmont in October.
But we didn’t limit our travel cooking to just Chelsea’s apartment! We rented accommodations that had a kitchen in several places through AirBnb. We love using AirBnB, because it can be so reasonable and you get to live like a local. And that’s exactly what we did! When we visited Dinant there was a tiny market in a parking lot down the street from where we stayed. It consisted of a fish vendor and a produce stand. I got to use my French in this part of Belgium and I asked the fishmonger which one was his favorite and how to cook it. He gutted the fish right in front of us and we took it home and the five of us cooked it up that night. Everyone pitches in. Greg and Chelsea are usually the lead in cooking. Sam, David and I are excellent sous chefs and we also set the table and clean up…very important parts of the process. Everyone gets involved. We play music and enjoy a tasty beverage while we cook together as a family. That night we enjoyed Dover sole and scallops, fresh brussel sprouts with little roasted garlic potatoes with a fantastic selection of Belgium beers to accompany our dinner. What a great night!
Norway is notoriously expensive. One article I read said the best way to stay on a budget in Norway is to stay out of the bars and cook your own food. That is exactly what we did! And staying on budget was a bonus…we cooked in our cabin because we wanted to (and because we were out in the middle of nowhere with very few restaurants to choose from, anyway!) Our first stop after picking up our car in Bergen was the REMA grocery store. It’s not the best grocery store in the world but it fit the bill. We supplemented the next day with supplies from the Coop in Norheimsund. We spent 3 days in our little hytte up the icy hill near Eikedalen cooking together – amazing breakfasts and dinners, and even some snicker doodle cookies…because…. baking is awesome when it’s snowing outside! Chelsea had fun baking with no English measuring spoons or cups. She converted the measurements well and our Norwegian neighbors on the hill loved them when we shared the cookies to say “thanks” for loaning us ski equipment and matches. For breakfasts we had everything from a frittata to Norwegian waffles to a beautiful bread strata. Dinners were more involved and included delicious fresh pasta with shrimp, bacon and mushrooms, pumpkin curry soup with coconut milk and pork tenderloins marinated in orange juice, maple syrup, garlic and vinegar. It was so much fun to focus on family, food and just enjoying each other’s company. It takes very few supplies and ingredients to make a good meal in someone else’s kitchen. You just need to have fun with it, relish in the activity and enjoy the result! A few good tasty beverages doesn’t hurt, either!!
To read more about cooking while on vacation, check out this great article from the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/10/dining/a-minimalist-approach-to-cooking-on-vacation.html
I’m sad our trip is over but delighted we had such great family time together. If you would like to talk with me about planning your own European vacation, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to help you make your travel dreams come true!
Please comment below and tell me about YOUR favorite travel adventures!