The Pleasure of Unexpected Ingredients

One awesome find that will definitely be on board!

One awesome find that will definitely be on board!

Being in Vermont is a little bit like cruising. We’re in a beautiful place that’s pretty isolated, and the nearest store is either in Canada or in New Hampshire. We tend to stock up on what we think we’ll need before we settle in for the week, though it’s still easy to get in a car and run to the store if we need to. THAT part isn’t exactly like cruising, I’ll grant you.



As close to cruising as I get on land.

Our son brought up 5 of his friends with him, none of whom have ever been in this part of the world before. It happened to be one girl’s birthday (18? 19? I forgot to ask!), and of course, a birthday cake is required. 

Boxed cake mixes rule for this kind of situation. Eggs, oil, and water are kitchen staples, so adding a box (or 2!) of mix to the shopping cart was an easy solution. The icing I made from scratch (butter and powdered sugar to the rescue!).

“YUM! What’s in the icing?”

Lemon zest and lemon juice. 

Boxed cake mix with homemade icing - with real lemon zest and juice. There were no complaints.

Boxed cake mix with homemade icing - with real lemon zest and juice. There were no complaints.

When you’re cruising, much like having a birthday without any family around at all, it’s small details that make such a big difference. Sure, lock in lemons. Learn to make preserved lemons (on my list). Bring a zester (I will rarely advocate such a one-trick tool. This one is worth every inch of space.)

Add special goodies to the list before you cast off. My favorites? Roasted red peppers. Artichoke hearts (jar, not can – I make a wicked pasta sauce with them!). Tahini. Chocolate-covered almonds with sea salt. Pumpkin seeds. Thai curry packets. Bamboo shoots.

Thai curry paste, in a "one use" packet.

Thai curry paste, in a "one use" packet.

I’m testing out 2 or 3 cool “finds” every month or so, creating the running tally even now. It’s less overwhelming to test with relaxation as opposed to all at once in the last month before we go. We’re sampling freezer treats (I’m hoping we have a freezer) and main course sauces. Jarred items that will liven up cocktail hour or just a crappy weather day. Sweet treats for midnight watches. So far winners include individual Thai curry seasoning packets and jarred spicy tomato stuff (see above). Frozen chocolate croissants. Packets of Indian curry mix. Boxed silken tofu for fake alfredo sauces. Up for trial? Canned chicken. The new “fake meat” crumbles. And anything that catches my fancy at the store.

There have been duds. Trader Joe’s boxed Pad Thai is disgusting. Nobody but me liked the eggplant caponata. And the frozen pot stickers are not worth the space they take in my house freezer, let alone the mythical stamp-sized one we’ll cruise with.

I feel the same way about new-to-me cooking utensils. Things like a solar oven, or a thermal cooker. I'm likely to give a pressure cooker a try again because Behan Gifford on Totem raves about hers so much. I'd rather try them before we go, to make sure they're worth the space they take up.

We’ve got about 3 years left on land, and there are times when the clock feels broken. Thinking about what we’ll be eating “out there” helps me stay sane and on target.

NOTE: Everyone eats everywhere. Part of the fun of cruising for me is discovering new foods and new ways to prepare them. I will, however, stock the boat with special-to-me ingredients I can’t be sure of finding somewhere else. I will, however, pack canned tomatoes and chicken stock and even canned beans into all available crannies. Why? I’ll have a car at my disposal. A grocery store I’m familiar with. And a dock to organize it all on. 

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