This is part of a series of Q&A’s about cooking on vacation. The complete list of posts in this series is available here.
Heidi Swanson is the talented writer and photographer behind the blog 101 Cookbooks, which never ceases to inspire me with its quietly elegant recipes promoting natural, whole foods, and the lifestyle to match. Heidi lives in San Francisco, and her most recently published cookbook is the gorgeous Super Natural Every Day.
Here she tells us about eating sheep’s milk ricotta in Rome, her different strategies for flight-based and wheel-based travel, and her sister’s special talent for catching crawdads.
Are you taking a vacation this summer? Will you have a chance to cook while there?
We drove from San Francisco to Marfa, Texas to kick off the summer, and are planning on a couple weeks in London at some point soon. We also tend to do a fair amount of impromptu camping alone the coast here in California. And yes! We do make an effort to cook when we travel. It’s part of the adventure. On road trips, or while camping, we bring a cooler and a little stove so we can shop and cook all along the way – rest stops, parking lots, beaches, whatever. We also try rent apartments when we’re in far-flung cities, so there is access to a kitchen.
In what way do you feel your vacation cooking style differs from your everyday cooking style?
It’s very similar, but usually prepared with whatever is the opposite of a well-stocked kitchen. A few years back, I got it in my head that I wanted to visit more great cities. So, that has been the theme of our “flight-based” travel as of late. “Wheel-based” travel still includes road trips and closer-to-home adventures. But in either scenario, we’re on the go a lot, and at the mercy of the propane stove or vacation kitchen. Not always ideal. Is it me, or do vacation rentals seem to universally stock their kitchens terrible equipment? I mean, it’s sad to say, but I sometimes find myself identifying a favorite pot or pan in a kitchen (the best of the worst), and decide what to cook based on that.
On a road trip, I’ll pack a cutting board, my knife, bottle opener, one skillet, maybe a pot. And a French press. That comes too. Then I try to find, and use, what’s good and local on the ingredient front. Last year when we rented an apartment In Rome, I couldn’t get enough of the sheep-milk ricotta and fresh egg pastas. The markets were full of shell beans, arugula, and porcini mushrooms. So I start there, and pull things together in a very impromptu fashion.
Are there utensils or ingredients you always take with you when you go on vacation?
I bring a few basics if we’re driving, so I don’t have to buy duplicates. Things like olive oil, red pepper flakes, salt. Essentials.