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13 July 2011 / leggypeggy

Let’s get cooking

Norm cooking toast on a windy morning.

Cooking is a routine part of any overland package.

In all there will be 23 passengers on this journey. We have been divided into eight cook groups—seven groups of three and one of two. This means we’ll have a turn once every eight days (or less). We fend for ourselves when we stay in hostels, which will happen from time to time. This will usually be when there is no campground available or when the truck can’t get near enough to where we are supposed to stay (such as in Istanbul where the archways in the city wall are so low that the truck can’t get through). Not sure when the next hostel will be.

So far Poor John and I have cooked once (our fellow cook is Martin from Ireland). Lu, the tour leader, does the shopping, and we cook pretty much to her instruction, and the job isn’t too onerous. As usual, I am happy to chop onions—the task most other people hate. We cooked on gas and made a sausage/veggie stew (sorry no photos, too busy cooking). As of yesterday, the groups are cooking on wood and it will be interesting to see how long the current supply lasts. I’m sure we’ll be gathering wood as we go.

In addition to making dinner, the cook group gets breakfast ready the next morning. Other than making toast, this is a matter of boiling water for tea and coffee, making up some powdered milk, and getting out cereal and spreads.

As an aside, shopping gets done every day, or every second day. We don’t have a fridge on board—just a collection of ice chests (eskys). Sometimes Lu buys frozen items that defrost in time to be cooked. So far, I think all shopping has been done in supermarkets, which is a big change from Africa.

Lu builds a good fire.

Cooking was a bigger challenge there. We usually cooked over wood and the regular searches for timber made for some interesting stops. Each day, the cook group did its own shopping in the local market. Tomatoes and onions were the only items we could almost always get. We had a budget—which varied depending on the country we were in—and we were expected to stay within that budget. If we overspent, we had to pick up the tab ourselves. We did that sometimes as a treat or a mistake—not always easy to add up in your head.

I remember a lovely episode in Marrakech, although I’m no longer sure whether this purchase was within budget. A young fellow approached us selling gorgeous-looking macaroons. ‘Buy my macaroons,’ he whined. I hate whining kids so I said, ‘No, no, you mustn’t whine. You should say, “Please madam buy my delicious macaroons?”. Go on,’ I said. ‘Say it.’ He was skeptical but finally repeated what I suggested. So I replied, ‘Okay, I’ll have 28’. He nearly fainted, then he jumped for joy. I’d bought his entire stock. I often wonder if he’s still using his pleasant sales pitch or if he’s reverted to whining?

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