Welcome to hostel cooking 101, where i give you a few (pretty useless) tips on how to survive while you are exploring the world. Adventuring and exploring is a busy job, and you need the calories to keep you going. In some countries (particularly if you are in Asia) you may find it is cheaper to eat out for all your meals. Indeed in Thailand i ate out quite comfortably for roughly £3 a day, and that included all the banana smoothies a girl could want. When you start hitting the more expensive countries however, that’s when you become acquainted with the hostel kitchen.
The kitchens vary; some hostels have huge, well stocked palaces, others you may find you have to fight tooth and nail for some fridge space, or your sandwiches keep disappearing during the night. It is the luck of the draw, though this mostly won’t impact your cooking repertoire. Welcome to your new plain food diet, which will mainly consist of rice, bread, water and the odd potato. Don’t forget the baked beans, it is a nightmare when you can’t have your baked beans on toast for dinner.
Okay, so you’re probably not going to be thrilled with the food you’re producing, but keep it plain and simple in the hostel so that you can save up to go wild on the local cuisine later. If you find an all you can eat, this is the holy grail of food eating. Stock up while you can; you may need the fat reserves later. If you find a buddy to make food with or are travelling with someone, this is even better! Bulk cook and eat together; food gets cheaper the more you buy. Just be wary, if you buy that 5kg bag of rice and you’re moving on in two days, that is going to be a very heavy addition to your backpack!
You may also find that you somehow ‘inherit’ food. My friend and i landed in Cairns and checked into our hostel in a zombified looking state. We peeked into the kitchen to check out the lay of the land, when two Welsh girls asked us if we had bought any food yet. When we told them we only had the odd bit of chewing gum, they proceeded to give us six kangaroo steaks, a bag of mixed veg and a potato, as they were leaving for Asia that very hour. Incredibly impressed that we would be dining like kings this night, we thanked them for their generosity, then solemnly offered them our yellow bible (AKA the Lonely Planet Asia on a shoestring guidebook) and received the Australian version in return. This is somewhat of a ritual in hostels near the points of no return (well, near airports), when you meet people travelling in the opposite direction around the globe to yourselves. You exchange, news, points of interest, and your now defunct guidebooks.
The interesting point of the tale however, is the lonely, slightly squished potato. This potato, we were told, had travelled the east coast of Australia from top to bottom and back five times, and was looking to carry on its mythical journey with new travellers. Apparently, it hadn’t seen enough in its lifetime. We vowed to help it on its journey, then fell upon the kangaroo steaks like heathens. Unfortunately, we got as far as Rainbow beach, then made the unforgivable error of grabbing a horrifically early coach south without our food bag (we felt slightly better when we remembered that we couldn’t have got into the kitchen anyway, it was locked at this time in the morning). Thus ended the tale of the incredible travelling potato. May it rest in Rainbow beach forever more. More importantly, we resigned ourselves to living off baked beans for the next couple of weeks as recompense for the lost food bag.
Don’t worry if you love to cook or want to try a wider variations in cooking while you are travelling, this does happen occasionally. You will eventually find yourself at the point of no return however, when you find yourself thinking, “do i eat this tonight, or go for a ride on an elephant?”. I think you may know what the answer turns out to be. Do yo have any cooking tales? Any other mythical foods doing the travel rounds? Let me know in the comments below, as i would love to find out!
Happy cooking everyone and see you tomorrow!