It’s funny the things you take for granted. Let me be clear, this is in no way a post expressing my longing for the comforts of home, because the very definition of travelling is leaving behind the familiar in favour of the unknown. But now that we’ve eaten in a few different spots and cooked in some hostel kitchens, I’ve been thinking about some of the things I take advantage of at home without a second thought. Here are a few of them.
1. Hot sauce: If you know me, you know that I am a lover of all things spicy. I like most of my food to be punched up with some sort of peppery condiment, and especially love those of the Asian variety, namely sriracha, and my all-time favourite, gochujang (thank you Roy Oh and Anju for introducing me to this delicious condiment). We’ve been to a few different grocery stores in Colombia, and so far there has not been one sriracha sighting. Considering that sriracha is almost as ubiquitous as ketchup in Canada these days, at least in the circles that I travel in, this is quite the shock. We’ve been lucky enough to have some great hostel breakfasts that have included scrambled eggs, but every time I eat them I can’t help but think that they would be so much tastier with a little of that red rooster sauce. I’ve seen and tasted a few other varieties of hot sauce in my time here, but none of them really measure up. These Colombians don’t know what they’re missing!
2. Free tap water: You sit down at almost any restaurant in Canada, and a gratis glass of water is pretty much a given. Sure, some restaurants are charging a dollar or two for fancy filtered water nowadays, but you’re basically guaranteed to pay a pittance at most for unlimited agua. Everything we’ve read has told us that the water in Colombia’s major cities is safe to drink, but free-flowing H20 doesn’t seem to be the norm in these parts. Perhaps we’re just not asking the right questions, and bottles of agua sin gas are usually in the one dollar range at convenience stores, but I do have a newfound appreciation for the bottomless water refills we’re privy to in Canadian establishments.
3. A well-stocked kitchen: Being on a three month trip means that there’s no way we can eat out for every meal. It would take a big bite out of our budget, and, as much as I love sampling new restaurants, it honestly gets tiring after a while. We’re generally trying to stay in places with kitchens so that we can whip up some cheap and easy fare for ourselves on most days. I love to cook, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to do so on the road, but things are a little bit different when you’re fixing dinner far from home. I can’t reach in to my spice drawer and pull out garlic powder and three types of paprika to spice up my taco meat. I can’t grab my razor sharp Knifewear knife and beautifully dice tomatoes with no squished fruit in sight. I can’t take out my julienne peeler to make zucchini noodles, and then serve them with a ragu that I’ve been simmering for hours in my dutch oven. This is all a bit over the top, albeit not completely unrealistic, but you really do have to be a bit more adaptable when cooking in a kitchen with questionable utensils and little to nothing in the way of pantry staples.
4. Vegetables: I often find myself complaining about the quality of the vegetables at my local Superstore. While they definitely aren’t just-picked-local-farmers-market quality, I think that my gripes will be a bit quieter now that I’ve had to try to shop for vegetables in Colombia. To be fair, the fruit in this country is far superior than what you can get in the average Calgary supermarket. However, the fresh veggie selection has ranged from poor to virtually non-existent in the various grocery stores we’ve visited, and as a person who actually (gasp) loves vegetables, this is a major disappointment. A girl cannot live on complex carbs alone, and I would sure love to see a head of kale on a store shelf. I won’t even complain if it’s a little bit wilty, I promise.
Colombia on the whole has been very good to us, and we’ve had some great meals here. I tried to fit my kitchen in my backpack with no success, so I came in to the trip knowing full well that we wouldn’t have the same culinary luxuries that we have at home. It often takes being away to make you realize how easy some things are when you’re at your home base. I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of culinary curveballs will come at us next, and crossing my fingers for a few more vegetables at our next stop.