Adaptation to nomadic circumstances
When I moved to London in 2001, I was shocked to see the amount of ready-made meals in the supermarkets. I was convinced that people could no longer cook and I was slightly disgusted, because I love cooking and I really enjoy homemade meals. It’s a shame if people don’t hold the knowledge of this basic element of survival anymore. Of course I understand that many people don’t have time to cook and to do all that shopping and washing up that comes with cooking. My life journey shows me that I would feel totally useless if I was unable to cook. Some people might never experience this, but I do.
I loved being able to cook whatever I desired.
In London of course when someone wants to cook, there are no limitations. I could cook Thai meals, Indian, Hungarian, I could lay my hands on Haggis, which I love and there were strange things with Chinese characters on the packaging, I never dared to buy. I loved being able to cook whatever I desired. Maybe you know the feeling when you find a recipe, jot down the ingredients, go to only one shop and buy everything you need. Well, this is not something you should take for granted!
whenever we felt like eating out, everything was only a bike ride away.
After 9 years in London I moved to Bali with my husband. There I felt restriction on the food front due to the absence of an oven in my kitchen. We could have bought one and we seriously contemplated doing so, but my husband loves everything sweet and I like making him happy by surprising him with all kinds of baked goodies. However his body mass index always reflects my kindness, so I was not forcing the oven issue. I learned how to make steamed bread pudding. That was our extreme dessert solution back then. Nevertheless Bali is packed with restaurants and cafes and bakeries and patisseries and what not, so whenever we felt like eating out, everything was only a bike ride away.
No dairy products…
After 4 years in Bali we moved to Waingapu, the capital city of Sumba Island, which is only 1 hour from Bali by flight, but it’s very under developed. You can find out details about this from my other posts. My shopping habits and my diet had to be altered significantly. No dairy products are available here apart from milk, so to be clear: no butter, no cheese, no yogurt, no soured cream, no Mascarpone, no cream cheese and the list goes on. I think you get the idea. I tried getting fresh milk directly from the farmers to make my own dairy products, but nobody milks cows around here.
There are no bakeries in Waingapu, at least not the sort I’m used to, where I can buy ciabatta bread or bagels… no seven grain bread, no baguettes and no croissants for me anywhere. Instead I can buy bread rolls filled with either chocolate or pork. I could never tell the difference by observing them from outside, so after unexpectedly biting into the greasy meat filled bread once, I could no longer look at the weird selection which varied from banana – cheese roll to crackling – jam roll. Cheese! You picked up on it haven’t you? Oh it’s nothing you would want to eat. I call it plastic cheese, because when heated it hardens instead of melting. In order to solve my bread problem I learned to use a barbecue grill for making my own bread, pizza, muffin and cakes.
I was no longer able to start my days with rich fruit salads, because the fruit selection in Sumba is limited to banana and papaya most of the time. There is season for mango and pineapple, while it is also possible to buy import apples for a fortune. Forget about kiwi, jack fruit, strawberry, snake fruit, mangosteen, grapes and watermelon…
Earlier I mentioned being able to get all ingredients from one store only. In Waingapu no freaking way! You must get your fruits and vegetables from the market. Don’t even think of buying eggs there, unless you want to through up after sniffing their content. To buy fresh eggs make your way to an animal feed depo. If you’d like sugar, milk, oil and the sorts there is another shop waiting for you. And guess what? They don’t get new stock as soon as they run out of something, so it is not guaranteed that you’ll be able to buy the things you need.
I learned many things during my life in Waingapu. I learned for example to substitute soured cream with coconut cream, I got to know a few new vegetables like chayote, long beans, taro, bread fruit and purple sweet potato for example. However I could not learn to live without cheese and butter so I stocked up my freezer with mozzarella and delicious butter after each visit to Bali. I enjoyed the challenge. I thought it wasn’t easy and I was pleased with the things I came up with as a result and I am grateful for the things this situation had taught me.
Then after 2 years in Waingapu we moved again! This time 1 hour bike ride away from Waingapu, to Pantai Palakahembi, where our resort is being built. When we moved here in June 2018, there was no electricity in the house. We lived without electricity for 2 months. This meant no fridge, no washing machine, no WiFi and no light of course. We got used to it quite quickly. It was much easier than we had initially thought it would be.
The closest shop where I could do my grocery shopping, is actually the biggest shop within miles. However they don’t stock anything I would buy. They sell a lot of junk, like biscuits, candies, cigarettes, drinks, rice, instant noodles, therefore I do my shopping in Waingapu twice a week.
The local farmers market is only about 1 kilometers from our house, however it’s open only on Saturdays and there is not a wide variety of things unfortunately.
Six months later here we are in a nice traditional Sumbanese house, with electricity!!! but still no refrigerator. I forget what it’s like to have one. When meal prepping, there is so much to consider, I would probably burst into tears if I could walk into a Sainsbury’s buy everything I wish, then walk home to a fully equipped kitchen.
Things to consider when meal prepping:
- Must not cook too much.
- Must cook things that can be reheated. (reheating 3 times a day will preserve the food)
- When shopping for ingredients must not buy too much of anything, because they will go off unless used all at once. Things like these are: milk, coconut cream, eggs, some vegetables
- Cannot prepare anything that would require cooling (I was thinking of making a chocolaty biscuit dessert the other day, but nope. No fridge to put it in for setting.)
The lack of ingredients are already a major restriction and when the absence of fridge and an oven gets added, you might be wondering what on earth we are eating.
So here I would like to share our steamed muffin recipe with you:
Ingredients for the basic muffin:
½ cup plain flour
½ cup oatmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons sugar
To this you can add:
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons chocolate chips
½ tablespoon cinnamon
1 cup *papaya jam (take away the sugar from the basic recipe)
Method of preparation:
Dry ingredients in a bowl and wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, mix until no dry bits are left. Fill 8 silicone muffin cups, place them into a steaming pot and steam for 10 minutes. You must wrap the lid of the pot with a kitchen towel to avoid condensation dripping onto the muffs. Ready!
*I make my own papaya jam when we feel like eating pancake or when the papaya has to be saved from going to waste. If properly preserved, the jam will last for about a month in this tropical heat (not sure if it would last longer, because we always eat it within a month of being made).