Tiny adjustments in becoming a van-life cook
Why does cooking on the two ringed hob in our converted camper van make healthy eating, difficult? Our meals to date have failed to reflect the years I’ve spent preparing wholesome, flavourful food. Bean dishes once rich in the flavours of Provence seem thin and tasteless, and who knew it was possible to make toast, damp, and brown rice simultaneously mushy and hard as grit? Since moving to van living, we’ve had six weeks of driving rain and incomprehensible eating. The gritty realism of the Instagram hashtag has been a revelation in all areas of daily living, but cooking has been the most difficult adjustment. No surprise then that my fettered appetite has been drawn to seasonal junk-food more than usual this year, adding weight to my general sense of disorientation.
That it isn’t possible to adequately control the temperature of our tiny Dometic hob is a factor. Not Dometic’s fault, they offer familiarity — oh yes that’s a stove — and convenience for tiny-home dwellers. That’s their job, and if the number of Dometic appliances I’ve seen in van kitchens is anything to go by, they seem to do it pretty well. My role is to figure out how to cook in this new situation; what a pleasure it will be to elicit a simmer or roll a boil from the undisciplined Dometic flame.
Growing up, my mother often cooked on our old range; a cast-iron oven and hotplate built into an open fireplace. She made drop-scones and delicious, slow-cooked stews; a version of tatws popty, a braised potato and onion dish cooked slowly in a herby stock. Bob, let’s call him that, travelled from farm to farm, turning up at roughly the same time each year to work small jobs and cook his sausages and blood pudding on an open fire at the side of the road, a Woodbine clinging to the corner of his mouth, the crust torn from a loaf of bread on the grass beside him.
What is a cook without a functioning hob? A cook with a sense of perspective and the imagination to triumph, me on a different day, not too far in the future.
Follow to read my occasional cooking series, Saintly Fare.