Monday, May 23, 2016

Meal Prep On the Go

Greetings from London!! Packing up my earthly possessions (what was left of them after the selling and donating and storing of remaining former possessions) was daunting. The baking pans less often used were the first thing to go but believe me, several cookbooks and kitchenwares made the jump across the pond! Mixing bowls? Check. Measuring cups/spoons? Check. Beloved cookbooks? Check.

The intermediate step in my semi-permanent move to London is living in a furnished corporate apartment until I find a more permanent abode. It's basically a super nice hotel suite with a fully operational kitchen. I was worried that I would be eating out all the time with lots of new food places nearby and meeting up with new people.

But since I have a fridge, stove/oven, microwave and basic kitchen utensils, meal prep can totally happen. I looked up the closest grocery store (my local Sainsbury, as it turns out, although there's also a Tesco nearby) and picked up some easy to use necessities. Granted, meal prep is on a much simpler scale but here's a look at what I've been able to accomplish for my first week of meal prep, requiring just the items you see below (plus a blender bottle and my measuring cup...):

  • Rice Bowls: I picked up pre-cooked chicken so I wouldn't have to buy spices or oils but some meats come pre-marinaded. Broccoli and rice were cooked as usual and then everything was combined in one pot. The rice was measured with my own measuring cup since it took little space in my suitcase. Since rice is a 1:2 ratio of rice and water though, you could use a glass to measure in a pinch. I'm lacking tupperware so stored the goods in a pot with a lid, portioning out and reheating as needed. Rice bowls are extremely versatile and could be meat-free, adding legumes instead for protein.
  • Spinach Salad: Probably the easiest thing to make with limited resources, a bed of spinach leaves can be dressed up with dried fruit, nuts, cheese or in my case, hard boiled eggs and canned salmon (I looked for tuna but salmon is what they had so I went for it). Rather than buying a bottle of dressing, I bought a lemon and seasoned generously with that.
  • Shakes: I bought a blender bottle a few weeks ago and can easily make protein shakes for breakfast. Before going on vacation, I would also blend oatmeal in a food processor and carry it in ziploc bags to make the shakes more filling. The bottle label boasts that it can tackle peanut butter to make it a thicker shake as well but I haven't personally tried it yet. I also picked up some eggs, bananas and granola to mix up my breakfast game. 
If you aren't in a place with a stocked kitchen, ready-made meals like granola, oatmeal, cereal, or yogurt for breakfast is great! Salads and wraps are also doable with just a fridge and a couple utensils. And for snacks, you can't beat fruit or nuts, no prep needed. Alternatively, for a short trip, you can make your own snacks to bring with you! (Update: or you can MacGyver your hotel room heating implements).

How do you meal prep on the go? I'm thinking next week some burrito bowls and zoodles (yes, the spiralizer also packed well).

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Letters Home

This post is 100% historical mystery and 0% food. Besides collecting cookbooks, I collect old photographs and letters. It was a fun project when I was a kid but I haven't really looked into this passion recently. The dream was to track down the people in the photos and learn what became of them since their belongings ended up in an antique shop.

A couple years ago, I bought a set of letters between a man named A.B. Wyman and a woman named Edrie Walsh. A.B was writing from Brookline which is close to where I lived in Boston so it turned into a local history hunt. After reading the letters, which were all from A.B to Edrie, I learned that A.B was a man named Andy and he was writing home to his mother while away at technical school in Boston. Through the course of the letters, Andy talks about his classes, how he does on tests and inquires about other family members back in Maine.

A few things I learned about Andy and how some things never change:
  1. He was pretty homesick. He often talks about wishing he were home and hoping his mom and grandmother are feeling well. Some of the letters are in sequential days or written just days before visiting home. Apparently mail was much faster then.
  2. His mom still did his laundry. Adorable.
  3. His mom sent him a lot of cake. This was important in determining that Andy's birthday was January 30th, 1918. 
  4. For a time, he was dating a girl named Nancy but then they broke up so he was a spoil-sport while he was home visiting one weekend and felt guilty for ruining his time at home. 
The letters only last for about a year in 1937 while Andy was at school so I wanted to know a few things. What happened after that? What about the people he talks about in his letters? Did he and Nancy get back together? Why did his mom have the last name Walsh while his was Wyman?

There are census records for such things. In 1920, records indicate that a Walter G. Wyman was married to Edrie Wyman (nee Breen) and in addition to his wife, his household included two young sons, Walter D. and Andrew, as well as his mother-in-law, Annie Breen. By 1930, the census records show that this household was now headed by Harold Walsh and his wife, Edrie Walsh, with the boys and her mother included.

More digging and Edrie had married Harold Walsh in 1926. So some time between 1920 and 1926, something happened to Walter Wyman (Sr.). Another fun thing about old census records, apparently you can change your name on there. In the census records in 1920, Andy's brother is listed as Walter D, likely named after his father. But in 1930, he is listed as Dawson. Andy refers to him as Dawes in his letters so he probably went by his middle name when he was older. Edrie's name is also misspelled on some of the records, appearing as "Edric" instead. 

Well, now I was really down the rabbit hole. Andy and Dawes both enlisted in the Army in January 1942 but survived the war. Andy went on to marry a woman named Eleanor in 1947 (sorry, Nancy). A little digging into Eleanor's background revealed she had a twin named Audrey and had grown up in Massachusetts. So now that Andy's story was more cohesive, I looked into his brother's background.

Having survived the war, Dawes married Audrey in in Audrey of Elanor and Audrey. Yes, the twin! The brothers married twin sisters!! It's probably how Andy and Eleanor met.

The brothers appear to have spent most of their lives in Maine or Massachusetts and died in the late 90's in Maine. The census records after 1940 aren't as readily available online but draft records, marriage licences and cemetery records helped piece this together. 

I have no idea what any of them look like but it's fascinating to me what you can glean from letters written home compared to what's left in the official records. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

200th Post: Ode to My Kitchens

As I prepared for my next great adventure, living abroad, I became anxious saying farewell to my apartment. Why? I've moved before and been excited but I really loved this apartment. The light, the sounds, the oven that requires me to brace my right foot on just the right spot to pull it open. So many things.

I read this article about a small kitchen and big adventure a few months ago and decided it would make a great tribute to my kitchens to write about them in this, the 200th post.

My first kitchen was large... in square footage only. The oven was tiny, so small it couldn't hold the medium size cookie sheet in my set and never properly closed. But it's where this blog was born! The oven kept me warm when an October snowstorm knocked out power for a week. It had no counter space to speak of and my photos from that time are embarrassing.


In Boston, my first kitchen was a serious upgrade. Preset?! Timer?! Oven light?!? What luxuries!! More counter space and natural light to improve my photos and a blog network to learn from. Now we were cookin' (see what I did there?)!

And alas, my last Boston kitchen. Enough counter space for Bessie, the KitchenAid mixer, and many vegetables to be chopped. The perfect amount of space for exactly one person to do anything in the kitchen at a given time but open enough that I could keep an eye on things from the couch. Or catch Kitty stealing a carrot off my photoshoot (she has identity crises too).

So who knows what the next kitchen will entail! Whatever it is, if I've learned one thing in writing this blog, it's you don't have to know what you're doing or have all the gadgets to make a really good meal. Cheers!