Shopping Girl gypsies often turn into lifelong foodies because their travels expose them to a wide range of delicious regional cuisines and cutting-edge creative cooking concepts. You are lucky, Shopping Girls, because it’s never been easier to eat like the Princess you are, even while living a van lifestyle.
If you have abundant funds, you surely will enjoy exploring the local restaurants, coffeehouses, bars, and markets of the places you visit. If you are on a tight budget, you can take advantage of a simpler, but still rewarding and healthful, dietary approach.
While eating out all of the time can be healthy, depending on what choices you make, it’s worth noting that traveling Shopping Girls are sometimes more susceptible to food-borne illnesses and the malaise of being on the road affecting the digestion. You should be prepared with a mini-pantry of foods in your gypsy wagon for those places that should be bypassed, and those times when you aren’t anywhere near a public eatery.
Many Shopping Girl gypsies also simply enjoy the experience of preparing their food themselves on the road. It’s not difficult, and the results can be delicious, but there are some factors worth taking into consideration.
The two main issues confronting a Shopping Girl living the gypsy wagon lifestyle are space and safety. You have limited space for options such as refrigeration or built-in cooking, and both of those factors create safety concerns.
We’ll be looking at the built-in options for refrigeration and cooking in another post, when we explore solar power and similar means to upgrade your basic van lifestyle. In this post, we are going to focus on what kinds of cooking gear you will probably want to have handy in your travels, along with some tips on managing your foodstuffs on the road. You want your vagabond life to be simple and easy as well as healthy.
To begin, ideally, a Shopping Girl gypsy will choose to never actually cook inside her gypsy wagon. Why? Because cooking in your van creates a potential fire hazard. You don’t want to risk losing your travel home in the midst of your trip.
Another reason is to eliminate potential mess that will attract pests. Road homes can become infested with critters such as ants, cockroaches, and mice. No matter how careful you are, if you cook inside of your van, you will create a mess that your unwanted visitors will enjoy snacking on. Minor messes, such as a few cracker crumbs, build up over time. Dramatic messes, such as dropping your bottle of olive oil on your van floor, can be difficult to clean up.
That’s why, throughout human history, nomads cooked outdoors when it was possible to do so.
Shopping Girl gypsies can take a few tips from Shopping Girls who live aboard boats, and have to deal with similar problems:
Fireflies are the pretty exception to the “No Fire, No Pest” rule.
-Flames of any kind are a bad idea. Even if you are super-careful and don’t set your van on fire, keep in mind that anything that burns is releasing fumes. How toxic said fumes are depends on what is burning, but none can be said to be healthy for your lungs to take in, especially in the enclosed environment of your gypsy wagon. Another risk is that extinguished materials can reignite, even hours after they were initially extinguished (that’s how nomadic prehistoric people were able to carry fire with them on lengthy journeys). If you plan to cook with burning fuel of any type, do it in a fire-safe device designed for the purpose outside of your van, and follow the fire safety rules and regulations for the place where you are camping.
-Glass containers or other objects are a bad idea. Glass is beautiful and makes an excellent material for storage containers, except that it can shatter, leaving minute shards all over your lovely gypsy wagon. These are hard enough to clean up in a typical home, but trying to clean them up in a van is worse. The last thing any travelling Shopping Girl needs is to suffer a debilitating injury, and even a tiny piece of glass can embed in your foot leaving you virtually crippled and requiring minor surgery to remove it. Embedded glass can even cause a life-threatening infection if it is contaminated. It is inconsiderate to other people and wildlife to risk creating broken glass outside of your van in the places you visit. Many of us have been horrified to find hazardous glass shards from beer bottles scattered around campgrounds or half-buried in the sand at the beach where children are playing. Animals suffer just as much as humans do when they get glass in their paws. Avoid glass storage containers and products sold in glass containers on your travels. If you must, simply move the product from its original glass container to a resealable plastic one for travel instead.
-Cardboard boxes, product labels, and other paper items are a bad idea. This might seem perplexing, but the reason boating Shopping Girls adhere to this rule is because products you buy at the grocery store can conceal pests in the cardboard boxes they are packaged and shipped in, underneath the labels, and in paper bags kept stacked at the store where all these pests are running rampant. Shopping Girl travelers who maintain their own residences on the go, such as boats or vans, quickly learn not to bring any of these materials into their mobile homes. Instead, they find some place such as a seating area in the store, a picnic table or laundromat counter, where they can spend a few minutes removing any such packaging from their purchases, and putting their supplies into resealable plastic bags or containers. If you need any cooking instructions etc. from a label, you can write it on the container with a Sharpie pen or grease pencil, or just note it down in a notepad or on your smartphone. Then toss all that cardboard and paper into the trash. The benefit of doing this also prevents the spread of pests you can’t see, such as weevils, pantry moths, and cigarette beetles, all of which may be in certain food products in egg or larval form and initially invisible. By putting the foodstuffs into plastic bags or containers, you prevent these critters from spreading throughout your entire stash. Sooner or later, you’ll be able to see if a particular bag of oatmeal or crackers has bugs in it, and you can toss it with confidence that your other goodies are still bug-free.
So, what kind of cooking gear is most useful to a travelling Shopping Girl? This of course depends entirely upon your plans, cooking skills, and a bunch of other factors. However, assuming that you want the least amount of clutter in your gypsy wagon, maximizing the usefulness of what you are hauling around, we recommend the following:
–A traditional wok with one long wooden handle. Why? Because this will enable you to cook pretty much anything you could possibly want to make, on a wide variety of cooking devices, using any typical cooking fuel. It can be used as a bowl for salads, popcorn, fruit; a sink and wash basin; or for a multitude of other needful things. Keep in mind that you can cook on all surfaces of the wok. Depending on your wok’s design, the sides might have a shallower curve than the bottom, providing a broader, flatter cooking surface when tilted on its side.
You will also want to get several of the common wok accessories, including a lid and a metal tempura side-rack that hangs along the edge. You may also want a support ring that holds the wok in place on the cooking surface.
These additions will permit you to steam, drain fried goods, bake, roast, and generally do anything that a frying pan, saute pot, roasting pan, stock pot, rice cooker, slow cooker, or kettle will do.
-A knife. Shopping Girl travelers should have more than one knife, but you’ll want one specifically for cooking. A great place to find inexpensive knifes that are useful for cooking on the go are fishing tackle shops. Check out the filet knives (and while you’re there, you might want to check out the tackle boxes as well, which can be a great storage option for a Shopping Girl gypsy’s travel needs). Most filet knives are sized to fit into a tackle box and include a secure blade cover, which provides safety and keeps the knife sharp longer. These knives tend to be thin and an ideal size for handling a lot of different cooking tasks. Knife selection is a personal thing, with safety dependent upon your comfort and skill level, so go with a knife that you are comfortable with. If you can afford it, select one with a full tang (meaning the blade metal piece extends the full length inside of the handle, for added strength).
-A ladle. There is a reason that ladles are one of the oldest, most commonly used kitchen utensils. When you’re on the road, you will especially appreciate the benefits of having one. As just one example, you can heat up water in your wok for breakfast. Use the ladle to easily and safely remove enough water to make your coffee, then dump your oatmeal into the wok. A ladle is a handy gadget for fishing something out of a hard-to-reach place. Most ladles are designed to serve a specific ounce amount (typically 1/2 cup or 1 cup). Check your ladle’s capacity against a measuring cup, then rely on your ladle to measure, and leave the measuring cup set at home. A stainless steel ladle can be used to cook small quantities: Melt butter for your popcorn, or warm some canned gravy for your mashed potatoes. Use your ladle as a small utility dish that is easy to hang nearby. Have a snack, hold bits and pieces of a repair project, burn cone incense, or make an impromptu hanging lantern with an LED votive candle for ambiance.
-A wok spatula/spoon. If you go with a wok as your main cooking pan, you’ll like the long-handled metal spatula with a slightly curved front edge, designed to work with the curved shape of the wok. These spatulas have a shallow shovel-like shape with low sides that help to manipulate the food like a cooking spoon while maintaining the scraping and flipping effectiveness of a spatula. Note that while these are superior to regular spatulas in a wok, the curved edge makes them less effective when used with a flat-bottom pan.
-A really long pair of cooking chopsticks. If you haven’t already discovered the usefulness of these, now is a good time. Taking up practically no space, these heavy-duty, thick, long chopsticks are designed not for eating, but as cooking tools. They are wonderful as tongs, for whipping, stirring, flipping and turning, and other general fiddling a Shopping Girl might need to do with her food as she is preparing and cooking it. You can even whip cream, mayo, gravy, or other sauces up with these (and get a decent arm workout at the same time).
-A colander. Traveling Shopping Girls living in tight quarters will probably want a collapsible silicone model that squishes flat for easy storage. A colander is a multi-use gadget not limited to cooking needs. This is a difficult type of tool to jerry-rig when you need one, so since they are so portable and inexpensive, it’s worth keeping one on hand. Cheesecloth can make due for a strainer if the strained material isn’t too heavy, and you can secure the cheesecloth to hold the material above an area for draining. Or try a cutting board that folds into a colander!
-A Vietnamese coffee press. An inexpensive, compact, sturdy, quick, and effective way to make a good cup of coffee (or loose-leaf tea). Basically a mini-French Press, you put coffee grounds into the bottom, then screw on the strainer plate inside to hold the grounds in place. Set the press on top of your coffee mug, pour hot water into the press, and cover with the lid. It will finish dripping the coffee into your cup in a minute or two. These little coffee makers are practically bullet-proof, you can adjust the brew strength by the amount of coffee and water used, and the screw-down filter keeps the grounds under control until it’s convenient to dispose of them. The little pot practically cleans itself with a simple rinse, and there’s nothing to break or hassle with.
-A Thermos or similar container. A large, high-quality Thermos designed for holding and serving hot or cold beverages is an old-school classic for a reason. Pre-heated with hot water, this will keep your coffee truly hot all day, or, pre-chilled, your iced tea cold in hot weather. Or, just use it to keep hot or iced water handy throughout the day for washing, cleaning, cooling yourself down, or whatever. It is an option for those who don’t have access to a sink with running hot and cold water. If you want both hot and cold water available, just get two Thermos bottles, color-coded, or label them. Most of these beverage Thermos bottles include a convenient outer drinking cup, which you can use for other purposes than drinking, of course. The stainless steel cups can even be used as small cooking pots. Besides the beverage-style Thermos bottles, you will likely want a fat, wide-mouth model. These are excellent for keeping foods hot or cold. You can prepare your breakfast or lunch while you make dinner, and it will be warm the next day (pre-heat with hot water, or chill with cold water, before adding food, for best results). Even better, you can “cook” in these containers (up to a point, anyway); they function somewhat like a slow cooker in this regard. Tons of information, advice, and recipes are available online, so look for the options that would appeal to you.
-A fire extinguisher. ALWAYS have one of these that is fully charged, and that you know how to use, in your gypsy wagon! You want the type that is small enough for you to easily handle it, and that will put out any type of fire. Pick a reliable, well-known, time-tested brand. If you have never used a fire extinguisher, it is worth the cost to buy one just for practice.
-A grill. Sooner or later, you’ll wish you had one. Easy to store, multi-purpose, thus worth the small storage footprint it takes up in your kit. You may want one that is self-contained and will hold charcoal, as well as a simple grate that can be placed over a fire.
-A cooler. These are bulky items that take up a lot of space, but most Shopping Girl gypsies will probably want at least a small one. Sturdy models are usually designed to work as seating and a table surface too, and those on wheels can haul other stuff. An empty rolling cooler is a handy trolley for grocery shopping or taking your clothes to the laundromat. If you don’t really need a cooler for more than cold drinks, the Thermos method mentioned above may work for you and take up less space. Two smaller coolers may adjust to your van design better than one large one, but you’ll get shorter melt times with smaller volume. Soft-sided options that fold compactly are available, but generally offer only up to about 24 hours of cold. 12-volt options will be reviewed in a future post.
-A folding tray. Consider the benefits of having a tray with a small lip all the way around. Carry handles and foldable legs are further plus points. If you prepare food inside of your gypsy wagon, do the prep work on the tray to contain mess and spills. Carry all your prepped food easily to the cooking area, and from there to serve and clean. A tray can also step in as a table for dining, games, projects, vanity, or desk use.
-A cutting board. If you select a tray made of suitable bamboo, wood or plastic, you can use it as your cutting board. If not, you’ll surely want something suitable. Thin flexible plastic sheet cutting boards can be folded to pour or rolled into a funnel. Wood cutting boards are more sanitary than one might think, and provide a sturdy work surface for many tasks (reserve one side for food use). They can fill in as a trivet, dining plate, serving platter, carry tray, or impromptu table. Some feature one or more pull-out drawers or bowls built right in, making these great for a van kitchen countertop and utensil drawer.
-Kitchen shears. While also not entirely necessary, most Shopping Girl gypsies will find these tough, sturdy scissors so useful that they will become one of the handiest tools you have in your gypsy wagon. Those that come apart for cleaning tend to also fall apart more easily, and the regular ones can be cleaned just fine.
-Can and jar openers. A Shopping Girl gypsy may have a basic can opener in her multi-tool gadget that is serviceable. However, if you open a lot of canned goods, you might want a more comfortable model. If you have issues opening jars, you may wish to include a jar opener as well. Here is a trick that usually works: Slip a thin, sturdy piece of metal, such as the back of a spoon or knife tip, up under the bottom of the lid and gently pry upward. If done properly, you will hear a little “pop!” as the vacuum seal releases, after which the jar lid should be easy to twist off.
-Corkscrew. Another item you’ll likely have on your multi-tool gadget anyway. There are many tricks to removing corks without a corkscrew, some of which are rather entertaining especially to inebriated folks, so check online in order to be prepared for this eventuality.
-Icepick. Another old-school gadget not commonly in use, but very handy for a multitude of purposes. Break up ice for your cooler or beverage. Add a hole to your belt, tarp, or anything else. Pry stuff apart. Humanely dispatch your freshly caught fish dinner. More possibilities will present themselves during your travels. Definitely get one with a sheath, as these can be dangerous. And don’t let newly-met travel friends play with it; just don’t. Ice picks have a way of triggering the competitive gaming nature of some people, especially after they have been drinking. Best to keep it quiet that you even have one.
-Twine. Be sure that you purchase “cooking twine” which can be safely used with your foods. It will still work like any twine for other applications. Dampen twine that will be exposed to heat or fire. Remember that dampened twine will become tighter as it dries; this can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your intended use.
-Eating utensils. These are so compact that there is no reason for a Shopping Girl gypsy to get all crazy about finding the tiniest, lightest fork, knife, and soup spoon out there. But you can if you want to. We recommend you include an Asian style soup spoon, because it also makes a handy condiment dish.
-Plates, cups, bowls. Obviously you have untold options for these items. Avoid glass or other breakable materials. Depending on your habits, needs, and activities, stainless steel is recommended, since you can cook with it and use it for other purposes. Stainless steel is easy to clean and, if used for a non-food purpose, you can wash or even sterilize it to make it food-safe again. You can also chill or warm stainless steel to enhance the dishes you prepare.
In our next post, we’ll look at some good food choices for Shopping Girls on the go. What ideas and gadgets are vital to your Shopping Girl gypsy lifestyle? Feel free to share your tips with other Shopping Girls in the Comments section!