Once I went on a weekend campout training session for Girl Scout leaders at Lake of the Woods. Camp Low Echo is wonderfully old-fashioned camp in a gorgeous lakeside setting.
I met a woman there, another Girl Scout leader, who told me in her charming southern accent that she always takes her bread machine along when she goes camping. Now I love to cook, and I like camping, but I would never even think of bringing a bread machine on a camping trip. Camping trips are about toasted marshmallows and grilled hamburgers and bacon and eggs. Not to mention, where do you plug it in?
So I am thinking about this as I try to figure out what kitchen items to take with me – and more importantly, what not to take with me – on this Middle Eastern adventure. Anything I take needs to be useful and usable. And it also needs to not detract from the experience of a foreign culture that is our reason for going overseas in the first place.
The handbook we got from the school includes some guidance on packing. Because of the difference in the electrical current, they recommend minimizing appliances. Small ones like toasters and coffeemakers are best purchased there.
But what about my Kitchenaid mixer? I love that thing. Andreas bought it for me right before we moved to Oregon. I use it almost every day. Of course, it weighs 35 pounds, but still I’m inclined to think it’s worth it. I have to hope it won’t fry – or burn up the wiring in our new apartment. An email from a future colleague informs us that voltage converters don’t always prevent this from happening.
The Cuisinart? My big one is in bad shape. I’ve had it since 1982. The cover is broken, the pusher is missing, and two of the rubber feet are gone. It will stay home. But I think I will bring the small one, just in case I can’t find one there.
Beyond that, what do I really love that I think I would have a hard time finding in Damascus, that I would want to use there? Probably more gadgets than most people. I’ve put a lot of effort into finding the perfect vegetable peeler, spatula, ice cream scoop, tongs, and egg pan. I also am very fond of my set of heavy anodized pots and pans, my mandoline, the microplane graters, the Silpats, the air-cushioned cookie sheets, and my Henckel knives. All those things are definitely coming along. I don’t know much about Middle Eastern cooking yet but I’m pretty sure they will be useful in their new home.
What I should NOT bring… that is harder. The mortar and pestle set, for starters. Not only does it weigh 10 pounds, it came from Turkey… kind of like carrying coals to Newcastle. Storage containers, mixing bowls – easily obtained in Damascus. The dim sum steamers: har gau won’t be on the menu for us (shrimp? pork fat? bamboo shoots? I think not). My favorite Dutch oven that belonged to my great-grandmother and that is perfect for making rustic bread – I would feel too awful if something happened and it didn’t make the return trip. The slow cooker – I don’t know, that one just seems too American.
At any rate, I’ve got to make my final decisions now. The shippers come later this morning to carry it all away. They will weigh before they go. If worse comes to worst, I’ll have to ditch a few items. Kind of like the stoves and pianos that overpacked pioneers left along the Oregon Trail.