A few days back from vacation and I am already thinking about the kitchen I left three thousand miles and an ocean behind. Thoughts of my family, images of colorful fruits and vegetables, foreign labels and new cooking tools are still vibrant, but merely memories and not the everyday vacation life I just lived.
Since my friends were far away, I did a lot of cooking with family and even some cooking alone. Without TV or video games, my kids saw cooking as entertainment; I saw it as a chance to spend time with them. My older son loved making the garlic bread and squeezing fresh orange juice. My daughter became our sous vegetable chef and my little guy, although not quite able to reach the counters, was always an eager helper. My parents and husband became regular fixtures in the kitchen as we created meals side by side, always using fresh finds from our morning visits to the market.
Cooking was a true team effort.
With my temporary kitchen I found a new rhythm. My mornings began by making soup for lunch, Portuguese style, with a garlic, onion, carrot and potato base. While my family enjoyed their breakfast of fresh rolls with butter and jam, swirled cream pastries and flaky croissants, they sniffed aromas of lunch boiling away on the stove.
My explorations in my new kitchen weren’t without flaws. I learned quickly that the course Algarve sea salt was more potent than the kosher salt I was used to at home. Some over-salted homemade pickles and a batch of inedible rice, caused my family to cringe, and I yearned to have a friend with me. (This NEVER would have happened at home — Suzy just wouldn’t have let me use as much salt.)
I soon learned how much salt to use (less!), discovered measurement equivalent of a “gill” and how to convert kilograms. I used local herbs — fresh “salsa” (parsley) and “cuatro” (cilantro) — in my cooking. The kids picked freshly caught fish from the market, which my husband took great pride in gutting, filleting and preparing himself. Together we seasoned the fish and grilled them on an Artisinal charcoal fire.
I settled into my new space, my comfy home-away-from-home kitchen, just as it was time to leave. I thoroughly enjoyed every single kitchen moment while away and it was sad to say goodbye to those times. But I did miss my friends and am happy to return to their company in the kitchen.