Truck life: cook group

Pizza in Naples, Khmer curries in Cambodia, falafels in Egypt — tasting the local flavours is essential when traveling, in my mind. Although you can find pizza in Cambodia these days, it just seems so wrong. Sure, many a-time I have craved bread, coffee, beer, and occasionally even chocolate. It feels like I can’t go on without them. Yet I can go on without them; I do get on without them. And it’s really not so hard.

Life on the truck is different in that we are cooking for ourselves. Three meals a day. The passengers are divided up into ‘cook groups’ of three. These groups rotate through a 7-day cycle so that you only have to cook once every seven days. The groups operate autonomously. Andi gives us some money and then we are on our own to plan, shop and execute our three meals. This can be easier said than done.

It doesn’t matter if you were trained at the Cordon Bleu or by the instructions on the back of a Mac ‘n Cheese box; the only requirement for being a good truck chef is a little bit of creativity. There is a stockpile of non-perishable food on the truck at our managed disposal. This helps our meal money go further because we don’t have to buy things like oil, sauces, spices and cereals. Our main focus when we shop is dinner because our breakfast and lunches are usually eaten on the fly. Breakfasts and lunches are typically the same from day to day. At breakfast we’ll eat eggs and toast along with Wheat-a-bix and an oat-heavy muesli. Lunch will be sandwiches with some fresh veggies, canned tuna and leftovers from the night before.

Because we’re always moving, the places we shop in are always changing and you never know how far your money is going to go or what you’ll be able to buy. If you can afford to buy both cheese and meat, you’ve done extremely well. It’s not like there are Tescos or Loblaws here where you can buy a mango 12 months of the year. Eating local has always been the food trend here so at the supermarkets you only get what’s local and in season. There are supermarkets for us to shop at but often we find ourselves in small butchers or produce markets, which can be a bit overwhelming, but a lot more fun.

Mark and I had a cook group shop recently in a small town in Tanzania. There were a few butchers and a veggie market. We had no idea what we were going to cook until we got to the market and saw what they were selling: tomatoes, capsicum and avocado. The butchers all looked rather dodgy and we had no ice to keep our meet cool and so we quickly decided to make a veggie chilli with guacamole. With half a dozen people, or more, trying to sell us their produce at the same time, we needed to act fast and bargain faster. Mark was in his element here, and me too, and we came back with piles and piles of food with some change left over.

Money goes further in different countries. Our Zimbabwe cook group was a real challenge. We were given $27 American dollars, which works out to just over $1 per person for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Things cost more in Zimbabwe than they do back home. I read somewhere that 2/3 of the people live off government food stamps. So needless to say, our money didn’t go far. We bought potatoes and onions and used corn off the truck to make a corn chowder. We also made some delicious bannock bread with cheese, to go alongside.

Mark, myself and Alana form team ‘CanEngland III’ (III for having swapped group members several times). We try to wow our fellow truckmates with tasty, innovative meals, rather that simply trying to stick to whatever is easiest. The majority of our passengers are meat and potato types, and are sometimes afraid of veggies or anything resembling veggies. After a couple weeks of eating on the truck I decided to become a vegetarian to get some more variety into my diet. There are five of us vegetarians now (just two of us are pseudo veggies) and one gal allergic to gluten, which is another added challenge come meal-time. Meals are repetitive, especially at breakfast and lunchtime, so you get people making things like ketchup, mayonnaise, and peanut butter sandwiches to mix things up a bit.

When we get an opportunity, Mark and I will eat off the truck. Mark enjoyed Gemsbok in South Africa (before he even knew what a Gemsbok looked like), Ostrich burgers in South Africa, Kudu in Namibia, Wildebeest and Springbok in Zimbabwe, Ugali (maize meal) and stew all over the place. We went for high tea at Joy Adamson’s house on Lake Nakuru, in Kenya, and while in Nairobi, we ate twice at an amazing Ethiopean restaurant serving mixed meals on Ingera. After I post this we’ll be heading out to an Indian restaurant here in Kampala. In fact, I think we’ll go there right now. All this talk of food has made me hungry. Bon apetit!

Comments

  1. Mother Goose

  2. Yummy….. I’m looking forward to Team M&M cooking up a storm for me and Dad when you’re back in Kanata. Happy travels…. xxxoxoxox

  3. Brian R

  4. Vegetarian travelers run less risk of getting stomach illness. Which is no fun. Good choice!

    Occasionally craving chocolate? Do toblerones have only 12 pieces in africa too? Hehe.

    That’s the smart thkinnig we could all benefit from.

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