Not just the name of my favorite Cut Chemist song, it’s also the theme of my volunteering the past few weeks. My first week on the farm the female host had gone on vacation leaving me quite a few cooking duties. The altitude really messes with how fast liquids evaporate and how fast yeast works and that changes baking a bit. After over a year of travel I’m quite pleased to have a kitchen to futz around and make a mess in.
The hosts are American which meant my Thanksgiving was spent here, and for the second year in a row even out of the country, I had a feast.
Although I’ve hosted Thanksgiving for over ten people, I’ve never had to cook for about six people every meal so leftovers disappeared faster than I’d like. Some things had to be improvised as you can’t get everything in Ecuador, but I was quite pleased I had a turkey at all as opposed to my chickens and non working oven last year.
Some things I made the next day as leftovers is one of my favorite part of Thanksgiving. My host’s request was a turkey egg noodle soup, which I happily obliged.
Before I get ahead of myself though, we didn’t skip dessert. Thanksgiving is nothing without the regret of too many plates as you stare down dessert, wondering what you can do since you’ve already unbuttoned your pants.
It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without a pie. Perhaps the only downgrade from last year as someone made a fresh pumpkin pie, I had to settle for a just as American apple pie.
Three of the volunteers were not American and we explained traditions to them. I explained that one was being uncomfortably full with seconds, thirds and maybe fourths. In anticipation, I decided to hedge my drinking bets.
One of the volunteers wanted to learn how to bake so I found a Barefoot Contessa recipe that was easy to do. Everyone liked it so much I made one more during my time here.
After bagels had gone so well I thought maybe my former bread curse had lifted and tried my hands at soft pretzels, which I used to do ok at back on sea level.
Sometimes I was just helping prep things for the farm or helped to preserve the large amount of vegetables getting harvested in the year round temperate weather. There was such a variety that nothing really ever got old.
Back to my favorite topic and most made dessert here! Pies luckily are not affected by altitude as bad as they lack rising agents. Granted I’d only made a handful before coming here, I’d eaten enough to be very experienced. I didn’t have very good luck with any crusts using lard or shortening though as they seemed to disintegrate while baking. I’m not great at blind baking pie crusts yet I suppose but I did figured out using rice as pie weights is better than beans since you can still eat them afterwards and they taste great
One way around dough crusts is to make graham instead. I couldn’t quite find those around here but found a similar honey bran cracker. Sadly it still took me two attempts to make the crust.
The hosts like their American classics and I am more than happy to oblige, even if it is a tad more fat laden than I probably would cook alone. Over time we’ve had tuna casseroles, sausage biscuits and gravy (one of my favorites), and multiple ham and bean soups.
Although I do love American food, particularly Southern, I tend to cook a little more internationally on my own accord. Here the spices lent themselves better to Mexican, Indian and Jamaican but I also snuck in a Chinese lettuce wrap made with cabbage leaves and orange chicken, except with broccoli and cauliflower by request of the hosts. I’ve only ever made orange chicken twice now, always by request. Not because I dislike gringo Chinese food, I just have other favorites.
While farm work has gotten progressively more intense, I’ve had less energy and pent up back logged dessert urges to get out. I still made some of my favorites as they can be hard to find or just disappointing. My chocaholism was full force and I made a chocolate yellow layer cake and some brownies just to alleviate that. Otherwise it was a lot of pancakes and chocolate chip cookies made with leftover oatmeal from breakfast.
Well, I still miss my kitchen greatly but this did help alleviate the stress of eating at restaurants on the road constantly and only eating pasta in hostels. It is likely I did not need so many desserts, but at least my pants fit better now. I’ve bought myself an old person travel medicine holder to grab some spices and I hope to continue this trend of cooking with flavor as I continue onwards.