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Cooking "En Vacances"

There’s something to be said for staying in a clean, comfortable air-conditioned hotel when on holiday, but Michael and I have changed our perspective somewhat and now whenever we plan a holiday abroad we look to renting an apartment, cottage, gites, villa, or whatever the country of choice offers that includes a kitchen.

Cooking on holiday is anything but a chore. First is the convenience of breakfast at our leisure – I hate feeling rushed to get dressed and out of a hotel room before I can have my coffee and read the paper (on-line these days). The luxury of breakfast at our own pace really sets in that holiday feeling, and we tend to adapt the breakfast habits of the country where we are staying.

Continental breakfast in Istria, Croatia
Continental breakfast in Istria, Croatia

Then there are the markets. What torture when staying at a hotel, to tour packed markets with stalls of fresh fish and produce, with no chance to buy a thing other than the touristy juices and snacks. We are more inclined to test out our well-rehearsed food phrases in French, Italian or other language when we are buying for home – makes us feel like we’re borderline locals! Plus, then indulging in local cheeses or sweets is OK - because it’s balanced by healthy salads and veggie dishes that can be tough to come by in restaurants.

Rialto Market, Venice, Italy
Rialto Market, Venice, Italy

Mache, Fig and Chevre Salad at home in Languedoc
Mache, Fig and Chevre Salad at home in Languedoc

A day of touring sites, after that relaxing breakfast and a refreshing stop to unload the market purchases, is the time when we “do lunch”. Cooking while on vacation is not just about convenience or even economics – we do want to immerse ourselves in the culinary culture of where we are, so visiting restaurants is key. That lingering lunch that Europeans do so well is the practice we adopt with relish. Sometimes it gives us the means to try a new dish, style of cooking or regional combination we wouldn’t have accessed otherwise, and we rarely make reservations, preferring the spontaneity of ”discovering” a place. Often that taste is satisfying on its own, and other times we can’t wait to get home and replicate it.

White Anchovies at Aguablava, Spain, and then replicated by us 2 days later at our apartment rental.

Fresh flounder in Venice – we never get this at home!

And then, reliving the memories once we get back home can be just as much fun (I remember making paella once a week the rest of the summer after a trip to Barcelona one June) and when we look at our photos we see it’s true that 80% of the shots are of the food, but seeing the food instantly recalls that moment in time.

And part of enjoying cooking abroad is then coming home to cook, in our own kitchen, with our own local ingredients. A tomato or ripe peach in Languedoc is a beautiful thing but you know what? So is a tomato in Niagara!

My apologies for being like that unbearable aunt, showing you her holiday photos, but I hope you will torture your own family and friends with your delicious food photos from your holidays.

Bon Vacances!


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