It all started with pasta. Through out my whole life pasta has been my go to comfort food. When I was too tired to cook anything and too hungry to care, I could always just boil some water and toss in a box of pasta. Don’t get me wrong, I like food, I like cooking and I like eating good food I cooked. But there are some days when you don’t have the energy, creativity or time for that. That’s when I eat pasta. I always had a box or two in my cabinet. It never goes bad so you can stock up when it’s on sale. And it dresses up well. You generally can make a pasta dish with whatever you happen to have hanging around in the cabinet and fridge. The added bonus is all you need is a pot, some water and a heat source. Generally, pretty easy to come by.
Now, in October of 2010, I left my job, liquidated my possessions and began a journey through Central America to find what was important to me in life. I began my journey in Guatemala volunteering with a non-profit organization, Long Way Home, that focuses on sustainable building. This was the first step for me in opening my eyes to a greater consciousness of how wasteful we are in Western society. Shortly after leaving Long Way Home, I met Trevor, who is now my husband, who was looking into organic farming. Together we spent the next 10 months traveling through Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Nicaragua.
We explored traditional markets, ate street food, went to fine restaurants and did plenty of home cooking when we had access to kitchens. During this time we learned to master the art of “cowboy coffee”- straight up boiled and strained, how to make an oven using a tortilla pan, tuna can and a pot, and all sorts of other perfectly effective if rather primitive ways to make food. We spent many hours discussing where food comes from and how it gets to us. We discovered foods we thought we didn’t like actually tasted good when they were fresh and prepared properly. We talked about sustainability, and how to still have things you enjoy without creating too much waste. We began to develop a plan. Yet through it all, we still ate A LOT of pasta. For all the reasons I mentioned before pasta is a great travel food. You can carry it from place to place in your bag that way if your lucky enough to get access to a stove you already have dinner with you.
It wasn’t until I stopped moving I really gave pasta much thought. After about 10 months on the road, we wound up on an island called Ometepe in southern Nicaragua. It’s made up of two volcanoes, located in Central America’s largest lake. Being on the island is like stepping back in time. You see oxen driven carts rolling down the streets. Chickens, cows and pigs roam free. Small pulperias, your corner stores, provide you with basics like eggs and milk and flour and produce comes around the island to your door on trucks. For more exotic items you have to travel to town or even to the mainland. It’s a lot like what I always imagined it would be like to be Laura Ingalls in “Little House of the Prairie,” which was something that always caught my imagination as a little girl. Along with stepping back in time comes giving up a lot of modern comforts we don’t think about, hot water, paved roads and municipal trash collection.
Once I settled into a house, and stopped moving I realized the bulk of my non-organic trash was pasta wrappers. It took a few months but I eventually decided that I would attempt to make pasta from scratch. Armed with an aluminum pot to mix in and a bottle of wine to function as a rolling pin the first batch failed. But since then I have complete stop buying pasta, not only cutting down my trash but also providing a much tastier meal. Maybe not so quick and easy but infinitely more satisfying.
Join me an exploration of cooking and living outside the box.