621

When the Going Gets Tough

Most of the time traveling is fun. But sometimes being away from home is really hard.

Like when you’re sick and don’t want to learn about a new place, you just want to lay in bed and watch Modern Family and snuggle with your obese cat, not the skinny cats who eat the garbage around here. But the power is out (like it is every day) and the laptop is dead. That’s when it’s hard. So then you just lay in your bed in your cheap hotel room, sweating and staring at the wall that is painted four colors of blue and has a hose sticking out of the corner, dripping water on the carpet.

Or when you have a Skype date and you spent the extra money on a cell phone plan with the guy in the tiny stall with the dusty cell phone parts and lots of flies who said everything would work once you give him the money. And then he made you feel crazy for double checking that it would work and asking for a receipt. Ha, a receipt! And then of course, it doesn’t work. And that’s the third time this Skype call didn’t work. And the person at home is frustrated. That’s when it’s hard.

When you’ve got your fifty pound backpack on and you explode into tears on a street corner in Kathmandu, even though you’re almost thirty years old, but thirty year olds have shit days, too. And some guy is trying to sell you a wooden flute and you wipe your snotty nose and say, “No thank you,” through your tears and he says, “Very nice flute, make a good and happy price, just for you,” and you clench your jaw and try very, very hard not to scream in his face that you never, ever want his stupid fucking flute for any price. And he just stands there, waiting.

It’s hard when friends are getting married and family members are going to the doctors and there is nothing you can do about it, but just sit there. Maybe write an email or “like” it on Facebook. I Facebook like that you had a baby. Sweet.

The world is big and beautiful and we’re grateful to get to see it, but not having a home can be challenging. Often one of those shit days is followed by an excellent one and all of the details work themselves out. The Skype conversation happens eventually, the flute man finds another tourist to prey on, and I go find a pizza and a beer or a stray cat to play with. I suppose getting homesick is just as much a part of traveling as that moment of excitement when you see a turtle while diving. If you don’t have lows, you won’t have highs.

That being said, I can’t wait for some blueberry pie, a Longtrail IPA and a big group of friends and family when we get home next summer.

595

Instagram Round-Up, Yeehaw!

For folks who don’t follow us on instagram (@bringasnack), we post lots of pics of the in-between, day-to-day sort of stuff. The Frenchman with no pants on, the misspellings on a lunch menu, the sort of stuff that isn’t really blog-worthy, but are still excellent little tid bits of life on the road.

661

Thanks, New Zealand

In the last year I have:

Served as a guest judge in a lamb competition.

Delivered pizzas while loudly singing along to classic rock radio.

Learned a variety of food preservation techniques including fermentation, curing, dehydrating, and jarring.

Relaxed in natural, mud-bottomed hot pools after a seven-hour trek across treacherous swing bridges.

Learned how to make butter, cheese, bread, and whiskey (kind of).

Spent hundreds of hours climbing the schist cliffs around Wanaka and the limestone boulders of Castle Hill.

Failed (twice) to solve very simple problems with our van, which in my defense was of legal drinking age in the US.

Saw the sunrise on Mt. Cook/Aoraki with avalanches falling on peaks around me.

Visited and tasted wines from dozens of little-known-yet-world-class vineyards.

Harvested oysters, mussels, and red snapper from the ocean.

Learned how to skin, gut, and butcher poultry, small game, goats, and pigs for consumption.

Met dozens of new friends from all over the world (England, Australia, Argentina, Germany, France, Chile, Israel, New Zealand…) that I’ll share the rest of my life with. (But don’t worry, old friends, I still love you and miss you all.)

Got engaged to be married to the woman of my dreams.

It’s been a good year.

622

The Day I Yelled “Fuck” in the Middle of Dinner

Kitchen Group Shot-6212

“Here, chug it.”

“We’re chugging wine?”

“Yes. Someone get Alfie. Rikki! Leave the dishes and get over here. Cheers!”

And down the hatch it went. Chugging red wine from paper cups on my last night of work in the kitchen.

Except, holy shit, WTF is that sludge in the bottom of the cup?! Gulp gulp, gulp, tastes like vinegar…. ABORT! ABORT! Definitely vinegar.

“Fuck! What was that!?”

And just when I thought, Was there soy sauce in there? Am I going to barf? an onslaught of condiments came hurtling toward me. Cream pie to the hair, a heavy dusting of cocoa and a shower of oil from squeeze bottles had me cowering in a banana box, yelling expletives while normal people had lovely desserts at Francesca’s Italian Kitchen. Laughing and crying and dripping, I got got. Apparently you aren’t supposed to trust anyone on your last day in the kitchen. I didn’t know that.

 I had an awesome job in Wanaka. I worked with people who helped me make a career change from teacher to chef (though I don’t feel comfortable using that title quite yet). I made friends with four chefs who taught me everything I needed to know. How to use the meat slicer, segment oranges, make sabayon, skin a ham, trim a filet, make pastry cream, plate food and do that little smear of caramel on a dessert plate.

They taught me what its like to work in a kitchen, to use scales and timers, to label things and always be looking at tomorrow. They showed me how to work during those in between moments during service, to prep more lettuce for the next rush, or get the hazelnuts roasting so tomorrow you can just come in and get started on the praline. Or to caramelize apples in the middle of service because people are eating twice as much dessert tonight (they do that when its cold).

I loved learning skills and spending my whole day working with food. In New York, I looked forward to preparing food when I got home from work, but now I get to do that for work. But the thing is, I don’t care too much for stress. And I like eating dinner. Neither of which jive too well with making many other people’s dinner all at the same time. Despite not loving dinner service, I’ll probably wind up doing it in several more restaurants, as it is an awesome arena for learning new skills.

I decided to send my knives home and will pick up an all purpose knife along the way. I’m going to miss the scales, kitchen aid mixer, and easy answers from experienced chefs, but as a going away present, my kitchen fam gave me an awesome travel spice kit so I can still work some magic over the camp stove or in the communal hostel kitchen.

Hopefully our paths will cross again. Maybe next time it will be in front of a pig on a spit at our farm :)

685

Winter Gallery Through a New Lens!

We just upgraded from an iPhone3G to a 4 and have been having so much fun having a phone that takes decent pictures and can load data at a reasonable speed! We’ve also activated an Instagram account for Bring a Snack, so feel free to check us out there. Here are a few pictures from the past week, walking around the lake, some of the dishes I make at Francesca’s Italian Kitchen and downhill skiing at Cardrona and cross country skiing Snow Farm.

628

The Joys of Renewing a US ID Abroad

photoid-7071-edit

Just before we left for New Zealand I happened to notice that my New York State driver’s license would expire in about a year, while we were still planning to be away.

“Oh good,” I thought. “It’s great that I noticed this now, and can take care of it while I’m still home.” I was so naive.

So I told the DMV my license was “lost” and needed a renewal. I filled out some paperwork and happily sent in some fees, and a few weeks later they mailed me back a new ID. Unfortunately, it had the same expiration date as the old one. “Ok, DMV, you win this round.” And in my finest Aaah-nold, “I’ll be back.”

Well, the reckoning is upon me. I looked into renewing by mail from abroad and the steps were intimidating. So then I investigated getting a New Zealand ID, just so I had something to prove I could drive and an official photo identification other than my passport. But, because my NYS license was issued less than two years ago (because I tried to fool the NYS DMV into renewing it early, silly me) they wouldn’t give me an NZ driver’s license. I considered forging some US government documents proving I’d had a license for more than a decade (which is true), but chickened out at the thought of deportation, a treason charge and ending up in Guantanamo Bay.

My only alternative was a bitter pill to swallow. I had no choice but to renew my NY driver’s license by mail from New Zealand. Deep breaths. No reason to panic. Serenity now. After several days of skittering between the library, post office, bank, and office supply store, I believe I have crossed all my t’s and dotted every i. Here’s a snapshot of the nightmare I’ve endured:

  • Print MV-44.pdf and MV-619.pdf.
  • Complete MV-44.
  • Have MV-619 completed by a licensed optometrist or physician.
  • Photocopy passport, old license and credit card.
  • Get a bank check for $80.50 USD (harder than it sounds from abroad).
  • Include a pre-paid (from the USPS), pre-addressed envelope (also harder than it sounds from abroad).
  • Write a letter explaining why I’m renewing from abroad and where I want the renewal sent.
  • Mail it all to Albany.
  • Wait patiently.

And here’s what it’s cost (in NZD):

  • Printing: $3.40
  • Packaging: $1.70
  • Eye exam: $47
  • NYS DMV fee: $103.50
  • Bank Draft fee: $25
  • Postage, NZ to US: $44.50
  • Postage, US to NZ: $12.60

TOTAL: $237.70 NZD, or about 20 hours of work at minimum wage here in New Zealand.

Let this be a lesson to you. And I guess that lesson is, when dealing with the DMV, the game is expensive and rigged against you.

719

Rain

We’ve had cold, nasty, nonstop rain for days. Translation: an excuse to bake bread and drink tea all day. Pistachio biscotti, Will’s rye, Gerard’s vegan pumpkin and a fig loaf from work.

505

A Lovely Day

Autumn in Wanaka is the slow season, which means late starts and more time to hang out at the lake front before work. Laurent from France plays guitar and Eli from Israel is on the home made box drum. No fancy tricks, just a good time on a beautiful afternoon.

257

Our House

Our house it has a crowd/There’s always something happening/And it’s usually quite loud
-CSNY, Our House

Our house on Warren St. is a 3 bedroom house. Last week there were nine of us here. “How do you come to have so many gypsies crashing at your house?” one of my coworkers asked me the other day. Well, it usually happens while hiking or at a hut and goes something like this:

Friendly stranger making conversation: “Where are you living?”

One of us: “Wanaka”

FS: “Oh man, I want to get there at some point.”

Us: “If you are ever in town, shoot us a text and you can stay at our place.”

And then a day or a week or a month later, someone turns up. With a massive pack. Needing a shower and a couch and so excited to bake in an oven. Sometimes they stay for a few nights, sometimes a week, sometimes two.

It might sound strange, having someone stay at your place that you’ve only met for a few minutes, but there is an unspoken understanding that makes it work. Everyone that has come through keeps the kitchen tidy, chips in for toilet paper and laundry detergent and adds warmth to the house. Sometimes they go to bed early, sometimes they’re up until two am, but never in a way that affects anyone else. It is exciting to come home from work at 12:30am and not know what the vibe is going to be. When Nico and Lena from Germany were here, we played games and Nico sang and played Tenacious D on his guitar. When Comi, a veterinarian from France who is hiking the length of New Zealand, was here, he made crepes and mousse au chocolate while we watched movies. There always stories and conversation to be had, but sometimes quiet is necessary and it is an amazing thing when there are 4 people in a room, all reading by the fire. When everyone needs a little book reading and internetting.

 

You never know who is going to be in the kitchen when you wake up, who is making scones or their grandma’s onion tart with caraway seeds. I came home the other night to a Chilean couple making Capiroska cocktails and had a really good conversation with a girl who was a school psychologist in Chile. For the first time in a long time, I spoke with someone who understood my teaching experience in the Bronx. Except that hers was in Chile. Amazing, sparkling kids, massive amounts of paperwork, overcrowded classrooms, hungry stomachs and nine year old sass. I didn’t have to explain anything, she knew. It was awesome.

Nicki from Australia makes art to brighten up the house

When we got to Wanaka, we needed a shower and a home base. A place to relax and not think. Robyn and Stephen, the original tenants of 60 Warren St, opened the doors and were super generous. We learned so much from sharing a space with them, be it about cooking, or finding cheap flights on Air Asia, or British TV series that we’ve carried it on and plan on continuing the trend when we have a place in the states.

Sometimes it is nice to have alone time. Sometimes we take a time off from having people stay over. But having people stay, who are independent and respectful and happy, is a fun change of pace. We used Couch Surfing, a website that provides travelers with free places to stay, when we first got to Auckland and had a great time as travelers, and are enjoying the other end as hosts as well.

 

Who said adults can’t have slumber parties anyway?

 

 

 

 

183

An Unexpected Autumn Adventure

Hitching

Cromwell is 56k south of Wanaka. In The States, we would give it some kitchy name like  The Fruit Bowl or the Wine Belt or something like that. It doesn’t look like much, the hills are pretty brown and the town is basically a big industrial park, but they grow massive amounts of fruit. So last week I took a trip to Cromwell to stock up on fruit and check out some of the vineyards.

My plan was to drive, but when I stopped by the house with the cats (where I often stop for a snuggle), the Cat Dad/our neighbor asked if I was driving or hitching. I decided to make an adventure of the day and hitch a ride. After ten minutes with my thumb out and a makeshift sign in my notebook, I hopped in with a grandpa who had just come from the medical center and had two bandaged knees from a fall that morning. We spent the next 45 minutes chatting about aleuvial soil and bizarre rock formations before parting ways at Aurum vineyard where I sampled Pinot Noir and their delicious White port made from Pinot Gris.

I bopped from Aurum Vineyard on the edge of town to Quartz Reef’s tasting room, located amongst the lumber yards and heavy machinery rental outfitters. I walked into a room full of vats and barrels and quietly slipped into the back of a group tour until a man tells me, “Oops, no, um. This is a private tour. They all work together and this is kind of a good bye party for some of their staff.” Being discreet has never come naturally me.

He kindly led me through a tasting on my own, but after my 5th or so question about how they make their sparkling wine, he brought me back to the private tour so I could get the full explanation of how they get the cork in. I mean really, the whole popping of the cork seems kind of like a one way trajectory, doesn’t it?

$15 bucks in fruit from Webb’s fruit in Cromwell

I stopped at a fruit stand before heading home since that was my “reason” for coming to Cromwell. With a bottle of Pinot Noir and a backpack full of peaches, pears, and apples all labeled “seconds,” I found a ride back to Wanaka.

Once home, I got down to business with my new favorite toy: the food dehydrator. Our friend lent it to us and I wouldn’t recommend this model or brand as it makes an annoying noise (like a hairdryer) and takes forever (6-10hours), but it does result in an exciting final product. Drying peaches took 8 hours, but now we have dried peaches for the winter. I’ve read that the fully dried fruit can be stored in jars, but I left some moisture in mine (think more like dried apples, less like banana chips) so I am concerned they they may mold in jars. One of the chefs at work has a vac pac that he uses for the sous vide machine, so I’m eager to give it a whirl on my fruit. Plastic bags are not the most eco-friendly storage solution, but new toys + possible solution to the problem = let’s give it a whirl!

Ultimately, I’d like to be using a solar dehydrator and find a way of storing the fruit that doesn’t involve plastic bags. But like any project, the second time around is where you improve.

Dried pears, apples, peaches and strawberries are going to be so good in oatmeal when the snow is falling and the fire blazing!

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