It is with no small ounce of pride that I announce that during our entire 12-day New England-Canada fall trek, we ate only once in the type of establishment that served my kids their drinks in plastic cups with lids and straws. (It was vacation, friends. We saved up for this!) And even that was when we were going for the local Boston pizza experience, so I’d thank you not to regard that as failure.
Otherwise, my nine- and four-year-olds drank mostly out of glass goblets, placed in front of them by unblinking wait staff. My preschooler didn’t miss a beat in toppling her milk glass on the white tablecloth during our first breakfast outing, but thankfully other meals passed without similar incidents.
Still, I’m sure you can imagine that meal after meal of vigilantly guarding the glass glass can distract a parent from actually tasting his or her entrée.
And so it was that, when halfway through our trip we checked into a Montréal hotel suite equipped with a full — if tiny and ill-equipped — kitchen, I couldn’t help but have visions of rolling up my sweater sleeves and whipping up a little something.
The first night we roamed the streets in search of a suitable dinner. I posed the sheepish suggestion that we grab something from the market and actually use our kitchenette. It was late, blood sugar levels had long ago plummeted, and the something we grabbed – after considering prêt-a-manger offerings like lasagna and the salad bar – were a couple boxes of soup.
Some square, whole-wheat pizza cracker crusts (ultra-thin, crispy and indigenous to these parts), feta and a block of brick, a small jar of tomato sauce and a bundle of fresh mint later, we had a respectable dinner.
But what really got me going was our visit the following day to the Marché Atwater and its stand after stand of produce fresh from Québec farms and its fish market ready with steaks and filets and things still alive and in their shells.
Now, many of you inhabit cities with impressive markets featuring a bounty of the seasonal and perishable. We live in a city (Phoenix) that has a couple of outdoor locations with booths and tents and the like, and vendors within selling their wares, and we call them farmers’ markets. But, frankly, they don’t quite qualify. Sure, there are a couple of regular farmers peddling their organic harvest, but they are outnumbered by people selling things like soap and candles and lawn ornaments. Not that soap and candles and lawn ornaments are unworthy things, but when I hit a farmers’ market, I want the bounty.
So here we were in Montréal with all the makings of a glorious home-cooked meal, albeit away from home, right under our noses, and I had a kitchen ready at my disposal. I was ready to go for it, to make do with the less than sharp knives, with pots and pans the wrong shapes and sizes. Emmy practically beat me to the idea, enthusiastically suggesting that, “Mom, you could cook dinner for us! In our hotel!” (How nice to be the object of such faith.)
And so cook I did, after procuring some fresh trout and prawns, a proper lemon, as well as some couscous and fresh peas to toss with the leftover feta and mint. I even used the prior-mentioned pizza crust to fashion an appetizer with some Port Salut from a days-ago picnic.
As much as we adore traveling, and dining out, and the combination of the two, there is nevertheless comfort in offering a simply prepared meal, using ingredients of everyone’s choosing, to my little family.
Even if the hotel cupboards only contained glass glasses.