Thursday, December 28, 2006

Our Year End Food Challenge

Odel and I love to eat, and we're kinda' picky about it. Even with our limited space, we carry plenty of food and wine along with us, and eat at home most of the time (except in Louisiana or Mexico, where a street vendor or corner dive frequently has such delicious and inexpensive food it would be criminal to miss it).

Today we stocked up for one of the biggest food challenges in our annual travels: the Boomers New Year's Eve rendezvous in the California desert, 15 miles or so from Yuma, Arizona, the closest town. Of course, there are grocery stores in Yuma, but we try to avoid that trip - they are JAMMED this time of year. Crafting the shopping list for this event taxes my brain. Why?

We will be camped in the desert for five days to a week. There are no hookups of any kind, and only as much water as we can carry - 100 gallons of fresh water for showers, shaving, toothbrushing, dishwashing, cooking, and toilet flushing needs to last up to a week.

With only the water we can carry, minimal food preparation and cleanup is GOOD; dirty dishes, vegetable washing, and cleanup of juicy/messy/sticky stuff is BAD.

Since we need to generate our own power, using the microwave, convection oven or crockpot (my personal favorite cooking gadget) is generally BAD; using the stovetop or propane oven is GOOD.

Because the garbage truck doesn't stop by - ever - excess packaging and inedible bits are BAD; large volume containers and waste-free portions are GOOD.

And remember, we are gathering with a big group - that means potlucks, the daily 4 pm happy hour, spontaneous socializing, and a big New Year's Eve party - so menu planning isn't only "dinner for two".

We've just finished up our shopping, and every bit of food storage space is bulging. Since we still have plenty of water and a convenient dumpster here at Catalina State Park, I have prepped and pre-cooked while Odel has hauled out sack after sack of discards: the tops and skin of a fresh pineapple, the inedible parts of the broccoli stocks, celery tops, butternut squash peel and seeds.

The freezer is packed with my favorite homemade chili, Trader Joe's roasted vegetable lasagna and chicken enchiladas; the refrigerator is full of the vegetables I have already washed, cleaned and chopped, along with yummy cheeses, juicy Cara Cara oranges and all the usual staples. The dry bar is bursting with wine, margarita makings, chips, nuts, crackers. Hidden under the bed are extra paper plates, hot cups, and plastic wine glasses - this is the one time of year we submerge our environmental consciousness to stretch our water to the last possible day.

So that's it… the last of our grocery shopping for 2006. Let's eat!

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