Necessity is indeed the mother of invention.
The other night, I made brownies that turned out a bit dry. (This high-altitude baking thing is difficult to figure out, especially for someone who has only a moderate interest in baking). Anyways, I figured I could top them with some homemade whipped cream and they’d suddenly be moist and delicious. But I didn’t have metal bowl, a whisk, powered sugar, or vanilla in my hotelpartment, and I didn’t feel like trekking to our community kitchen/laundry room/Marine barbershop. So I put my stainless steel martini shaker in the freezer for 15 minutes. I poured a generous splash of maple syrup into that, and then ice-cold whipping cream. I shook that for literally three minutes and presto bammo! I had maple whipped cream! Had I gone another minute, it would have been maple butter. From a martini shaker – how brilliant is that? I NEEDED whipped cream, and I INVENTED yet another use for a martini shaker, as if a martini shaker isn’t already awesome enough.
I’m also proud to say that I have created a moderately functional kitchen in our hotelpartment. Our living space consists of a sitting room and a bedroom, with a bathroom in each room. No kitchen, not even one of those tiny little ones you get in some studio apartments, whose builders must be planning for a little person to move in because why else would you install a mini-fridge and a single, waist high burner?
Even I found it a bit odd when I unpacked my electric fondue pot from my “must have” luggage that arrived in Yemen a few weeks after I did (Really? I thought a fondue pot was something I couldn’t do without?). But, it has turned out to be one of the most practical things I’ve brought. I heat up soup in it, I saute veggies, and I’ve even made scrambled eggs with peppers, mushrooms, and onions in it. I then transferred that to a waiting pita on my George Foreman grill (second most useful thing I’ve brought) and topped that with plenty of cheese — obvi — and made an amazing breakfast quesedilla. All on the carpeted floor of my hotel room. I will say, when our room service waiter came in our smoke-filled room last night and saw me crouched behind a chair stirring up some sizzling veggies just a few feet beneath a clearly non-working smoke detector, he definitely had a slight look of alarm on his face. But I’m willing to risk whatever reprimand or fire I may incur because I am downright sick of everything on the room service menu, from the Greek salad that tastes like bleach, to the vegetable curry that tastes only slightly less like bleach.
Moral of the story: While I love fancy kitchens, cooking gadgets, and sturdy pots and pans as much as the next cook, all you really need is a hot surface, a martini shaker, and some imagination and you too can turn your kitchenless space — be it a basement, a hotel room, a jail cell — into a gourmet kitchen.
Update: I have since also made incredible use of the steamer attachment that comes on our fancy espresso machine: I put three eggs, a splash of cream, and a dash of salt into the metal steamer cup that came with the machine and steamed the eggs for about 1.5 minutes and made seriously the fluffiest scrambled eggs I’ve ever had. Any other suggestions for how to use the steamer? I wonder if I could steam veggies with it.