mirrorshard: (Tarragon)
[personal profile] mirrorshard
Cheers muchly to those who commented on my last post - it was almost universally really helpful.

And now, as they say, for something completely different.

The Bicon accommodation this year provides no useful kitchen equipment or utensils. I'm told they have a "two-ring hob and basic grill", microwave, kettle, toaster, fridge, and freezer. (This is for the standard rooms. Those booking for en-suite get an oven too, and a couple of extra hobs.)

If the hob/grill arrangements are what I think they are, basically you can forget about them for anything other than heating stuff up, and not fast at that. Also, attempting to cook more than one item at once is doomed to either failure, or extreme slowness.

So, having survived multiple conventions, LRP seasons, and other camping-type things on less, here's my guide to eating under those constraints.

Assumptions made here are that you're trying to dash away from something interesting, grab something to eat, and dash back ASAP; and that you don't enjoy cooking-and-eating as relaxation or decompression time. Also, that you're only cooking for one, either because you're there on your own or your schedule & food needs don't coordinate with your partner's. Also, that you're trying to cut down on weight and not carry anything you don't need to. If your circumstances don't match up to those, scale up and add a few extra items.

First off, you're there for four days, and you have access to a fridge. To a close approximation, nothing is going to go off, assuming you're smart and get anything that actually needs refrigeration when you get there instead of carrying it on overheated trains & buses. In that category, you're mostly looking at milk, cheese, and things that would probably squash when packed anyway.

Second, plan on microwave cooking if you can stomach it. One bowl, less packing, less waiting.

Third, do your washing up immediately after you eat, and make sure you know where the things are for next time. If you know & trust the other people sharing your kitchen, this is easier.

Fourth, make sure you know in advance when you're going to eat, and try to stick to it. Remember the 5-3-1 rule. At least five hours of sleep, three meals, and one shower per day.

Fifth, check out the food sources on campus early on and remember what they sell & when. It's student fare, in conference season, so it's going to be crap and overpriced, but it's there.

Packing: you will need the following implements.
1 bowl (large, microwave-safe).
1 spoon.
1 fork.
1 table knife, for spreading butter if nothing else.
(I've been known to substitute chopsticks for the above, but then I tend to keep a pair of chopsticks in my satchel anyway, because they're so very useful.)
1 mug - travel or standard ceramic, whichever you prefer. I've never seen the point of enamel ones.
1 small plate - both for eating from, as a chopping board, and to cover bowls of stuff in the microwave.
A tin-opener - this is extremely important.
A small sharp knife - large ones are useful but optional. A bread knife is a very useful alternative. If you don't have something sharp, however, you'll regret it at some point.
A tea towel or two - both for washing up and for handling hot dishes.
A bottle opener - even if you don't drink things that come in bottles which need opening, other people do and will have forgotten to bring one of their own.

If you plan on cooking for two, you'll need at least one extra bowl (a larger one) and/or a saucepan. If you have extra space, the most useful things you can add to the list are a good kitchen knife, an actual chopping board, a wooden spoon (or equivalent) and a teaspoon. If you're really strapped for space, the absolute minimum is a large mug, a smallish spoon, a tin-opener, and a tea towel.

Be aware that anything you take may be lost or damaged.

Food: obviously, this varies according to your own diet, budget, and prep time at home. Things I've done in the past have varied from a loaf of bread and a few tins of sausages-and-beans to a pile of crusty rolls and small tupperware boxes with pre-sliced chorizo, peppers, carrots, and fruit. Teabags, or equivalent, are also invaluable. Taking a half-dozen microwave-ready meals might seem like an expensive option, but it's still cheaper (and generally both quicker and more likely to fit your requirements) than eating in the cafeteria or ordering in pizza.

Any other comments? What've I left out?

Date: 2008-08-02 01:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] arkady.livejournal.com
I've never seen the point of enamel ones.

Unlike travel or ceramic mugs, you can cook over an open fire or gas stove in an enamel mug. (See also: enamel plates - they make excellent pie dishes or frying pans; enamel bowls - double-duty as a saucepan.)

Date: 2008-08-02 01:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] arkady.livejournal.com
No problem - done my own share of packing light. ;-)

Date: 2008-08-02 08:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ewtikins.livejournal.com
I found my travel mug very useful at Charterhouse where we had two official tea-breaks per day and the mugs provided were tiny. I'd drink cold water at the tea break, and fill my travel mug with hot water and a herbal teabag (both of which were provided, which was nice; hot water should be available most places though and teabags are light), remove the teabag at the end of tea break and drink the actual tea about an hour later when it got to a temperature I could ingest comfortably.

I'm pretty sure if I hadn't done this I would have ended up dehydrated.

A water bottle is also a very, very useful thing to carry, though so standard I wouldn't necessarily include it in a food and drink packing list.

If it's going to be busy there's a lot to be said for labelling your things with your name so they might find your way back to you if lost.

Date: 2008-08-02 11:10 am (UTC)
karen2205: Me with proper sized mug of coffee (Default)
From: [personal profile] karen2205
For BiCon I will probably pack:

* a saucepan suitable for boiling water and cooking pasta
* unbreakable plates/bowls/mugs (that would be microwave safe)
* unbreakable crockery, corkscrew, tin opener, sharp knife, peeler
* a large plastic lunchbox (microwave safe - where it can function as a large bowl) containing a bag of coffee, bag of hot chocolate, bag containing tea bags, some sugar sachets, some breakfast bar type things
* bag of pasta, jar of vegetarian (pref vegan for feeding other people) pasta sauce, pots of fruit, bar of good chocolate, alpro soya dessert pots, flapjack or two,

The food may get left behind in order to save space, I anticipate going to find a supermarket at some point on the Thursday anyway to buy stuff I don't want to carry - yoghurts, milk, cheese, fresh fruit, bread, biscuits, so the aim is to take enough food with me that I could eat a meal on Thursday without finding a supermarket being a necessity. I take coffee/hot chocolate/tea bags with me to avoid having to buy whole jars and then carry them home again. Breakfast bars + dessert pots + fruit pots make reasonable breakfast food.

Date: 2008-08-02 06:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thekumquat.livejournal.com
I will probably follow previous years' solutions, namely buy/bring lots of cereal and milk, apples and bananas and possibly other fruit, a stash of flapjacks/maltloaf/yoghurts/chocolate other snacks that need no preparation, but tend to eat out or order pizza in the evening, seeing as unlike previous years I can actually eat such food.

One crappy saucepan, a plate and a bowl that don't match any of my others, a Swiss army knife and a spork will suffice, plus a ziploc bag of teabags/coffee/hot choc/soy sauce sachets etc. I always have many plastic bottles for water anyway.

Egg noodles only take a couple minutes to cook (and can be microwaved) and have extra protein; spinach can be sprinkled on top of anything being heated in the microwave. Egg noodles, spinach plus soy sauce = decent meal in a couple minutes, no implements required.

Date: 2008-08-02 07:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirabehn.livejournal.com
I had some success at the Towersey Folk Festival with packets of Uncle Ben's instant rice meals things. I can't remember what else we had though.

I try never to go *anywhere* without a bottle of water, also.

Date: 2008-08-03 05:54 pm (UTC)
ext_15802: (Default)
From: [identity profile] megamole.livejournal.com
Maybe you should pack sandwiches with assorted pork products.

Or, as they should be known, Bicon butties.

Date: 2008-08-03 08:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirrorshard.livejournal.com
That was appalling. Congratulations.

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