The Joy Of Cooking

By Jane Mountain | December 13, 2013

8,008 km so far.

One of the hardest things about our trip is not having access to a kitchen. Stephen and I both love to cook and we both love to be able to eat whatever we can dream up. Our Trangia camp kitchen made a good substitute while we were in Europe, and the meals we made out in the great wide open were some of the most satisfying of the summer.

In China, since we haven’t been camping, we haven’t been cooking. Though some cyclists do it, we’re not very comfortable pulling out our camp stove in our hotel room or the parking lot. Plus, it would hardly be worth it, since restaurant food in China (in rural China at least) is plentiful, inexpensive, and ready in minutes.

So, for two months we’ve been eating restaurant food and I am damn sick of it. But, while we’re staying in our friend’s apartment this week, I get to cook. Hurrah!

Modern Chinese Supermarket

This means I’ve been spending a lot of time in Carrefour, picking out ingredients to make home-cooked meals. I had thought Carrefour, a French grocery chain, would be like many of the international grocery stores in Shanghai: filled with American and European products like peanut butter and Nutella, overpriced, and devoid of the staple Chinese foods you see in markets. I was very happy to discover how wrong I was.

This Carrefour has: big bins filled with exotic teas; a whole section of dried noodles, including a Japanese brand we used to buy in LA all the time, at a fraction of the cost; three aisles of soy sauce – I don’t have any idea which one to buy; about 50 different kinds of mushrooms, fresh and dried; a gorgeous produce section, with all the Chinese veggies I could want; oranges, oranges, and oranges – who knew there were so many different kinds; at least 10 kinds of fresh tofu (costing about 30 cents a package) in all shapes, sizes, and flavours – no, tofu is not always that white jelly-like thing we get at home; big knots of noodles for less than a dollar; and crate-loads of soy milk, walnut milk, oat milk, and almond milk.

There are at least 10 different kinds of tiny dried sea creature to choose from at Carrefour in Shanghai.

There are at least 10 different kinds of tiny dried sea creature to choose from at Carrefour in Shanghai.

The list is almost endless.

So many soy sauce, so little time, Carrefour, Shanghai.

So many soy sauce, so little time, Carrefour, Shanghai.

I’ll say it again. China is such an easy place to be vegan, especially if you learn how to cook.

Side note: If I knew about a veggie market nearby, I would definitely shop there, but so far I haven’t found one.

Since we don’t have access to our pantry of dried goods, the meals we’ve been making have been very simple.

We’ve had: Japanese curry with sauce from a box; Thai green curry with curry paste from a jar; several Chinese noodle soups that I flavoured with ginger, garlic, and chillies; burritos that didn’t taste anything like Mexican food; and pasta with tomato sauce.

Anyone know what this is? At Carrefour in Shanghai.

Anyone know what this is? At Carrefour in Shanghai.

Nothing fancy, but it feels great to sit down to a dish of food in which there are no mystery ingredients! (Aside from the freaky chemicals that are found in vegetables the world over.)

If you don’t know how to cook or you think you don’t have time to do it, give yourself the Christmas gift of learning or prioritising cooking. I promise, there’s nothing like it to improve your health, increase your wealth, and make your tummy happy.  

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Hi, I’m Jane, founder and chief blogger on My Five Acres. I’ve lived in six countries and have camped, biked, trekked, kayaked, and explored in 50! At My Five Acres, our mission is to inspire you to live your most adventurous life and help you to travel more and more mindfully.

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