There are many reasons why you might go through the difficult task of cooking in your hotel room. You might be a dancer who fears being unable to exercise restraint while repeatedly visiting restaurants that consider the weekly caloric intake of a small African village a reasonable portion for a single American’s meal. Or you might be of the cheap persuasion—after a lifetime of belt-tightening in a less than wealthy family you become unwilling to shell out that much money for dinner and tip every night, despite the fact that you are given a per diem for that express purpose. You are obsessed with saving money, and damn it all, you will bank that per diem.
I once spent eight months singing on a cruise ship. While there I was unable to do any meal preparation myself—we were prohibited from bringing external food onto the ship with us, and any kitchen appliances (regardless of boxer endorsement) would have been confiscated as a fire hazard. The thing I missed most after spending the entire contract eating at the crew mess and the passenger restaurants was cooking my own food.
There’s a profound banality to the act of routine cooking. And when you spend each night in a different hotel room, different city, or different country there can be a great deal of comfort in that kind of pedestrian activity. The hotel room becomes a surrogate home through the act of cooking in it.
But how do you maintain any quality of life when your hotel rooms only occasionally have a mini-fridge or microwave?
There needs to be a certain amount of preparation before you set out on the road to ensure you have the necessary supplies. Much of this stuff is available from dollar stores or the camping section of sporting goods retailers. Exactly what you need will depend on what kinds of foods you want to eat. Failure to prepare will result in the consumption of easy-open cans of cat food. This is not recommended. Unless you are a cat.
- Paring knife (with a plastic cover to prevent accidental stabbings while hauling your bag around)
- Can opener
- Fork or Spork or Knifsporkpatuladle
- Cutting board (as a courtesy to hotels who probably don’t want you butchering chickens on their end tables)
- Seal-able spice containers (or it’s going to be a bland tour)
- Small George Foreman Grill. (Grills endorsed by other boxers are also acceptable, with the notable exception of Mike Tyson’s Grill, which is designed solely for grilling human ears)
- A fold-able cooler
- Dish soap (in a well sealed container unless you want to smell like lemons)
- Some combination of all of these contained in a single tool labelled with Switzerland’s flag
I have travelled with actors who pack a full kitchen into their bag, complete with a sous chef and an industrial bread kneader. A hotplate can be a good idea, but then you need a pot and now you’re talking about a whole lot of extra weight that you have to haul in and out of your room every day. This is a decision you need to make after careful consultation with the spine’s musculoskeletal system.
While not all hotels have a microwave, almost all have a coffee maker, which can be valuable tool in heating up soups. You can also do a pretty decent poached salmon filet. Just don’t use it to try to make Stove Top stuffing. That experiment was a surprisingly disgusting failure.
While not all hotels have bar fridges, almost all have ice-machines and sinks—fill a plastic bag with ice, put it in the sink and you’ve got yourself what me and the missus like to call a sinkfridge. It probably wouldn’t pass health code, but we’re trying to save up to buy a condo, dammit!
Find the nearest grocery store and conduct some experiments. With these tools, and a little ingenuity, you can open up a world of culinary delights. And by world of culinary delights, I mean a whole lot of salads.