Hostel Culinary Master Class

Traveling the world and staying in hostels you become witness to all sorts of activities and people, some good some bad and some just unbelievable. The best way to describe it to someone who may never have stayed in a hostel is kind of like going to university and moving into halls of residence or moving out of home for the first time and in with your friends. There is a great deal of experimentation and lots of honing of life’s basic skills.

Now I use the phrase ‘life’s basic skills’ very loosely. When I went to University I had a pretty good grasp on life skills; cooking, cleaning, washing, making my bed, food shopping which I have to thank my mum for as well as various part time jobs. I met some folks who may not have been so blessed, including someone on my first day asking how to work a microwave, I did not even have a microwave in my family home but I still knew how to press start!!! But its ok we were starting out on a new path and most folks picked up skills and learned in a safe environment around other like minded students.

Now, one would think that if you’re heading off traveling out of your country, out of your comfort zone and into foreign lands and cultures, with very different ways of life you would equip yourself with the necessary skills to survive….you would think, right?!

Well now let me tell you we have seen some horror shows when it comes to how some of these travelers survive with their culinary skills! You would think that parents would make sure their children, who are setting off to travel the world at least have some basic cooking skills but no, they buy them the Lonely Planet guide to “Asia on a Shoestring”.  Let me tell you, paper and shoestring are not going to feed you! And I use the word children but I observe the bracket for failure in this particular life skills ranges from 18 up to 45.

Simply put we have seen some atrocities in the kitchen, to be fair not everyone likes cooking and not everyone may be good at it but there is a line.  Below are my top three favourite moments in the Hostel culinary world that has had me in amazement or hysterics! In reverse order

3. The Israeli (mid twenties) – He pan fried a frozen breaded chicken breast with no oil in a frying pan (he lost 85% of the breadcrumbs to sticking) and then served it up with a side salad in which he chopped up very large chunks of Tomato and large chunks of raw white onion! Delicious…..needless to say he and his traveling partner did not each much, I think the chicken was still frozen in the middle.

2. The Frenchman (late twenties) – for dinner he made fried eggs with ham thrown in, not bad right!? For Breakfast he made fried eggs with ham thrown in!! For lunch, can you guess? That’s right fried eggs with ham thrown in!

1. Five Europeans (early twenties, 2 girls, 3 guys) – After having to wait for the Asians to finish in the kitchen, about 7 of them and their 2 friends who were videoing their every peel and slice, I got in.  Once the Asians were done filming/cooking I entered the kitchen with the Europeans behind me.  At first I was not conscious of what they were doing; I just set up to cook our dinner. After a couple of minutes I zoned into their conversation; they were debating how much and how long to cook their meal for, what do you think were the ingredients they had at that point? ….they had two shop brand packs of spaghetti and a shop brand tomato sauce! I chuckled to myself as I watched 5 people debate how to cook spaghetti with tomato sauce! It gets better though; one of the guys said that he would leave them to it and do the washing up as there were too many people in the kitchen, sensible but also a sense of defeat at the challenge ahead!

You would think this whole scenario was brief but the process took about 40 minutes to conclude. Highly amused and shocked by this whole affair I would step out and keep Steph up to date on what was happening in Kitchen land! Now don’t get me wrong I feel bad as I could have stepped in and helped the hapless group and teach them a couple of skills, but it was too amusing!

So the scene continues, now they have decided to use two of the smallest pans they could find to cook the pasta and a frying pan for the sauce, even if you can’t cook surely you must be able to estimate size!! Next thing I hear is that one of the guys has discovered the shelf where folks leave food items they no longer need or want to help out the fellow traveler, this is all well and good but this particular fellow suggested they take the plate with the now cold cooked pasta to add to their feast! That’s right someone left a plate of cooked pasta uncovered for someone to use (If I had seen the chef of said pasta his actions may have gotten him on this list) it may or may not have been cooked in the last 24hrs who knows!

Anyway thankfully the pasta stayed put, but however they did find a pack of hard shell Taco’s, they were added to the menu! At the end of 40 minutes the group sat down to there feast on Spaghetti and Tomato sauce with Taco shells (the cuisine I believe is called Mex-It, watch this space)! When I finished I walked past their table with our Chicken and Vegetable Masala, a few heads turned in envy!

These are just a fraction of the stories from the kitchen as we have traveled, highly amusing and somewhat scary, this last group especially, how did so many clearly inept ‘cooks’ make it out of their house let alone country, and more importantly how did they even manage to fill out the forms for a passport!!!! More to come on these culinary delights I am sure as we aim for Asia, there’s noodles to contend with there that’s Michelin star rate cooking!