Saturday afternoon, I went to Jamaica, from the comfort of my own back patio. I didn’t need a plane ticket or a passport, and there were no hotel costs involved. Instead, after preparing a chicken marinade the previous night—a puree of spices, oil, chopped garlic, minced onion and diced jalapenos that made my hands burn (wear gloves, friends, anytime you touch the inside of jalapenos!), I stood over a white-hot grill and cooked an authentic Jamaican jerk barbecue, a little faster than was recommended but with excellent, tender, flavorful results.
The meal was the result of a recipe kit sent to me by Destination Dinners, a California company that specializes in making international cooking attainable and educational. Packaged in a pretty red box reminiscent of a Chinese takeout container, my kit came with a recipe, a shopping list, background information on my destination and, importantly, all the dry ingredients and extra supplies I would need, from spices to plastic gloves (yes, that I didn’t notice until after I’d created burning jalapeno hands) and a Ziploc baggie for the marinade.
Met with rave reviews, the entire delicious meal was gone by Monday, which, by the way, was the day I’d end up spending time visiting the hospital, where I’d walk through halls of dim rooms, patients illuminated by glowing television screens, regulation blankets piled high on their thin gowns, the string-tied ones that open in the back. And when I’d catch someone’s gaze, accidentally, I’d first imagine that person walking strong and healthy, far from beeping monitors and blinking screens, how different and right; then imagine instead myself in the bed, unable to leave, alone. I’d be thinking how hospitals are maybe my least favorite places and how, if I were a patient in one, I’d want to be anywhere but there.
You know, I wonder if maybe another reason people travel—beyond wanting to broaden perspectives or even change themselves—is because, sometimes, they want to escape, like I did in the hospital, from their cubicle or their neighborhood or their routine. Maybe that’s also why they cook—at least, I know it’s part of why I do. Assembling ingredients, particularly new ones, is part adventure and part escape—a way to explore without leaving your kitchen, to be exciting without blowing your bank account.
It’s also a way to stop thinking about your job or your long to-do list or the growing stack of papers in your filing bin, focusing instead on accomplishing something fun, creative and, potentially, delicious.
With these easy-to-use kits catering to both long-time foodies and those intimidated by all things culinary, getting away from it all, food-wise, is simpler than ever.
Destination Dinners: Jamaica Jerk Barbecue kit