tender chicken

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.

Destination Dinners

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.

inside of kit

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
Cost: $25

Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. katie

    What a fun idea! Although after looking through all the choices, and spending 3 weeks in Israel, none of the choices looked that good to me. I’m hungry for my “normal” recipes! Maybe I’ll check back on the site in a couple of months when I’m finished with my travels :).

  2. postcollegecook

    Those would be a great gift for a foodie.

    Hospitals can be downright depressing. And I agree that cooking can be an escape of sorts. I always feel accomplished when I finish making something in the kitchen – even though I know it will only satisfy my hunger for a number of hours, I feel I’ve accomplished something greater than that.

  3. Laura

    Those kits are gorgeous! I love how neatly everything is arranged. It might be fun and a little more economical to put one (or several) together for someone else.

  4. Jacqui

    yes, yes, yes. food is definitely an escape for me, also. it’s why i dove headfirst into the kitchen after a long week of sick kitties and lost jobs. i hope everything is going well with you, and that your reasons for being at the hospital aren’t too serious.

    that chicken and shrimp look so flavorful! and kudos on using that grill! :)

  5. lo

    We absolutely LOVE jerk.
    The destination dinners concept is a great one — totally would make a great gift.

    I think travel does function as an escape — in fact, I think that even a “staycation” gives us the chance to rediscover hidden places… and be a tourist in our own town. These days, with people cutting back on expenses, a “destination dinner” gives people the chance to escape in yet another way without having to leave home!

  6. rachel

    how neat. I do love me a goood peice of jerk chicken :)

  7. Kim

    How brilliant!

  8. Shannalee

    Katie – I have loved following along on your blog with this current trip! The photos and stories have been fascinating!

    PCC – Right? I immediately thought gift when I saw these and what’s cool is they’re appropriate for cooks and noncooks alike. You are so right about the sense of accomplishment with cooking – maybe it’s because it’s so tangible, when a lot of other things we do all day are more mental.

    Laura – Destination Dinners does a great job with the packaging, no question, and to me, that’s probably one of the biggest appeals. I’d love to see what you’d come up with on your own, too!

    Jacqui – It’s so nice that you understand. And thanks for the empathy about the hospital – it looks like things will be OK, but the whole experience was a little traumatic.

    Lo – Like I e-mailed you, I loved your comment! I think you’d like Alain de Botton’s “The Art of Travel” for its discussion of appreciating the ordinary – totally changed my perspective on daily life.

    Rachel – RIght? so good!

    Kim – I know!

  9. Jennifer

    Cooking is also a getaway for me. Through ingredients new or tried-and-true, I’m transported to a new-found place or one that brings me the most comfort. These kits seem perfect for jet setting around the globe of culinary possibilities. A first-class find!

  10. Shannalee

    Jennifer – I loved your last line about its being a “first-class find.” Nice play on words, friend!

  11. Elizabeth

    I’ve heard of these destination dinners–they sound like so much fun! And such cute packaging!

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  13. Valerie

    I really love the idea!

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