I’m back traveling out of town again for gigs. In fact, this is my third production since “the Great Pause,” or whatever you’d like to call the effects of the pandemic on our industry. (And it’s not over yet – especially validated by the four COVID tests I took last week for work, thankfully all negative.)
Anyway, several years ago I wrote a post on Creature Comforts on the Road, and I figured I’d do a little update. I usually travel by car to gigs, and can splurge with how many items I take. This time around, I flew, which certainly curtailed my style. That said, I figured this post could concentrate on what helps make my housing kitchen a bit more useful in my eyes.
Above is pictured a selection of items that are currently in the kitchen at housing, which weren’t here before I got here.
Plastic Storage Items
Along the left and top of the picture are plastic storage items. If I drive, I have nesting glass-bottomed containers that I prefer, as well as a mixing bowl substitute that fits around them, but I didn’t want that weight or space on the plane. I almost always buy the deli meat that comes in a plastic tub when I’m out of town, to start a small stock if there isn’t one in housing. And I’m likely to leave it there for the next person. Last week I found some delicious gelato in a plastic reusable container, so I can see that holding some soup I’ll make tomorrow. I’m currently finishing up some Thai food and those two round containers will also be great for a sandwich and some carrots along side, etc.
I’ve really gotten into powdered drink mixes, to try to curb my Mountain Dew addicition. I prefer the pitcher packs so there’s less individual waste…but there are some issues when traveling. It’s not very common to have a drink pitcher in housing, but it is common to find plastic orange juice containers. So, I spend the first week drinking lovely orange juice, and then I can mix up at least half a pitcher pack and put it in there when I’ve cleaned it out. You’ll notice I have my own collapsible measuring cups in the photo – one pitcher pack is 8 cups of water. It doesn’t quite all fit in one, but a rinsed out Mountain Dew bottle (also pictured) can hold the last of it. I mix up roughly half of the package at a time in a different container, measuring it out. As a bonus, the tube that the pitcher comes in can be upcycled in a couple ways. I line the interior of one with a piece of felt as a sunglasses protector in my bag. They also make good pencil and Sharpie storage, with or without the lid.
Other Kitchen Items
Okay, I’m going to throw in my Amazon Associate links here, just in case you get tempted to buy some of these for your own. I could earn a small fee if you do (or even click it first, but then buy something else), but it’s not my soul reason for writing the post.
Measuring Utensils – As mentioned, I do travel with some collapsible measuring cups, as well as measuring spoons. I like that mine are easily identifiable as mine, too, due to size, color and shape. And even if there are some provided, it’s always nice to have an extra set.
Sharp Knife – pictured is my one nice large kitchen knife, which has a sharpener in the blade cover. I also travel with one smaller knife too usually. Never count on the one provided being sharp (and sometimes I can leave the housing one in better condition for the next person).
Cutting Board – I like to carry a thin but large surface area cutting board. The set I have has 4 colors and two sizes, and the smaller size is great for a day hike with cheese and crackers. Having a brightly colored one reminds you to pack it when the gig is over, too. I had a very artisticly rainbow-colored one in the past, but I have now lived and learned to purchase on that is dishwasher friendly!
Drink Koozie – One of these will keep your cool things cold longer, of course. I also know that one fits very nicely around my point-and-shoot camera for protection of the back display.
Wine Aerator – This is one of the BEST things I travel with. It can make the most cost-efficient bottles (or box/bags!) of red wine taste so much smoother. I shared a bottle with the assistant stage manager the other night and we did before and after taste tests. It’s totally worth the space it takes up for the improvement factor, and currently is listed as just $10. Highly recommend to take camping too. It does make silly sounds when you use it, but that makes it more fun.
Spices from Home – I hate the expense and bulk of buying new spices in each new city, especially for my favorite recipes. Years ago I found this screw off set at the Dollar Store – but it’s not sold as such an item. I haven’t been able to find them at the same store recently, but here’s the closest on Amazon…it’s technically a Weekly Pill Organizer! I’ve lost my second set sometime during the pandemic, so may have to get another myself. I really liked a generic “herb and garlic” mix for years, as it could go on anything, but I’ve recently begun traveling with Penzey Spices Trial Bags. I foresee changing out to some of these soon. (No bonus for the shout out to them, I just really like their spices and their politics. You can also find some great deals frequently.) I do also have a couple other small containers I brought with me, like a dill pickle popcorn seasoning mix I made.*
A few other things not pictured
I have a sewn bag of fabric with an overlap…which is a microwave popcorn bag! My mother knows me well, and made mine with Sesame Street characters on the outside.
Ask around if there’s an item you didn’t bring but you’d love to have. I’m currently borrowing a barely-used Instant Pot, for instance, from a local co-worker.
Because it’s an Equity LORT contract, I knew there would be some things already provided. One somewhat unthought-of one is a strainer/colander. You wouldn’t believe how handy those are to have, so I found a collapsible one at a thrift store, which I take on my opera gigs in particular. I also know they’ll provide salt and pepper, but I have old-school film canister versions (who is old enough to remember film?) for non-Equity gigs. Here’s something kind of similar though. For reference, here are the two paragraphs about kitchen specifics in the LORT contract, many of which I do bring on an opera or ballet gig:
The following shall be the minimum kitchen equipment supplied in each Actor’s housing: pots and pans with lids, cooking utensils, silverware for four, not fewer than four plates, cups and glasses, can opener, kitchen knives and colander. Where housekeeping is not provided, a broom and dustpan as well as a mop and pail shall be furnished. If the housing contains a microwave oven, microwave-safe accessories shall also be furnished.
Theatre shall provide an initial set-up of the following items in Actor’s housing prior to Actor’s arrival: toilet paper, paper towels, hand soap, dish soap, salt & pepper, sugar, coffee, tea, garbage bags, and sponge. [Note, it says “initial setup” – that can mean one or two days’ worth, or ONE roll of toilet paper, but for those that drink coffee, you can at least wake up the first day to it. Definitely has been handy to have the dish soap and sponge included – I had almost packed my own. Yes, these are all things I could buy, but also things I don’t tend to use in full before finishing a job.]
Like I said, if I travel by car, I may add several more items, but these are the essentials I chose this time around, and so far [three weeks in] I’m pretty pleased with my choices.
What do you bring?
For those of you that work out of town, too, what are some other kitchen items you bring?
*Dill Pickle Popcorn Seasoning
I can’t remember where I found this recipe online, but it’s a fun and different one.
2 tablespoons dill weed
1 tablespoon sugar
1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
1 ½ teaspoons ascorbic acid powder (Vitamin C, found with health supplements)
1 tablespoon salt (optional – I don’t add it)