When my husband and I were first married, traveling around the world and fantasizing about how we could keep it up (ha, ha if we had only known…), we used to imagine one day having a small house somewhere (well, in Austin, obviously) and that house would be filled with all sorts of little objects from our adventures. While we try not to get too weighed down with odds and ends, we have, little by little, managed to get a small collection going of things from around the world. Many of these items are treasures we have picked up here and there, but others are small, simple gifts from friends back home. The Welsh love spoon we received from a Welsh friend in Japan when we were married, the Latvian spoon carved from a single piece of wood, the wrought iron flower with orange glass handmade by a friend in Austin, a stone box I picked up in Morocco on my very first trip to Africa 15 years ago and even the now grimy (from hanging in our window in Santo Domingo) beaded Christmas ornament that one of my best friends gave me at some point…I don’t even know when.
They’re just things, but I love the little reminders of friends near and far. These little trinkets can really make the long line of houses feel more like home. I like knowing that, while our friends might not realize it, someone (i.e. me) halfway across the world is thinking of them.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about the other things we pick-up along the way. The intangibles. Because it’s not just the little objects we gather, but the habits of others as well. If there is one definite about this nomadic lifestyle it’s the extreme flexibility that begins to permeate every corner of your life. You might think one thing today, but then you meet someone new, or see something you’ve never seen before, or hear an unfamiliar sound or taste an exotic concoction and you think, “Well, that’s new!” And, then you start to do things just a bit differently.
In Santo Domingo, I ate lunch everyday with these ladies. They had a wonderful habit of taking bits of various leftover lunches from home and the office fridge and translating it into a feast. Even now, I can easily call to mind our big metal salad bowl with the remnants of a few heads of lettuce, a couple of nice tomatoes and maybe someone’s leftover green beans tossed with a dash of oil and vinegar.
Prior to Santo Domingo, I rarely, if ever, ate leftovers. I made huge dinners only to let them go to waste in the fridge. I regularly bought produce that I never prepared. I think it’s safe to say, admittedly, that I would throw out a bruised banana, a dented apple or a mushy grape without even a second thought.
I now look in the fridge, see one carrot, a bit of leftover rice, half a can of chick peas and two tablespoons of tomato paste and can immediately translate that into some really yummy dinner. We’re still here without a car and although people are really helpful and ready to give rides to the market, being able to see the pantry as half full has been a wonderful gift. I’m regularly reminded of my dear friends in Santo Domingo. Do they know my life was touched by their habit to waste not? Would they think it silly that it meant so much to me?
It’s like this, in life in general and specifically in the Foreign Service, that we collect our blessings. In small doses, a trinket here, a smooth, sand-washed stone from a distant beach there, a blurry snapshot taken from a whizzing bus window, a brand new way to use those last few shakes from the spice jar. And in the end, we find ourselves quite full and warm and at home.
Here’s a little something I enjoy making from the last odds and ends. This is a super-healthy, wonderful, quick and easy school lunch treat.
Mini Lunch Box Quiches
• A small amount of stale bread (I usually use the last of a two-day old baguette)
• A bit of veggies – broccoli that is just about to get rubbery is a good one or chopped potatoes left over from a previous meal or a tomato with just one small bad spot.
• Eggs – one egg per muffin tin slot
• Cheese – the very last of some shredded cheese is great, or the last couple bites of feta, or that two inch piece of Camembert that you decided against eating because one more bite would constitute a meal, not a snack
What to do:
- Grease a muffin tin with butter.
- Put a small piece of bread in each slot in the muffin tin.
- Precook your veggies however you like (if they’re not cooked already). Chop them up and put about a tablespoon in each muffin tin slot.
- Add a bit of cheese to eat muffin tin slot.
- Whisk the eggs in a bowl (I use a large, glass measuring cup because I can pour easily from it into the muffin tins). Each muffin tin slot will have about one egg.
- Pour egg into each slot.
- Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes or until set.