The air smelled of pine trees, campfires, and BBQs. It was a sunny afternoon and we were camped at Cultus Lake, relaxing in the shade of a big cedar tree. Our friend John (actually a relative, I’m told, but I can never get these things straight) stuck his head around the corner of the motorhome and said, “Hey! Have you got any chili sauce?” Margaret peered over her sunglasses at him. “Would you prefer Mexican, Thai, Cajun, or Chinese?”
Our motorhome has never been short of interesting spices and condiments. (Or books, but that’s another story.) Margaret can rustle around under the kitchen sink for a few moments and come up with the most amazing and obscure flavourings. When I’m cooking at home and don’t have the proper ingredients, I’ll head out to the driveway, where we park the motorhome, and yes, there I’ll find what I want.
Which is why I was surprised when, one Christmas at Palm Springs as we were getting ready to roast a turkey, Margaret couldn’t find any sage or poultry seasoning. “I’ll use something else,” she said.
Aargh-h-h! Non-traditional stuffing? I couldn’t stand it. (OK. I admit it. I’m not as gastronomically adventurous as she is. I’m not completely inflexible, but there is a proper way to season turkey stuffing.) “Just give me a few minutes,” I said, grabbed a measuring cup, and headed out the door.
I started at the campsite next door and knocked confidently on the trailer door. “Can I borrow a cup of sage?” I asked the Hawaiian-shirted man who opened the door. I explained my dilemma, easing the confused expression on his face a little. After consulting with someone inside, he shook his head and sadly told me they couldn’t help. Well, not everyone on the road cooks like we do. Can’t expect miracles.
On to the next site. The couple sitting under the awning looked curiously at my empty measuring cup. “Sage? Do you have any?” I told my sad tale of the stuffing about to go wrong, the sumptuous but somehow incomplete dinner being prepared as we spoke. No luck. Nice folks, but what? Do all these people eat their turkey dinners at the diner?
It took a little bit of searching and cajoling but finally one woman came out of her gleaming white fifth-wheel trailer, beaming and clutching a bottle of poultry seasoning. “This is mostly sage,” she said. “You can have it. I have two of them.”
I can truly say that the dinner was fabulous and the stuffing was, well, perfect. I also realized that my sage-hunting expedition, while it had something to do with spices and seasoning, had much more to do with meeting our neighbours.
Each inquiry I made with the empty cup in my hand turned into a conversation about us and them, where we had come from and why we loved travelling, introductions to pets, useful hints and suggestions about the area and on-the-road travel, and an invitation to come back and visit. And in the days that followed, during our walks around the park, we had lots of new friends who came up to ask how our dinner turned out and to chat about good times.
Which is why it’s a good idea not to have absolutely everything you need along on your trip.