Day 31 means I am officially in the 2nd half of my work assignment, and I want to document it consciously.  This trip felt like a two-parter when I first got here (the work assignment, and the vacation) but has become a three-act play; the 30-day mark has become important to me as I feel the effects of being gone so much this year.  Giving it a nod brings relief to my soul, as I increasingly balance the absolute joy and freedom of my special adventure, and the heart-breaking need to come home, nest, and see your faces in a cafe, or next to me on a walk, or across the living room or in one special case, nose-to-nose horizontally.  So here I am, on the first day of part two of the journey.

I realize that I haven’t written much about food on this trip, and the reason is simply that most of it is rather uninspiring.  The fact that I love typical German food means that about 80% of my meals out, and 50% of my meals at home, have consisted of some combination of sausage, sauerkraut, and potatoes.  I am absolutely not complaining, but it’s not usually a blog-worthy culinary experience.

I did think, though, about the way I use my little hotel-room kitchen.

At home I often dream of a spacious, airy kitchen with miles of counter space and every item in its own special, perfect home; a space that begs to be used with joy.  Yet I’m finding that all I really need (at least, for now) can be found in eight square feet: a two-burner induction cooktop; a microwave that gets used for exactly and only two things – “baking” sweet potatoes and sometimes heating coconut milk for my coffee; a half-fridge that teaches me to use it well but not over-stuff it; an overhead cupboard that houses canned foods and food-keepers; a bar sink; two square feet of counter space, shared with a coffeemaker and tray; and an under-sink cabinet that holds one large and one small pot, a frying pan, a few utensils and a set of plain dishes.  Note the absence of a proper stove, which I do miss.  It is the only reason I use a microwave at all.

So despite the tight squeeze, I get to make some pretty good meals for myself.  Tonight’s one-pot meal is sort of a ratatouille with beef: shallots, eggplant, zucchini and tomato sauteed in olive and coconut oils until soft.  Add a pound of ground beef and a small jar of tomato sauce.  Heat through, then cover and simmer for a while.  It’ll taste even better tomorrow as the flavors blend.  This is my main go-to meal since I started these rotations; it’s quick, easy, and as cheap as you want it to be.  I go for quality ingredients, but still it is an affordable and plentiful dish – one batch will feed me for three or four days.

An another note, I bought myself three dollars of comfort last night: my new cafe au lait bowl pictured above.  There’s something about it!  My coffee with coconut milk tasted just a little bit luxurious as I sleepily sat for today’s morning pages in the early morning half-light.

This kitchenette is a great practice in simplicity, in making the most of a space without having to add to it.  I’m enjoying the challenges and fun, smile-inducing just-for-me victories in those eight square feet.