Saturday, January 17, 2009

Eating in Canberra

The beautiful leafy-green ANU Campus.

As I alluded to in my last post, my cooking situation here leaves something to be desired. I received a grant to come here, which covers room and board at one of the colleges (dorms) on the ANU campus. When I told the grant-givers that I am vegan, they made sure to book me a self-catering college. The president of the organisation picked me up from the bus station and gave me a pile of groceries and some basic cooking utensils. She’s been really fantastic.

But, regardless of how accommodating the grant-givers are, the fact is that I am stuck in a kitchen where I am provided with one small cabinet and one refrigerator drawer. That, plus stoves, ovens, microwaves and toasters is all that is provided by the college. Since I’m only here for three weeks, it’s not worth going out and stocking up on everything I would like to have. So I’ve been eating some very basic meals.

The kitchen set up here in my college.

It hasn’t been all bad. One day I went out for lunch with a friend and I got the special of the day—minus the ham and the cheese. It’s a deliciously thin and chewy pizza base topped with tomato sauce, sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, basil, and Spanish onions. I usually shy away from onions on pizza, but these were really yummy.

So here’s a question—if you had one saucepan, one skillet, a can opener, a knife and chopping board as your only cooking tools, what would you buy to stock your kitchen?

The first batch of groceries provided by the organisation was good but basic—sweet potatoes, apples, broccoli, soy milk, muesli, chickpeas, lentils, pasta, tahini, peanut butter and bread.

The next day I went out and got some oil, onions, garlic, soy sauce, tomato puree, and carrots. And that’s all I had for the next few days. I dreaded dinnertime because I had nothing with any flavour.

On Thursday I finally got out to a better supermarket and stocked up on a few more items. Fresh seaweed salad and soba noodles from an asian grocery were first. Then I got some Amy’s Lentil Soup, bananas, reduced-to-clear soy yogurt, tempeh, rice, veggie sausages, and a few other treats. To add some much needed flavour to my meals, I grabbed some dukkah—a bit expensive, but well worth it, in my opinion.

I also grabbed a pack of these vegan, gluten free biscuits. They are filled with jam and cream, and are delicious.

And for a last little treat, since I’m working hard here (most of the time), some of my favourite chocolate.

I’m happy with the way my mini-pantry is stocked now, but I’m curious what you all would fill your one cabinet and one fridge drawer with!


Nicole ( said...

I'd say you are pretty well stocked! I like to stock up on grapes, yogurt, granola, cereal, apples, sweet potatoes, almond milk, soy sauce, ketchup, veggie burgers and clif bars!

VeggieGirl said...

Fun and delish!!

Gina said...

Whew, that is not a lot of resources. Have you read River's blog? One of her most recent blog posts was about cooking on the road, kind of similar. Sounds like they're at least trying and getting you fresh stuff!!

The pizza looks yummy, I LOVE onions on pizza, haha.

Cindy said...

Looks like you're doing well so far! I was in a similar situation a couple of years ago (also a visiting-grad-student kinda situation)... along with my weekly fruit-and-veg shop I think I relied on canned beans and tomatoes for making burrito-like things, also curry pastes. Buying good salt and pepper after the first week made a world of difference - your dukkah is a brilliant idea!

Emmie said...

I'd buy hummus, lettuce, carrots, grapes, tomatoes, bell peppers, apples, oranges and bread. With that I'd be pretty much set. Sure I'd have to eat nothing but snacks and sandwiches but I could make it by for three weeks with that. Maybe..

Sarah said...


Last summer I was in a very similar situation taking an intensive language course for a few weeks I wasn't vegan or veg then, so if I were to do it over again I would have to have (among other things) herb de provence, marinated artichoke hearts, crystalized ginger.

Hang in there, you'll be back to your regular place before you know it!

a vegan about town said...

I would get some dried chilli flakes! Or some actually chillies, but flakes are easier to add to everything.

Amira said...

looks like your stocked up nicely! Oh i love Green & black's chocolate so yummy! I think i tried this flavor before but i forget i mostly have the 70%
Oh and thanks heaps for that sunflower seed butter dressing idea, i don't own Lo Dolce Vegan but i've gotten it from the library before so i'll be putting a hold on it a.s.a.p that just sounds soo goodd!
have a great night

Vegetation said...

I'm not much help in the way of meal ideas beyond beans and rice and pasta. I do know there's a Supabarn in the city (I still mourn the loss of Supabarn) and they have a relatively okay selection of veg friendly foods (or at least they did when I left).

There's a food co-op attatched to the Uni as well, I never managed to get there when it was open but maybe someone on campus can tell you when it is? They might have a few things and are just across the road so at least in walking distance.

I'm sure you'll be super glad to get back to your kitchen when you get there!

Soja said...

Sure you'll do fine - and love your own kitchen when you get back. When I'm travelling I tend to skip the veggie burger/sausage options and go for either sandwiches stuffed with hummus, peanut butter (peanut butter doesn't need fridge space!) and salad or quick cook noodles and veggies and nuts. I spent a month or so at the end of a year in Lima with just a microwave and kettle - spicy noodle and veggie satay (peanut butter) broth got me through! I travel light....but I always travel with a full pepper mill. ;-) Hope the work is going well.

ŀĀŘ¡ŝ∫Á said...

frozen veggies, fruit...a pretty basic solution for pizza is a pita bread with tomato sauce and veggies, I am in a similar situation in a mini kitchen and with like 2 pans,a shared tiny fridge , a microwave and a blender

Maureen @ madaboutudon said...

Hmmm... how about stuff for a grilled cheese sandwich? A loaf of bread, some veggie cheese slices, ketchup, and tomatoes = lunches for the week! Those don't seem to take up much space.

have you read Bill Bryson's "In a Sunburnt Country"? He makes some funny observations about Canberra, LOL.

The Vegan Snorkeler said...

The ANU campus looks very green and pretty. There's some simple microwave recipes in Vegan A Go Go that came from one of the other Sarah Kramer books. Microwave apple crisp, banana oatmeal chocolate chip bars, curried chickpea potato soup. Pretty simple ingredients too.

DJ said...

To be honest I can't leave any constructive advice. For three weeks in that kind of kitchen set-up I would happily live on hot and sour soup, noodles with veggies and hoisin sauce and veggie rice. The occasional sausage sandwich if I was feeling extravagant but that's about it. Maybe a 3-ingredient curry with couscous or quinoa instead of rice? (as you can cook it via soaking in hot water/stock). Plenty of fruit obviously, and choccie treats - tick!