I was texting a friend recently, making plans to meet up with her in August to go camping together, and she wrote, “I can practice my cast iron pot campfire skills.”

I responded, “Or we can use my perfectly good propane stove. Or my microwave.”

Or my grill.

Or my induction cooktop.

Or my InstaPot.

Or, now, my new favorite toy, my sous vide precision cooker.

And yes, I do think it’s a little crazy that I live in a van and carry more cooking devices than outlets to power them. (Not literally true, by the way, Serenity has plenty of outlets!) But more cooking devices than surface areas to put them, maybe? Certainly more kitchen stuff than room to store it all: over the past year, the kitchen and pantry have gradually crept from the obvious space — the compartments over the stove and the drawers under the microwave — to take up almost the entire wall of compartments on the driver’s side, plus some room under the bed, plus some room in the space over the cab, plus some floor space, too.

No regrets, though. Last night’s dinner was a spicy wild sockeye salmon over brown rice with a salad of arugula, avocado, fresh peas, radish, and cucumber with balsamic.

salmon and salad

Not the greatest picture, but it was dark and rainy, so the light wasn’t great.

The salmon was sous vide cooked at 115 for 30 minutes, which felt a little underdone to me, but tasted incredible. When I was done, I used the warm water from the sous vide pan — completely clean, since the food was cooked in a ziplock bag — to wash the dishes. This morning (and last night, too) there was no smell of fish in the van, despite the fact that rain meant that I’d had to keep the van closed up during the night. YAY!

The recipe I read from the Anova app (where I got the timing and temp) said not to use acidic or chunky ingredients, because they would damage the shape and texture of the fish. I read that and promptly ignored it, putting about a tablespoon of chili garlic sauce into the bag with the fish. It was not as pretty as it might have been if I’d gone with the suggested dill, but wow, it tasted great. Sous vide cooking is supposed to infuse the food with flavor and yeah, it works.

The salmon was on sale at CostCo, which means I’ll be having lots more opportunities to practice my sous vide cooking skills this week, but that’s not a problem. I’m writing this at 9:20 AM and already looking forward to my lunch leftovers. And fortunately, salmon is thin enough to easily fit into Serenity’s freezer.

I do look at that picture and think, “you’re eating sockeye salmon and arugula, no wonder your grocery budget is out of control.” But the salmon cost about $3.50/serving, the arugula probably .50, the other ingredients in total maybe $1.50/serving, which all adds up to a cheaper meal than a Chipotle burrito or a Big Mac meal at McDonald’s. (I had to google the latter — it’s been so long!)

In other news, I’m in Ohio. It’s rainy. I’m starting to wonder if life in Florida and California has just really skewed my perceptions of how often it’s supposed to rain. Maybe the rest of the world really does have rain every day? Campgrounds in PA and OH don’t seem to include water hook-ups with their electric sites — maybe that’s because they think you can just stick a bucket outside and have it fill up overnight? But the grass is very green and pretty, and it’s so hot that the rain feels nice.

Lesson learned this morning, though: if you’re enjoying walking in the rain with the hood of your jacket down, perhaps roll the hood up or tuck it inside the coat to prevent it from filling with water? I wouldn’t call it an unpleasant surprise, exactly, but when I decided I’d had enough of the rain on my head and pulled my hood up, I splashed myself with all the water that had filled the hood while it was down. Ha.

Last night I reread everything I’d written on Grace so far and decided it was all an incoherent mess. Before I threw the whole thing away, though, I decided that maybe I was just tired. Reread it this morning and yep, I was just tired. Whew. For a lot of reasons, what I should really be doing right now is finding myself a place to sit and write without any distractions at all — no family or friends to visit, no beaches to roam, no interesting meals to cook. Actually, “a lot of reasons” boils down to “finances.”

But I’m not going to. The aforementioned friend is a single parent with a real job, and limited time. I’ve got a chance to go camping with her and I’m going to take it. Which means I’m about to embark on an epic cross-country drive to get to Seattle by early August. I might be making poor life choices. But when I run out of savings, maybe I can find a job as a cook. Although if I did that, I suppose I’d have to care about whether the salmon looked as pretty as it would with dill…