Congratulations to Benjamin Krombach for winning the scavenger hunt contest (Jewish Life, June 2007). Benjamin’s prize is a $100 gift certificate to the outstanding Tierra Sur restaurant in sunny Oxnard, California. Housed in the Herzog Winery complex, Tierra Sur is perhaps the finest kosher restaurant on the West Coast. Chef Todd Aarons has expanded his menu to make tasty use of the outdoor wood-burning grill, and there is a “wine tasters lunch” option on the menu if you would like to try some suggested wine and food pairings. Despite being an hour away from LA, Tierra Sur was crowded with folks from our neck of the woods on a recent Sunday lunch excursion. See their website for a schedule of music and entertainment programs at the restaurant throughout the year.

Tierra Sur is a great place to stop and eat on the way back into town from a road trip to the north and an amazing example of how vast our kosher restaurant choices have become around here. It may be hard to imagine, but there are actually still Jewish communities in America with no kosher restaurants. It’s true. Then there are the cities with a kosher pizza place and of course the kosher Chinese restaurant, but nothing else! Children growing up in Los Angeles must think it is standard to have a plethora of dining options. You don’t want pizza tonight? How about Yemenite food? How about cheese fondue? How about sushi? How about steak?

Perhaps this is why people often ask me, when I tell them we’re taking a vacation in the middle of nowhere: But What Do You Eat?

It is entirely possible that some people may be disinclined to visit places in America where there are no kosher restaurants because the prospect of dealing with food and no fully equipped kitchen sounds like too much of a balagan to be a vacation.

If you are staying somewhere for more than a day or two, eating only cold food can get tiresome. So what do you do if you are staying somewhere in the country or by the ocean in Maine or on a lake in California and you need to have more than the kosher family version of the MRE (meals ready to eat)—namely, peanut butter and jelly? You need a burner and you need a pot or two. Whether it’s a burner on your relative’s kitchen stove or a camping burner you bring for just such occasions, it really opens the door for food options if you can heat things up. And you need a refrigerator. (Consult your rabbi about making use of a microwave—which can certainly come in handy.)

Folks with experience preparing their own food on vacation will tell you about a particular cooking item they like to use. One friend said she brings an electric fry pan to cook fish. Another said she takes a barbecue and a cooler of meat and they’re set for meals. My favorite cooking accessory is a crock-pot, especially for Shabbos away from home.

With regard to food, you really need to work out your menu in advance; the farther you are from a kosher market, the more menu planning you need to do. Otherwise, you’ll spend an inordinate amount of time driving around and grocery shopping, and that’s no fun on a vacation. So get a big cooler if you’ll need to schlep the meat a long way, and stock up on beef for cholent, cut up chicken, shnitzel, ground beef, hotdogs, kishka, and gefilte fish. Start with meat for however many Shabboses you need to cover, then plan for a couple fleishig meals a week. Make sure you have the means to cook whatever you are buying. That is to say, don’t buy a whole chicken to roast if you don’t have access to a kosher oven. If you are going to be cooking in a non-kosher oven, make sure to have enough aluminum tins and aluminum foil to double wrap your food. Cut up chicken is easy because you can just pour sauce on it, wrap it up, and cook it.

You can cook everything on a burner if you have to. In fact, I just heard a report that someone made Shabbos for a family of seven with one pot while on a camping trip in Alaska. You heard me. One pot. Chicken, yes. Potatoes, yes. Veggies, yes. Challah? If you don’t bring challah with you, then you can usually find kosher pita or matzah at any major grocery store. And don’t forget the grape juice.

With only a pot and a frying pan you can make just about anything. And even in the middle of nowhere, you can still put together spaghetti and sauce (use the small cans of Hunt’s tomato sauce), vegetable omelet, bagels and cream cheese, rice with stir-fried vegetables. Think outside the tuna can.

You may not have a sister who lives on a farm and has a bounty of fresh peas, kohlrabi, cucumbers, summer squash, green beans, and corn for you (like I do, B”H), but if your vacation is somewhere in the country, there are probably farm stands around where you can find beautiful fruits and vegetables to enjoy.

Whether it’s Chol Hamoed Sukkos or winter break, or next summer, please consider a few pots, a cooler full of meat, maybe a little burner and a good time somewhere out there. May it be a year of blessings, simchas, and appreciation for Hashem’s Creations.