Last Saturday, Dave and I bought our one-way tickets from Boston to Prague and reserved a space for Smudge on the plane. It's official! On...Read More
Hello From Prague
We made it!
There’s been far too much happening—some fun, some super annoying, some utterly confusing—for me to process it all in a way that will allow me to explain it clearly. After that first day on April 15 of jetlag, sleep deprivation, and glee mixed with extreme apprehension, the past 11 days have been a jumble of metro rides to IKEA, realizing I left my Kindle on the plane, being reunited with my Kindle at the Prague airport lost & found, visiting every grocery store within a 20-minute walk, exploring online grocery shopping, a busted dishwasher and broken kitchen water pipe, coffee with friends (Hi, Nina!), tea with friends (Hi, Bethany!), walks in the sun, pouting at the rain, paleo dinners at home, beer on the riverbank, Nutella on bananas, and collapsing on our blessedly comfortable couch in wonder.
Rather than trying to tell you the whole story just now, I thought I’d share a few photos of things I’ve eaten since we arrived (not shown, the bread with pork cracklin’ spread, the schnitzel, or the shot(s) of Becherovka) as well as some updates from my new kitchen. My cooking space isn’t entirely set up yet, but it does have a stick blender, which, naturally, I purchased on my first shopping trip. So far, I’ve managed homemade mayo, Silky Gingered Zucchini Soup, tuna salad, baked chicken thighs, omelets, and Chocolate Chili. Meatballs are up next because I just got a new delivery of spices.
Some food I ate in restaurants…
Steak tartar and pommes frites at the Café Savoy.
Salmon, beet salad, and gluten-free cocoa bomb at IKEA. We ate at IKEA twice, which is kind of heart-breaking, considering all of the wonderful restaurants in Prague, but I was grateful for the IKEA café because as anyone who shops there knows, it takes ALL DAY.
Lamb kofta, hummus, beet salad, and fries at Safir at the Nový Smichov mall. Insert the same comment about being sad to eat/gratitude about eating in a retail space. Setting up an entirely new household means a lot of shopping.
In my kitchen…
Spices: Mostly, spices in the grocery store are sold in packets instead of jars. It’s pretty smart! The spices stay fresher that way and you can buy them in smaller quantities (although I’m not sure why anyone would want to do that).
IKEA has cute jars with wide mouths so my spice drawer will soon be stocked with a full set. For now, I have four as a test: salt, pepper, garlic powder, and—of course—cumin.
Ume Ocet: This magic sauce is a revelation! Made from shiso leaves (an herb that’s related to mint), white plum vinegar, and sea salt, it’s a jolt of umami that has been adding zing to so many things we eat: salad greens with extra-virgin olive oil and vinegar, egg salad, tuna salad, ground beef. It’s used sparingly, like fish sauce, but has a brighter flavor than the darker undertones of fish sauce.
I did a quick Google search to see if there’s anything similar in the U.S. but couldn’t find anything (except this piece from The Kitchn singing the praises of fresh shiso leaves). An American version of this shiso sauce seems like an awesome opportunity for an entrepreneur!
Have you ever tried fresh shiso leaves? Tell us about it in comments.
Ginger Tea: It’s so simple and so comforting! Hot water, plenty of fresh ginger, a squeeze of lemon, and a little Czech honey. This has become my go-to café beverage because I don’t have to worry about caffeine, it always tastes great, it’s available everywhere, and it’s soothing on cold days and refreshing when it’s warm outside. You can make some yourself at home, too!
Electric Cooktop: Oh, friends. The transition to electric cooktop from gas has not been an easy one, but I’m slowly getting the hang of it. I deliberately bought terrible, cheap-ass pans until I get accustomed to the stove, and the combination of lousy pan and new heating mechanism has lead to some very diappointing results. But I’m learning! For my birthday next week, I’m going to treat myself to new skillets, and in mid-May, my favorite chili pot—packed in a box currently traversing the ocean in the hold of a ship—will arrive. If you have any advice for cooking on an electric stove, please share in comments!
Refrigerator and Wine Chiller: Our kitchen came equipped with a smaller-than-I’m-used-to refrigerator and a large wine chiller. What’s a girl who eats massive amounts of produce every week to do? Turn the wine chiller into a fruit-and-veggie cooler, of course! It’s the perfect temperature for storing produce, and now we have tons of room in the fridge for meat, olives, and homemade mayo.
And the question I’m asked most often…
How is Smudge?
Smudge was a champ on the plane. She slept for most of it, but about halfway through the flight, I heard a little mew. When I stuck my hand into her carrier to check on her, she nuzzled my palm with her little wet nose, poked her head out of the bag to look around, then snuggled into a danish-shape and went back to sleep. It felt like she was just checking to make sure we were still there. When we arrived at the hotel, she walked around with her tail up in the air, then ate and took a nap. She spent the four days at the hotel under the bed with occasional visits in our laps for belly rubs.
Now that we’re in our new home, she’s happier than we’ve ever seen her. The apartment is cozy and quiet, both attributes that are highly valued by Smudge. We found grain-free dry and wet food for her at the pet shop in a nearby mall, and she’s eating with gusto. My new fuzzy blanket from IKEA has been co-opted by her for napping and playing; she likes to attack it a few times before snuggling into it for a snooze.
Also worth mentioning… things I never thought I’d have: keys to a flat in Prague, a Czech cell phone, an appointment at the U.S. Embassy, and an appointment at the Czech Embassy in Warsaw, but more on that later…