We first discovered Foreign Natives through their Vanlife Illustrated project, but we quickly learned that Eva & Victor’s talents don’t end with their art: they are also impressive cooks.
Despite the limited kitchen space in their Dodge Ram van, the couple manages to prepare fresh food every day.
Eva & Victor have since sold their van and returned to Barcelona, with plans to keep traveling through Europe in the near future. We can’t wait to see what they cook up there!
Tell us a little about your trip and how you came to live on the road?
We are originally from Barcelona, Spain, but we moved to San Francisco for work in 2013. After a year and a half we were too tired of the very intense and workaholic environment that we were living in.
We had bought and converted ourselves a 2003 Dodge Ram Van 1500 with the idea of doing weekend and holiday trips, but one Sunday evening, the idea of moving full time into it just came up on a conversation, and that same night we took the decision to leave San Francisco a few weeks later to live full time in the van. We wanted to have a flexible life, we wanted to be able to decide each morning what to do with our days, and we wanted to be the real bosses of our lives.
In June 2015, we hit the road. Since then, we have been traveling around the US and Canada.
Describe your van kitchen set up.
We have a dual burner propane stove, which we power with small camping propane bottles. As we made the van ourselves, we chose to go with small bottles so we didn’t have to build a ventilated storage for a bigger tank. We also have a decent quality set of pans and pots, which make a big difference. We’d say our bigger problem with our setup is that the burners are too big and it can be difficult to cook foods that need a slow fire.
How have the places you’ve traveled to influenced your cooking?
We have a very small fridge, and have had it broken for a while, so we tend to just cook with whatever we buy on the same day. So we usually go to local farmer’s markets wherever we are to get fresh groceries. It’s there where we tend to try new vegetables, fruits or spices. We are in Baja California, Mexico right now and fish and seafood are part of our daily diet, but we don’t ever cook meat because we get it at local Taquerias.
What are your five essential kitchen items?
High top: so we can stand up while cooking. That seems obvious in a house but not in a van!
Wooden spoon: we don’t cook with anything else.
Olive oil: as good Mediterranean people, we use olive oil for everything, all the time.
Carbon monoxide detector: it keeps beeping all the time and reminding us to open the door, since we don’t have ventilation on the roof.
Juice squeezer: oranges are so cheap in Mexico right now, we make juice every morning.
What’s the biggest challenge to cooking in a van? Do you have any tricks that make cooking easier for you?
We have a very limited space, so we never have all the ingredients we wish we had, and we also have to use whatever we have in that moment, because it will go bad in a day or two. But cooking with limitations and leftovers makes us more creative, usually mixing things that we usually wouldn’t and not following recipes at all.
Where was the most scenic meal you’ve had on the road?
We’ve had so many! But one we always remind is a Fideuà (Spanish noodle fish dish) we had right on an empty beach that was all for us in Cape Meares, Oregon.
One guilty pleasure or item you know is excessive but you can’t live without?
NUTELLA!!! Victor eats it by the spoon.
What’s your favorite campfire cocktail?
Surprisingly, we have reduced our alcohol intake to a minimum since we moved to the van, but we always take a bottle of Catalan homemade vermouth that we bring with us everytime we visit our hometown Barcelona. Having an “aperitivo”, which is a vermouth with Spanish olives, chips and canned seafood just before lunch is a tradition that we haven’t lost.
Who makes the coffee in the morning? What does your setup look like?
Eva doesn’t drink coffee, but Victor can’t start the day without it. We use an Italian stovetop espresso maker that we put on top of a camping stove toaster (a metal surface) so the temperature is lower and we can make it slowly.
What’s your go-to meal? Would you share the recipe with our readers?
Definitely Spanish Tortilla. It’s easy to make, good for sharing, good for storing, needs few ingredients and tastes so good!
Ingredients for 2 people + a bit to store:
3 big potatoes
Olive oil (you can use any other frying oil, but that’s all we use )
Salt to taste
Add a good amount of oil to a frying pan and heat it up to a low-mid fire. Chop the onion and add to the pan. Stir every once in awhile to make sure it doesn’t get burnt.
Cut the potatoes in small thin pieces (about an inch by an inch and pretty thin). When the onion starts to get cooked add the potatoes to it and keep frying and stirring until the potatoes easily break when touched. Add oil as needed, in order to pretty much cover everything.
Once cooked, remove the mix from the oil and let cool for 5 minutes. In the meantime beat the eggs in a big bowl and add salt to it, then add the potatoes and onion.
Heat up the pan to a medium heat (with just a little bit of oil spread to prevent sticking). A good trick to know when it’s warm enough is the point when you throw a little bit of mix to the pan and it gets cooked instantly. Add the mix, making sure it doesn’t get stuck. Cook on one side for 2-3 minutes and then use a plate on top of the pan to flip it and continue cooking the other side. Cook for a couple more minutes until golden.
[ Side Note: Previous to receiving this recipe, Fresh Off the Grid had attempted and failed miserably to cook a Spanish style tortilla while in Mt. Hood, OR last summer. We are very much looking forward to making this version from Foreign Natives!]