Last summer my packing skills were put to the test when Jason and I took the boys, aged 3 and 10 months at the time, to Croatia and Italy for three weeks. We had to be able to carry everything simultaneously, and keep both children contained, so that meant paring down and packing as efficiently as possible. Somehow we managed to do it – and thank goodness we did because more than once we had to run to catch trains. It was quite the sight, me pushing the stroller, my purse balanced on top, wearing a big backpack, and Jason with another big backpack, a smaller one on his chest, holding A. by the hand. My brother Graham, who was our live-in babysitter for that trip, had his own luggage to carry.
I’d like to draw your attention to that second backpack that Jason carried on his front. Most people would assume it to be a diaper bag, but no, it was stuffed full of individually vacuum-packed “Paleo Kits” that contained beef jerky, assorted nuts, and dried fruit. This was Jason’s emergency snack stash to get him through the long days of walking and sightseeing. I thought he was crazy when he pulled them out at home and announced they were going along with us, but he refused to budge. So those darned Paleo Kits went along, occupying valuable space.
When the trip started, Jason would secretly pull out a kit and start nibbling at the jerky, but the scent of the meat was so strong and delicious that Graham, A., and I all wanted some, too. It was impossible to hide, so Jason shared grudgingly and the rather small portion disappeared instantly. He seemed to pull out those Paleo Kits at the oddest times. He ate them in the Doge’s Palace in Venice, on trains through Croatia, sitting in Zagreb’s Mirogoj cemetery, on the steps of the Uffizi gallery in Florence, on Palatine Hill in Rome. He gnawed that jerky while sunbathing on Sardinian beaches and hiking through mountainous villages. Even on the airplane, where the meals were insufficiently small, Jason always had his Paleo Kits at the ready. The only problem was, sometimes we ran out of water temporarily and, despite being hungry, the thought of facing that salty, dried beef was more than I could handle.
The Paleo Kits gradually lost their appeal as the trip went on, and there came a point when Graham and I would turn away in distaste as soon as Jason whipped a new one out. My problem was the saltiness. Graham’s was the chewiness. There was one particular piece of jerky that he worked on for four hours, during the long bus ride from Austria into Italy. “Something wrong with this meat! It’s too chewy,” he complained with all his fifteen-year-old drama. Jason remained faithful to the kits, returning back to Canada with just two left in the backpack (down from 36 to start).
Now Jason and I are heading to Paris next week. He announced he was going to order Paleo Kits again and I protested because I think they’re overpriced and I don’t like the excess plastic packaging. I admit those kits saved the day on a number of occasions last summer, but surely there is a better way to do it. So I bought nuts and dried fruit in bulk and decided to make homemade beef jerky for the first time. It marinated in the fridge overnight and baked at a low temperature for 6 hours. It is surprisingly delicious. This time I’ll be the one chowing down with enthusiasm!