SETTING OURSELVES FREE WITH THE IDEAL ALLERGY SAFE KITCHEN
When we started RVing it wasn’t for the endless adventure stories, the great outdoors, or even the priceless family time.
We initially started hitting the road as a way to break free from the shackles of living with severe food allergies. Chains of limited destinations and restrictive accommodations were forever removed once we embarked on our first RV trip. Our youngest daughter Shayla has the “gift” of severe food allergies to the “Top 8” (top 8 allergens: dairy, egg, wheat, soy, tree nut, peanut, fish, and shellfish).
It is considered a “gift” in our family now, because through our journey we realized that our lives could be more healthy, fulfilling and exciting.
Prior to the “gift” of food allergies, we could go out to eat at restaurants and not worry about who ate at the table before us, travel in airplanes without worrying if someone four rows ahead of us is eating nuts, and we could sit in a coffee shop to send a few emails without worrying about steamed milk vaporizing in the air and the ensuing asthma attack to follow.
Our first RV gave us a taste of what our adventurous family of four really craved.
We went from feeling a sense of defeat and hopelessness, to living an incredibly fulfilling life of wonder, education, laughter and family time. Our cooking and food storage scenario has evolved tremendously over the past few years as well. From our small-countered, limited-storage RV of three years ago, we have found a little perfection with our expansive storage, side-by-side refrigerator and center island in the RV we currently have. We bought three RVs in as many years, and think we’ve finally found the one with a near perfect kitchen setup for our specific allergy-free foodie lifestyle.
In hindsight, our first RV had nowhere near enough counter space.
We didn’t realize at first, but after cooking in our first travel trailer, we knew there just wasn’t enough prep, cooking, or storage space for our particular needs. Since we all basically follow our daughter’s diet these days, we need to cook fresh, whole, mostly unprocessed foods for each meal. After 15 months with our first RV, we knew we wanted something more from our RV kitchen and fell in love with a brand new, larger travel trailer.
This model had a gorgeous kitchen island, more counter space and a much larger refrigerator than we were used to.
A feature that absolutely blew our minds was the included outside kitchen.
Something we didn’t even know RVs could offer turned out to be our most coveted feature. We learned to liveand die by that outside kitchen over the next year. We began cooking everything that was smoky, messy, and smelly in that outside kitchen. It was also ideal for sneaking some eggs into our diet without having to cook them in the same living space that our daughter played and slept in.
About 2 years into RVing, we had travelled on approximately twenty 3-5 day camping trips, and had some incredible, unforgettable experiences with our girls.
We knew at this point that we were fairly serious RVers and it was time to consider a more significant and well-equipped travelling kitchen.
After a long search we ended up purchasing a 2014 Evergreen Bay Hill 385BH fifth wheel.
First on our list for this RV was larger capacity of food storage. From the refrigerator to the cabinets, we knew we needed a smart kitchen space for our allergen free, foodie lifestyle.
When cooking the way we do, the quantities of raw items we go through on a weekly basis are kind of surprising.
Our Bay Hill came with the largest dual fuel fridge (electric & propane) on the market.
We specifically wanted a refrigerator that could also run on propane as opposed to a residential style refrigerator, which can only run on 110V AC. And as you can see, we pack it full. Fresh food takes up a lot of room.
On a recent trip through Texas, we were finding a ton of grass fed farms and consequently tons of butcher shops. We were noticing the regular grocery stores weren’t carrying the same quality of meats, so we opted to buy 25 pounds of assorted beef and pack the freezer with it.
Another important feature we utilize is the large underbelly storage in our RV. We fill two storage bins with backup “dry storage” so that we can purchase quality ingredients in bulk when they are available. One thing we learned while travelling across the United States is not all areas follow the same food standards and quality of products. Often times we are looking to purchase something as simple as organic oatmeal, but learn that not all parts of the country have a demand for that. If they do carry it, it is often processed in a facility that handles nuts or dairy, or the label says “may contain…”. So getting our hands on food when we can and storing it has become most important in our travels and RV needs.
(Side Note: All of the items on the steps actually fit in one of those black bins.) We regularly buy 5 of the same thing whenever we find it, and carry them with us until we need to dip into our “dry storage” bin at a later date.
One feature our new RV was lacking was an outside kitchen. After having one and adapting to it, we knew we would have to come up with a portable substitute. We found the ideal grill setup in our Camp Chef Big Gas Grill.
We have the two burner grill box, flat top griddle or open burner for pots and cast iron pans, plus two folding end tables to hold ingredients or finished foods. We do 95% of our cooking outside, rain, snow, or shine, and this portable grill is fast to set up and cooks perfectly for up to 8 people if needed. Another benefit to the portable grill setup is that we are able to move the grill to wherever the smoke doesn’t have an opportunity to enter the RV and trigger another asthma attack on our daughter.
As with any living space scenario, we are always modifying and adapting. The RV is not any different, but we feel that the space and storage, combined with the cooking environment that we have refined, allows us to maximize our life on the road and minimize the chance of any negative reactions or attacks to our daughter and her allergies.
Jerome Braga is a professional photographer, snowbirding throughout the country with his family in their 2014 Evergreen Bay Hill Fifth Wheel RV. His family travels and future kitchen renovations can be followed at www.ouronechance.com | insta:@jeromebraga