Lucy Corry’s Blog: A recipe for a good holiday

The magic of baches is in their ability to show you the beauty of the small things in life, says Lucy Corry.

I write this while on my summer holiday — four days in a tiny bach in a small seaside community in the Horowhenua region. I may have my laptop with me but I am extremely relaxed. I think it’s the surroundings, more than anything else.

Our modest digs (essentially three small rooms with basic mod cons and a big back lawn for the dog) reflect the low-key nature of the surrounding area. While there are signs of prosperity (a few flash Harry houses, giant SUVs that are inexplicably allowed to drive on the beach, a coffee bar with a French name peddling ‘art’), this place is mercifully mostly untrammelled by city slickers.

When I take the dog for an early morning walk I meet friendly old gents doing the same, ambling along as if they have all the time in the world. None of them seem to notice that in the rush to pack and leave home I left behind my mascara and my hairbrush, or that I’m wearing my husband’s socks. To be fair, I don’t think people in town would notice these things about me either, but I’d certainly feel their lack more deeply. Here, I don’t care.

A jelly tip and a big back lawn: what more could a holiday need?

This relaxed attitude extends to our holiday eating habits. Before we left home I did a mental inventory of all the bach kitchens I’ve ever used and wondered aloud about whether I should pack a good knife.

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“There’s no time,” my husband said, tapping out a work email while simultaneously packing up the dog’s bed. “Anyway, you’ll miss the chance to say, ‘We should have brought a good knife’ if we actually take one.”

I have to laugh at this, but not until I’ve allowed myself a brief fantasy: if I was the sort of person who went away more often, I’d have a little kit of good and useful things for strange kitchens. I’d have a good knife, a clean set of dishcloths and thick tea towels, a proper chopping board, a lemon zester, a pepper grinder and all the other little bits and pieces that make cooking at home so much easier. It would be packed and ready to go, like Mary Poppins’ handbag.

I wonder what the fashion editor I once worked with, who took 20 bikinis to a fancy villa holiday in Ibiza, would make of my holiday ‘edit’. In the end I forgo the knife, but I do remember to bring a bottle of olive oil and the beautiful Italian panettone I was gifted at Christmas but have been too busy to eat.

Barbeques and cooking are possible, even without a good knife.

American novelist and writer Ann Patchett once checked herself in for a stay at the Hotel Bel Air in Los Angeles, unable to get any work done at home due to a constant stream of house guests. I think of this when my mother-in-law reports in from her holiday on Waiheke Island in January.

The Airbnb she is staying at is impeccably clean and has a well-stocked kitchen that meets her exacting standards. When I make the right noises about how this must be nice for her she laughs loudly: “I’m not going to be cooking anything,” she says. “This is a holiday!” She sends me photos every day of fancy meals eaten all over the island; she has stayed true to her word and not cooked so much as a piece of toast.

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When we arrive at our holiday destination, I quickly realise there’s barely room to make toast in our tiny temporary kitchen. There’s zero bench space, unless you count the ‘island’ (six ABC beer crates ingeniously bolted together and set on castors) and a bijou bar fridge.

A quirk of interior architecture means you look through the kitchen window directly into the bathroom (“Mum,” warns my daughter, “close the curtain before you have a shower!”) But there’s a decent-ish knife, a solid chopping board made from an old drawer and a barbecue. My husband is delighted to find a shaker of white pepper in the cupboard, which for him recalls happy childhood holiday memories. It turns out that we need little else.

On Friday night we treat ourselves to dinner at the boat club, where most of the menu is deep-fried (“don’t eat the chicken schnitzel,” a local diner advises sagely) and kids get towering ice creams dipped in hundreds and thousands. Everyone — young, old, local and visitor — is having a jolly good time. It’s delightful.

Back at the bach for subsequent meals, we eat extremely simply and feel no need to dine at the only other ‘eatery’ in town. I recall Ann Patchett again, who at the end of her Hotel Bel Air stay realises that the best sort of holiday is one “that relieves me of my own life for a while and then makes me long for it again”.

One night, when instructing my daughter in the fine art of properly drying dishes, I look through the kitchen window and read the painted driftwood sign hanging on the bathroom wall. “Eat, Drink, Relax, Be Happy,” it says. I think that’s a souvenir mantra to live by all year round.

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