Cooking On Vacation: Don't Forget The Chef's Knife!

My mother-in-law tells a story about a good friend and avid cook who lugged pie weights in his suitcase down to a rented Caribbean house for a vacation.

(He also instituted a no talking til 11 a.m. rule — a man after my own heart — but that's a topic for another post.)

Now that we're in the thick of the summer travel season, I'm wondering how far food loving cooks will go to make sure they don't go without in the kitchen on vacation.

The house we rented at the beach last month (and for many years before that) comes with a spacious but horridly equipped kitchen. The mouth of the plastic blender is so warped it looks like singing lips. The serrated bread knife barely cuts butter, and the hard plastic cutting board sounds like glass when a blade whacks down. One coil burner on the stove resembles a popped jack-in-the-box spring.

To ease the pain of cooking in a poorly stocked kitchen, my dad typically packs knives (since we drive), one good frying pan, a microplane, a few potted herbs like basil and mint, and an arsenal of spices and sauces, including Sriracha and Mae Ploy. My parents usually stop at one of Durham's great bakeries to stock up on good bread, which we'll freeze and enjoy over the next two weeks.

I might squeeze in a blender and decent cutting board next year.

Some kitchen voids you can't be prepared for. Joe Yonan, Washington Post food editor, recently found himself in a rented Paris apartment, cooking sans oven. No getting around that no matter how big your suitcase is.

What are your "don't-leave-home-without-it" kitchen items? What's the craziest thing you've crammed into a suitcase in the name of good cooking?