What's Cooking in...

Mashed plantains.

In October 2021 I booked a trip to Belize. Why Belize, you may ask? An internet search showed that Belize was proactive in protecting people from COVID. Not only did visitors have to show a COVID-free test on arrival, they had to stay in COVID-compliant hotels. Face masks, social distancing and curfews were mandatory.

From the list of approved hotels (www.travelbelize.org/health-safety), I chose The Placencia (Mile 13 Placencia Rd., Placencia, Belize; 877/417-9179, theplacencia.com),...

Banana Blossom Salad ready to serve.

There are not many positive aspects of the COVID pandemic. However, being stuck in the house for extended periods has given me time to go through my travel notes and triage what I don’t need. This also gave me the opportunity to rediscover and remember the many wonderful times I had traveling.

For example, I ran across a cookbook I received in February 2009 when my late husband, John, and I took a lesson in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, at a cooking school that, unfortunately, is...

The finished Hungarian Apple Strudel ready to eat. Photos by Sandra Scott

My grandmother was a great cook. She came to America from what was once the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After she left her little Hungarian town, due to political division, it became part of Czechoslovakia, and then another political division took place, and now the town, Malý Horeš, is in Slovakia.

Through all the changes, it remained a small town of Hungarians. In fact, its name in the languages of all the governing countries was always a form of the corresponding words for “...

Grandson J.J. with his grand catch. Photos by Sandra Scott

During the 2019 Christmas holiday, I spent a wonderful two weeks in Pochomil, Nicaragua, located on the Pacific coast a little less than two hours’ drive from Managua’s airport.

Our family rented a house on the beach (with an infinity pool) for $250 a night. It can be found at www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p368251. The three air-conditioned bedrooms were a perfect fit for the eight of us.

Even though there was a complete kitchen, at the suggestion of the owner,...

Tikin Xic Fish, with fried plantain and rice, ready to serve. Photos by Sandra Scott

In December 2020, when I came to the realization that the United States was the least safe place, COVID-wise, I decided to take a trip. A little research led me to feel that Cancún, on the Yucatán Peninsula in southeastern Mexico, was doing a much better job of mitigating the spread of COVID, so I booked a visit to Cancún, staying at the InterContinental Presidente Cancún Resort (www.ihg.com).

Room rates varied but averaged about $190 per night. I stayed for two weeks, enjoying a free...

The Chicken Paprikash when done cooking.

I think we all have a grandmother who had some incredible recipes. My Hungarian grandmother made the best pie crusts. The secret? Lard, preferably home-cured.

Many Hungarian recipes call for lard, and, it turns out, there is a reason for that. The extensive use of pork and lard originates from when the Ottomans occupied Hungary (1541 to 1699). The official religion of the Ottoman Empire was Islam, which forbade the eating of pork, so the occupying forces confiscated all of the...

Chef Nicolas Preger at work. Photos by Sandra Scott

I am just becoming comfortable traveling solo since my husband, John, passed away. He and I usually traveled independently, never doing group travel for more than day trips. In January 2020 I spent a week on my own in Panama City, Panama. I had been to Panama several years before but had not stayed in the city.

I was able to use frequent-flyer miles to fly from Syracuse, New York, to Panama, which was an important factor in my decision to visit. Also, I have a credit card with...

Sara Ayedris with a plate of <i>vigorón</i>. Photos by Sandra Scott

Now that my grandkids are older, their parents often gift them a trip for Christmas. When possible, I join them. During the 2019 Christmas holiday, I spent a wonderful two weeks in Pochomil, Nicaragua, a little less than two hours from Managua’s airport, on the Pacific coast. 

Our family rented a house on the beach, with an infinity pool, for $250 a night (www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p368251). There were eight of us, so it was a great deal. The three air-...