We talked to Kina Pickett about cooking his way across America in an Airstream and got one of his favorite recipes to share.
Kina Pickett has been doing a lot of driving — and cooking — while he and his family tool around the country in an Airstream on an epic journey that’s into its second year. We featured their travels in “Airstreaming America” in our May/June 2021 issue.
Wherever they find themselves on the road, Kina and his wife, Nellie, and their two kids naturally look forward to meals. Kina does most of the cooking and creates a lot of recipes on the fly. He says his mom was his culinary inspiration.
We talked to Kina about cooking his way across America in an Airstream and got one of his favorite recipes to share.
Cowboys & Indians: What do you have in the way of a fridge and cabinet space on the road?
Kina Pickett: We have a propane fridge in the camper, works really well! We store dry goods in the cabinets next to the fridge.
C&I: How do you provision-up?
Pickett: We have a pretty standard list of groceries that we go off of, and then we usually plan meals for four to six days of living. We always keep Almond or oat milk, cheese, apples, bread, rice, maple syrup, coffee, bacon, butter, olive oil. Those are the really important things. For pots and pans we couldn’t do without cast-iron pans and griddle. We love cooking with cast-iron.
C&I: How do you deal with the tight quarters and limited storage when you’re cooking?
Pickett: When we are cooking it does get tight. Usually we have the kids stay outside so we can make meals faster and without the craziness of two kids and a dog in the trailer.
C&I: What’s something that’s surprised you about feeding your family out of an Airstream?
Pickett: Some surprises have been making great meals with fewer ingredients. It’s amazing what you can make with limited ingredients.
C&I: The pandemic has curtailed takeout and restaurant eating. What do you find yourself craving?
Pickett: We sometimes crave some good ice cream. We don’t usually eat out that much anyway, but me and my wife have been craving Blackbird restaurant in Bozeman.
C&I: Raw vs. cooked, over a fire vs. on the stovetop — what’s your eating and cooking been like?
Pickett: We tend to cook everything but meat in the camper. I have a portable grill that we use for meat, works really well.
C&I: How do you keep things healthy and easy?
Pickett: We keep eating healthy by looking at good bases like rice and seeing how creative we can get with protein and veggies. The kids are hard.
C&I: Any tips or hard-learned lessons?
Pickett: Some tips: Think simple recipes; complex recipes usually are difficult because of a one-time spice or something that you probably won’t use again.
C&I: You’ve said your mom was a huge influence on your cooking. Tell us about your mom in the kitchen. What kinds of things did you learn from her?
Pickett: My mom was definitely my biggest influence in cooking. We grew up in Vermont, and we had a huge garden and an herb garden as well. I remember my mom always going into the garden with scissors and snipping different herbs, I do it now at my house!!!
C&I: If your mom were hitting the road with you, what would a family dinner look like with the two of you cooking together?
Pickett: If my mom and I were camping/cooking, we would probably do a lot of very simple recipes: lots of herbs, kale, lemons, rice bowls, etc.
C&I: Any fond memories of some food-and-landscape moments with the family?
Pickett: We have had some really great meals with views down in the desert of Southern Utah. I remember making this great Korean steak salad with flank steak over the grill, maple syrup, lime, soy sauce marinade. We ate outside watching the sun set over the red rocks. Just amazing.
Pickett Family Black Bean, Sweet Potato, Mango Rice Bowl
We love to make this rice bowl with black beans, mango, white onions, sweet potato, and cilantro, with a dressing of soy, lime, and maple syrup. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s so good! — Kina Pickett
-Sweet potato, peeled and chopped
-Black beans, cooked
-Mango, cut in chunks
-White onions, chopped
Make the rice.
While the rice is cooking, cook the sweet potato in a pan with salt, cumin, and paprika to taste.
When the sweet potato is almost cooked, add black beans and stir.
Cut up mango, white onion, and cilantro, and set aside.
In a small bowl, mix together 1/4 cup of soy sauce and 3 tablespoons of maple syrup. Squeeze a half a lime into the mixture.
Once the sweet potato is done, put rice in a bowl with the black bean-sweet potato mixture; sprinkle chopped cilantro on top and pour the soy-maple syrup mixture over everything.
Photography: (All images) courtesy the Pickett family
For more on the Pickett family's journey Airstreaming America, click here.