Cooking in a Hotel Room
Abi Frost


Ingredients (to serve two):

2 slabs (i.e. ½ packet) Sharwood's noodles
1 packet Sainsbury's bean sprout salad or similar
Extras: some or all of 2 slices ham, 2 mushrooms, 1 egg, soy sauce


1 electric kettle
2 clean white handkerchiefs
1 washbasin
1 Royal Angus metal wastepaper bin, or similar, well scrubbed
1 teapot
1 cup (if using egg)
1 Swiss Army knife (you can always borrow Gregory's; or slip your breakfast knife into your handbag)
Roll masking tape


Fill the kettle and boil it. Put the plug in the washbasin; cover with one handkerchief (to act as strainer). Put noodles into basin, cover with boiling water, and leave for 3-5 minutes as instructed on packet. Meanwhile, arrange other handkerchief over empty kettle, so that it forms a deepish well (but not too near the element); tape down securely at corners. Use the teapot to fill the kettle to just below level of handkerchief; fill handkerchief with salad. Boil the kettle, with safety switch taped down, to steam the salad for about five minutes. Use the knife to deal with the extras: chop ham into little bits, slice mushrooms paper-thin, beat egg lightly in cup. Unplug washbasin; transfer noodles, once drained, to bin via handkerchief; add everything else and mix together. The beaten egg should cook in the heat of everything else, but it may help to wrap the bin, except for its base, in a towel, and stand it on the radiator for a while. Add soy sauce to taste.

Eating irons and plates are easy enough to lay your hands on in a hotel, and I don't see how it can be stealing if you don't take them home with you.

I have to admit that I didn't cook this at Mexicon II, in fact I've never cooked it at all, having only just invented it, but I see no reason at all why it shouldn't work, and it ought to be slightly better than the average hotel "cheap meal", and less than half the price. But Mexicon II was the scene of my greatest feat so far of hotel-room cuisine; heating up a sealed tinfoil pack of Boots Vegetarian Lasagne in a wastepaper bin full of hot water, insulated by towels and heated by the radiator, as above. Since the water is just off the boil, it seems sensible to allow a rather longer heating time than that given on the packet. Unfortunately, after all that, the lasagne was pretty vile, all TVP. I'm not a veggie, and can't see the point of veggie food which is full of imitation meat.

Frozen boil-in-the-bag meals are more reliable; Lean Cuisine is a good, though slightly pricey, brand. Deal with these by heating up in the kettle (it takes a while to boil with a frozen lump inside); give it a few minutes boil with the switch taped down, then half an hour in the bin/towel/radiator contraption. (Boiling for the full cooking time is probably a bit risky, and fills the room with steam.) The ideal thing for this would probably be an insulated food-jar (would also be good for the Chow Mein), but I think it's cheating to take things along specially. (You do always have a supply of clean hankies, don't you? What a snotty little prig you are. Yes, as it happens, I do often carry masking tape around -- especially when on a con committee.)

I prefer to buy con supplies at Boots, because I feel less paranoid carrying a full Boots bag past Reception than a Sainsbury's one. Boots did have one splendid addition to their range last time -- honey in a plastic tube. Minimum mess, and looks at first glance like some kind of ecofreak bubble-bath.

Pot noodles are now considered deeply naff, but are a fair accompaniment to boil-in-the-bag stew or curry -- though personally I prefer Smash. Instant soup is ok, and instant custard over tinned fruit not bad. Certain vile creatures spend whole cons on a diet of cold baked beans; give me M&S Three Bean Salad or tinned ratatouille any time. I've never yet seen a con hotel with electric fires, but if you happen to find one, the traditional Oxford paper-clip toaster is worth a try. (Twist straightened-out paper-clips round the fire's grille, to form prongs on which to spear bread or crumpets. Or steaks? Catch any drips on a tray.)

We were discussing all this in Phil Palmer's room at Mexicon II, when people started casting interested glances at the trouser-press. Either Anne Hamill or Nick Lowe came up with the notion of using it to cook frozen pizzas. I don't think anyone tried it, and as a committee member, I'm secretly rather relieved.

From Fanfoodery or The Plain Fan's Guide to Happy Eating
ed. John and Eve Harvey
published by Conspiracy '87