How to Keep Kosher in a Caribbean Hotel

You don’t want to pay a fortune, so you get a simple hotel room on a nice resort. The problem? No kitchenette, no kosher meal plan, little counter space.

How can you make eating as enjoyable as the rest of the vacation? Okay, let’s be realistic — you can’t. But you can make it painless, even with children. We just had a great time in Aruba (otherwise known as Paradise). We were in the Radisson Palm Beach — small rooms, fantastic beach and grounds. Our tips for kashrut success:

1. If you’re going over New Years, don’t expect to do major shopping for a few days. New Years in Aruba lasts an extra day (incl. Jan. 2). Most stores are closed. Shelves are not restocked until 2-4 days after New Years.

2. Take a grilled-cheese sandwich maker!
– Toast (bread, pita, etc.)
– Crumpets (available as WK)
– Grilled Cheese on crumpets or bread
– Peanut butter and banana on toast

3. Insist upon a fridge in as many of your group’s rooms as possible. To avoid overloading circuits in the hotel, unplug the mini-fridge while using other cooking appliances.

4. Eat breakfast late. Breakfast served until 11:00 AM means that you can skip lunch and eat dinner at 5:00. We allowed ourselves to eat: cereal, fruit, cottage cheese (kosher). Besides, no one wants to interrupt their time on the beach to go back to the room for lunch. Kosher snacks or ice cream at the beach will carry you through.

5. Provide the kitchen with a copy of a list of your items for storage and review it with them.

6. Better to get a kosher caterer to ship the meals than to take it as luggage. What if the luggage gets lost? If you do take it as luggage, surround the inside of the suitcase with a garbage bag and newspaper. Add about a dozen or more frozen meals and throw in a couple of ice packs.

7. Frozen meals for the oven (in foil) are better than the ones packed for microwaves. The chef has to heat the microwave meals one or two at a time, in between other demands…

8. Man cannot live on deli alone. Save the deli for Shabbat lunch. Use the leftovers to make sandwiches the next day (often a traveling day).

9. Dairy cookies and desserts can easily be bought with a hechsher, so concentrate on shlepping parve desserts from home.
10. The night before returning home, freeze whatever ice packs you have, to keep your travel lunches cold.

11. Avoid ants! Keep all food in heavy ziploc bags (not just sandwich bags) or containers. Let towels catch the crumbs while eating! We have done this several times successfully.

How to Pack:
Note: Our family of 4 required 3 food suitcases: One for kitchen accessories to get us through a few days before visiting a store, one for 16 frozen dinners and some kugels, one for breads and baked goods. In addition, we took a couple of insulated lunch bags for the plane.

Kitchen accessories to take:

– Grilled cheese maker (or an element and pot)
– a dish scrubby or two
– a dish towel or two
– a hot mitt
– storage after food is open: Ziploc baggies, disposable containers, tin foil
– napkins, plastic cutlery, paper plates – enough to get you through until you get to a store
– One or two real knives and spoons to cut bread, serve, etc.

– Two dollar-store tablecloths, a placemat or two
– A discreet ‘purse’ to take if you are having the sealed meals brought to a restaurant. The purse contains plastic cutlery (in case they forget) and your own salad dressing packets if you eat restaurant veggies. It may also contain your own dessert.

Food I brought, pre-frozen:
Pre-cooked TV dinners (we were told by US and Aruba customs that it was okay to bring food, as long as we didn’t bring beef or citrus)
Parve chocolate chip oatmeal muffins
Luction Kugel
Pumpkin or squash kugel (see Gatherings cookbook)
Deli (vacuum packed)
Danish
Kugel
Breads: Danish, dinner rolls, sub buns for Shabbat deli sandwiches, bagels, sliced bread, challah buns.
Banana bread
Parve cookies and muffins

For shabbat, find out in advance if the island is small enough that you don’t need an eruv to carry. Don’t forget to take mini grape juice, plastic kiddush cups, buns, candles, sturdy, low candle holders, foil or plate to protect table surface, havdalah kit. Do not leave candles unattended — plan for your group to chat in your room while the candles burn.

By the way, as of 2007 the kosher restaurant that was in Aruba is no longer kosher. In the store you can find Lenders bagels, pita with hechsher (I think it was triangle K, cream cheese and all normal US consumer brands).

Good luck to you and enjoy!!

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