Here's how to cook in minimalist, small cabin rentals like Getaway.

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On a frigid February afternoon, I pulled into a woodsy campsite nestled in the East Catskills. Driving from New York City with my chihuahua, a backpack, and a tote of food, I'd set out to spend a few tranquil days in the woods cooking and writing without the distractions of wifi or chores. I hate camping, so the setup here was ideal: Far from a standard campsite, this stretch of woods had no communal spaces, just minimalist cabins spaced several yards apart and equipped with proper plumbing, comfortable mattresses, and tiny kitchens, plus private picnic areas and fire pits.

Getaway, the cabin rental company, has experienced a surge in popularity during the pandemic, and allowed thousands of people to briefly escape their homes, including me.

Getaway kitchen
Credit: Aaron Anil Jacob

According to the company, Getaway has seen a 150% spike in bookings since March 2020; as of April 5, bookings are up 65% since the same time last year. Even as hotels reopen and travel restrictions lift across the country, interest in socially distant traveling is only growing, with a fifth more Getaway cabins booked in advance than this time last year. The company just opened new outposts outside of Chicago and Nashville, with 15 total locations across the U.S., all less than two-hour drives away from the nearest city—meaning you don't necessarily have to take vacation days to escape your life for a little.

Countless other travel options have adapted pandemic protocols—Airbnb made it easy to arrange check-in and check-out without human contact, and many hotels made that a feature, too—but Getaway was socially distant even before coronavirus existed. You could always check-in by phone and stay far away from strangers, and it's not hard to imagine these features being appealing long after the threat of COVID subsides.

As a camping-averse traveler, I found the tiny cabin living to be quite magical. Even more thrilling to me than the hot shower and flushing toilet was the deceptively small, impressively functional kitchen area, equipped with a mini fridge, stove, pans, a cutting board, and knives, utensils, plates, and cups. (There's also packs of olive oil, salt, pepper, sugar, and half-and-half containers, so I didn't need to worry about lugging that. For an extra cost, there are single-serve pour-over coffees.)

The restraints of a smaller kitchen pushed me to be more creative with my cooking, an ethos I've tried to take with me back to my apartment. Here's what I brought to cook to get big flavor out of a small space.

Spice mixes

The most efficient way to make flavorful food without too many ingredients is spices; I let them do the heavy-lifting while cooking in my cabin. I'm very excited about new spice blends from some of the country's best chefs, including Preeti Mistry and Eric Rivera.

Instant and steeped coffee

While Getaway provides great-tasting single-serve pour-over, it's fun to experiment and bring your favorites. I really like Counter Culture's steeped coffee, which requires zero equipment.

Good dried pasta

If you have good dried pasta, just about everything is possible. Bringing jarred sauces you love means you have easy meals lined up for when you're not feeling ambitious.

Garlic and onion

They're the building blocks of life.

Cheese, dried sausage, and olives

While you have plenty of space to do actual cooking, charcuterie is a fantastic option to have on hand. I like to make a little charcuterie board on the cutting board.

Your favorite vegetables

If you have onion and garlic, all you need are your favorite vegetables to get a pasta sauce going, or even some simple salads

Beans

While I could have brought canned, I liked having dried beans to cook in the cabin throughout the day as I read, worked on writing, and gazed out the window. (FYI: This is the simplest, most delicious way to cook dried beans.) I'm partial to Rancho Gordo beans, but I've also recently gotten into Primary Beans, a new single-source dried bean company that sources from climate-conscious farms.

Eggs

I don't know about you, but I could eat scrambled eggs, hard-boiled eggs, and poached eggs for every meal and never get tired of it. But there's no reason you'd have to; eggs are such great components in noodle dishes, chilaquiles,

Sauce starter packs

All of my best quarantine meals started with Omsom, a brand of starter sauces developed by top NYC chefs. They take care of the ingredient-heavy sauces for incredible Filipino, Thai, Vietnamese, and more dishes, meaning all you provide is the protein and, if desired, vegetables.