Saturday, February 27th, 2010

Week of Eating In Days Four and Five: To Travel and Not Eat Out


That is the question. It is quite possibly the most perplexing thing about not eating out. We live in a culture that travels a lot — whether it’s just a twenty-minute commute to work each day in a car or perpetually being “between” two coasts, or countries, by plane. I wonder about our wandering if it isn’t the reason why take-out or fast food was created in the first place. Eric Schlosser certainly makes a causality seem logical in his tour of interstate highway development in Fast Food Nation: the more we hit the road, the more we press the brakes on preparing meals ourselves.

For all their convenience, though, I don’t see anyone raving about the great choices of readily available food at roadstop food courts and airports, or least of all, on planes — if they have any food there at all. The relationship we have with airborne and roadside food is entirely made of convenience, for dry, fill-yourself-up functionality rather than taste or nutrition; it’s often heavy, and processed instead of light and immune-boosting, which is what sitting travelers in confined places could really use. And for some god-awful reason, it’s shockingly expensive, too. I stood beside one man at a coffee shop in Laguardia Airport as he watched the attendant ring up his two bags of potato chips and two bottles of waters. “Ten-fifty,” he scoffed, shaking his head none too politely about the price. “Is that right?” he implored. The attendant made what looked like a sympathetic shrug.

So instead of being a curmudgeonly acquiescent member of the airborne food-buying set, you can make your own meal to bring on the plane, or in the car, or bus or train. Not a revolutionary idea by far, but here’s a convenient factor: a carry-on bag that keeps your food cool and easy to tote. This reusable, insulated, snazzy looking tote has been helping me get through the week eating pretty well. It’s from KOKO by Cosmoda, a line of lunch bags that inconspicuous pass for a fashion accessory, in PVC-free materials. I got it from my brother for Christmas, who found it at a craft fair in Providence. Thanks, bro!

an insulated tote filled with provisions for a day of travel

And what did I pack it with? In a scramble to leave NYC in a blizzard, and just after a book reading the night before, I packed it with leftover things, and dashed out. It took all of ten minutes to make: a leftover half-baguette, unused from making crostini for the reading at WORD bookstore, sliced open. Inside I slicked the last remaining schmears of chevre goat cheese (a sort of more gamey tasting cream cheese), and packed the sandwich with some sauteed beet greens, cooked for a minute in a pan with olive oil, salt and pepper. In fact, all of these ingredients were leftover from the crostinis I served at WORD.

The crostini for the reading had goat cheese, sliced beets and a balsamic reduction drizzle. So the greens were leftover from the bunch, as was the cheese, and the bread, which I’ll admit, I overpurchased by design just so that I’d have something to make an airport sandwich lunch with. The dish of inspiration for that book reading hors d’oeuvre was the first-place audience win from my book launch party a week ago. Trish Tchume and Kim Hendler’s crowd-winning crostini actually had goat cheese, roasted red peppers, peaches and a balsamic reduction sauce. At first, I was considering swapping apples for the stone fruit, which were still in season locally. Then, noticing the bunch of golden and red beets in my crisper, I decided to roast those and slice them in oblong slivers instead of apple, which would travel better pre-sliced. Though I didn’t grab any photos of the finished platters, the glistening golden beets, drizzled with an enamel-like balsamic reduction, actually looked a bit like peach slices. A bastardization from the winners’ original, but still a good party platter filler, either one. Thank you, ladies, for the great inspiration!

lightly salted chevre from Patches of Star dairy farm for a book reading appetizer of crostini, and leftover airplane sandwich lunch

apple, goat cheese and balsamic reduction crostini, inspired by a Crostini Cook-Off winner’s entry

And where am I going? Why have I left NYC, in the middle of the Week of Eating In, no less? I went to Madison, Wisconsin, in the heart of the dairy state, and so much more happening with food. I’ll be cooking two dinners, one with Glass House Supper Club and the Underground Food Collective, for a Hapa Kitchen-written menu. And on March 1st, a co-chef stint at Slow Food UW Madison‘s Monday night dinner series. How will I navigate this great culinary destination, when I’m not cooking, and trying to stay true to eating in? That’s another question, and I’m not quite sure the answer to it yet.

11 Responses to “Week of Eating In Days Four and Five: To Travel and Not Eat Out”

  1. kim says:

    Apples, crackers, and nuts are always my go-to sources while travelling. Since you’re not a vegetarian, packets of tuna or salmon travel well too!

  2. Anna Zeide says:

    I’m excited to have you here in Madison! My oldest friend Helen Rubinstein (and your former writing class buddy?) turned me on to your blog a while ago, and I’m looking forward to eating your creations Monday at the Slow Food dinner. Good look with the eating in challenge, and be sure to check out the willy st co-op or any of the other great markets in town to stock up on great food that isn’t from restaurants.

  3. Jeanette says:

    I hope you enjoy madison. I graduated from UW-Madison in ’04, before there was a Slow Food chapter ( I am a member now at home in MN).I have no doubt you’ll be heading to the willy st coop and meeting the great folks at l’etoile. If not already on your itinerary, I would suggest giving the Priskes a ring at Fountain Prairie farm – wonderful folks with beautiful land and cattle. http://www.fountainprairie.com/index.htm I’m a born and bread minnesotan, and I’ll likely raise my kids here, but I left my heart in wisconsin.

  4. Adriane Zenger says:

    How did you get this food past the TSA to eat on the plane? I thought they wouldn’t allow things like this to get into the secure area?

  5. NicM says:

    I always pack lunch for the plane too and bring an empty water bottle to fill up after I pass security. Brought my own lunch to a beer fest on Saturday too so I could keep up the Eating In.

  6. Jessica says:

    Love the KOKO bag! I’ve been asking myself the same questions about healthy eating during travel for a while now… I chronicle the whole ecotourism movement at http://www.GreenGlobetrotter.com and have settled on a supply of fresh fruit and packaged pick-me-ups like Bumble Bars. (They’re very good, although people make fun of me for nibbling at bird seed when I pull when out.) Enjoy Wisconsin!

  7. Celia says:

    I eat in because I am allergic to gluten, grains, many proteins etc. So my stocks and soups, breads are homemade and I enjoy cooking and never leave the house without snacks ready. Next week I fly to NY from Australia. Am checking just how much food US customs will let me bring in. As long as I declare it my baked goods should be OK. I will be at Columbia University for a week and then stay down near union square. I won’t have a kitchen. Any tips?

  8. tasteofbeirut says:

    Interesting post and I will be looking into purchasing that bag! Since I travel long long distances and I refuse to eat airport food I end up starving a lot during my travels! So this is a solution, definitely, if it passes inspection!

  9. christmas crackers says:

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  10. here says:

    Interesting idea, and I would definitely buy this bag. Flying from cost to cost is one thing, but going overseas to europe or travelling central asia or china – this bag is a must have thing considering sometime the lack of water and sandwiches on local markets.

  11. halongcruises.travel says:

    Good look with the eating in challenge

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