Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Alone in a Hotel Room with Sandwiches (somewhere in Wyoming)

I know that I said I was going to take some time off from Prose and Potatoes, but... well, the hotel has wifi, and what else am I going to do alone in a hotel room besides eat, sleep, and watch bad T.V. (and I mean bad T.V., they don't even have the Food Network!)

Plus, I got so excited when I sat down to dinner, that I have to share it with you.

I do not believe in road food. Road food in Interstate-land America is grim. Either you cave in desperation to the first fast food joint you find, or you treat the snack food aisle at Flying J like a buffet line. Aside from being expensive, these options are vapid and a nutritional nightmare. I don't know about you, but after sitting in a car all day, my body has taken enough abuse that I don't feel like bombarding it with saturated fat, sugar, and excessive amounts of sodium.

According to MapQuest, I drove 688.09 miles today. It took me 12 hours, and I didn't have to stop and buy food once. Now I know some of you may be rolling your eyes at this point at how absurd it sounds to spend the night before your trip cooking. Before you begin to think I'm Betty Crocker on uppers I want to show you how easy it is.

First, nothing can be simpler than sandwiches. You can eat them with one hand at the wheel, and trust me anything you make will be better than the grab-and-go deli section at the travel plaza. Today, I had one egg salad and one hummus, Parmesan, cucumber both leftover from earlier this week so no extra prep time. Throwing together a few p.b. and honeys or almond butter and raspberry jam takes but a moment.

Next, I recommend a grain and vegetable salad that is sturdy and equally delicious whether cold or at room temp. I made a quinoa salad with tomatoes and a green bean, sweet corn, and feta salad with balsamic dressing.

Then, add some easy to eat fruits and veggies. I have been eating cherry tomatoes, sliced red bell pepper, and sliced cucumber. (Did I mention my car has no a/c? It is amazingly refreshing to reach over to your cooler, and pull out a bag of icy cold cucumbers when you're beginning to wilt from the heat.) Bananas and apples are also great because they're sturdy and won't take up valuable cooler real estate.

Finally, don't forget some carbs. A few Odwalla bars, or homemade pemmican bars (thanks Kaedra!) [Recipe forthcoming.] Or a scone or cookie (thanks, Jenn!) are perfect for breakfast with that travel mug of much needed coffee.

Also, don't be scared into thinking that traveling with a cooler is burdensome. For this trip the only thing I had to use was a cheap Styrofoam (no CFCs) cooler, and it works as great as our real cooler that's in Ohio with Kent. After 12 hours, I still had ice. Tomorrow, I'll refill it with ice from the hotel machine instead of regretting an egg Mcmuffin. One word of warning though, ice turns to water. So all food must be packed in secure waterproof containers. If you wouldn't throw it into the bathtub, and then open it and eat it, then don't put it into the cooler. Disposable/reusable plastic containers work great because they're completely waterproof and food won't get smashed.

So, now with all the money I've saved avoiding road food, not only do I have a larger discretionary restaurant spending budget when I get to my destination and can eat in REAL restaurants, and I'm also feeling healthy and energized. I hope this inspires you to rethink what you eat on your next road trip.

Green Bean, Sweet Corn and Feta Salad with Balsamic Dressing

This is a taste and tinker recipe because I through it together incredibly quickly last night so here are the approximate amounts of ingredients.

1 1/2 cups green beans, fresh, cut in 1 inch pieces
One ear corn, kernels cut from cob
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
handful of cherry tomatoes, whole
about 2 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

Set large pot of salted water to boil. Boil greens for 2 minutes, and corn cook for 3 or 4 more minutes or until beans are crisp/tender. Don't overcook! Drain.

Mix beans and corn with bell pepper, tomatoes, and cheese. Coat with dressing.

Mix together equal amounts of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add the juice of half and lemon and season with salt and pepper to taste.

This salad develops its flavor as it sits in your cooler all day. It would also be great mixed with a little cold, cooked rice.

Monday, August 18, 2008

So Long Boise....Thanks for all the Tomatoes

There are many foods that remind me of a specific person or place or time in my life. Foods that, whenever I eat them, I remember where I was and who I was with the first time I tried it.

Not so with tomatoes.

Tomatoes are one food that has been with me since before I remember. Tomatoes fresh from the garden have just, well, always been. My parents always grew tomatoes in the garden and the only way I remember eating them when I was little was in BLTs or fatly sliced with a bit of salt and pepper. Straight from the garden tomatoes are simple, unpretentious, the perfect balance of sweet acidity, fleshy skin, and juiciness. This is how I've been enjoying them lately.

The past few weeks have felt heavy with weight of trying to soak up one last everything from Boise before I leave her forever tomorrow. So in addition to trying to soak up as much lycopene as possible from my dear garden, I've been saying good byes. This involves quietly and unceremoniously admitting to myself this is the last time I will ever see Boise exactly like this, exactly as I am now. Frankly, it's exhausting. This goodbye has been drawn out long enough.

So, tomorrow, when I hit the road at 6 am, I'll be carrying with me a basket full of tomatoes, a few potted fresh herbs, and lots of memories. And next year, when I'm eating tomatoes from my new garden in Ohio, I'll remember fondly these last few tomato filled days of Boise.

Postscript: I will be off the blogging grid for a couple of weeks. My journey to Ohio is going to have a few pit-stops along the way to visit friends and family. I'll return to Prose and Potatoes in September and show you my new kitchen and tell you about the new foods I'm finding in Ohio.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Food = Consciousness

“Food is a yardstick of consciousness,” writes Doris Friedenson in her essay, “Chapulines, Mole, and Pozole: Mexican Cuisines and the Gringa Imagination” (165). While I haven’t eaten chapulines (grasshoppers), it’s only because the opportunity hasn’t arose yet, and this, Fridensohn argues is because the “foods we eat tell much about where we have lived and where we have traveled” (165). So instead of writing about chapulines, mole, and pozole, I’m going to write about where I have been, namely where I’ve been for the last two years: Boise, Idaho. As I can count down my days left in Boise on both hands, I’ve begun to think about the indelible food prints Boise culture has left in my life.

Here is a list of the things that Boise, with its heritage of Basque immigrants, Spanish food, and Northwestern hippie/fusion cuisine, has opened my palate to in the brief two years I’ve lived here:

  1. Lamb (I honestly don’t remember ever eating lamb before moving to Idaho, and because a lot of lamb is raised here-due in part to the first Basque, sheep-herding immigrants at the turn of the century I suppose this makes sense).
  2. Manchego cheese (and any other sheep’s milk cheese, also that Spanish/Basque connection)
  3. Serrano Ham. (My love of pork products has increased ten-fold since moving here, dry aged hams in particularly make my taste buds quiver. The head cheese experiment also helped encourage my new found pork obsession).
  4. Smoked Paprika (this is Estrella’s influence, the tapas bar where I used to work introduced me to this powerful, and delicious seasoning way before Rachael Ray started singing its praises.)
  5. Lavender (I didn’t even know it was edible until I saw it being sold as a culinary herb at the Boise Farmer’s Market. Now I make a wicked lavender vinegrette to dress salads of greens, goat cheese, and candied pecans, which is a spin on Bungalow restaurant’s signature salad.)
  6. Trout (sure everyone eats salmon, but trout? Delicious. Think sort of the more mellow, laid back little brother of salmon.)
  7. Hazelnuts (I’d eaten them before, but I never baked with them so much before. Hazelnuts are largely grown in Oregon. I could get them in bulk here relatively cheap, which is something I’ll miss when I’m gone.
  8. Sourdough. (This is a western thing dating back to the Yukon territory and the Gold Rush, and pioneers who brought sourdough along with them in covered wagons. I heard friends talk about sourdough cultures—thanks Kelly— and thought I should try my own. Norton (aka my sourdough starter) will be traveling to Ohio with me, in sort of a reverse Oregon trail pilgrimage.
  9. Berries. (Of course I have had blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries before moving here, I just hadn’t had local berries as good or as fresh as this every before.)
  10. IPAs (in outdoorsy, hippie country like this Indian Pale Ales are everywhere. I don’t know that I’ve fully acquired a taste for them yet. But, I can drink them comfortably, whereas, two years ago, if it was hoppy enough to bounce around on my taste buds like a super ball, I couldn’t choke it down.)

So there you have it, my top ten food memory map for the Boise, Idaho stage of my life. These things I’m sure I will miss, as in some instances it will be hard to find some of this food, the way I remember it, in Ohio. But, it also leaves me wondering, what new list, will I create in Ohio?

Foods connect me to people, to places, to memories, and the quest to find them, to recreate a cherished dish is just a part of self-creation, of self-definition in the constant flux and inevitable change of life.