O.K. Maybe I didn't exactly learn these things from scratch, but I put into use some lessons over these last crazy weeks that I though might be useful to us all. I/we have been away from home under varying circumstances and have been able to eat well and stay healthy throughout. How? Maybe some of my recent experiences will help:
About three weeks ago I went to the Weston A. Price Foundation International conference--which was as incredibly full of information, new tastes, new people, new ideas as I remembered from last year. There was, of course, really wonderful food, provided by small farmers and prepared according to traditional principles. But there were also close to two days of travel--on airplanes and through airports known for lack of anything decent to eat, even for folks less picky about what they put into their bodies than I am. I should add that there is one very good restaurant at Dulles, the airport in Washington that I was using, that has local food and cooks it with more care than anyone has a right to expect in that setting. I did not need to eat there, though, because I take a bit of time to plan my food for such trips.
What I carry on planes: crispy nuts, dried fruit (I think I had persimmons and figs), cubed cheese, sliced salami, an apple (one for each person, if in a group), "baby" carrots, hard boiled eggs, homemade crackers. These are usually things I have on hand at all times at home. If I have them, I might add tangerines or other easy to manage fruit, and any travel-friendly leftovers, such as sliced meat or chicken wings. I don't shy away from a few small containers, because I have found them to be useful for the return trip, to transport things I can gather during my stay. I also pack a few extra zipper storage bags for the return trip, a napkin and an empty water bottle. I have found that I prefer to fill my bottle from a fountain, after going through security, to drinking from commercial plastic bottles. I can't speak to the science of whether plastic particles are worse than chlorine for us, but the plastic tastes much worse to me.
The same week I was in DC, my husband and kids went to a regatta in Naples. They had a kitchen in the hotel, which is a basic necessity for us, though some folks I know travel with a hotplate or other small indoor heat source--some even use hotpots to reheat food cooked at home. I had planned every meal and organized it so that my 13 year old could easily take charge of both packing and cooking the food. I find that's important whether I will be there or not. When we go camping I do the same thing, because I really don't want a lot of leftovers and some meals are easier to make then others when you are without the luxury of a well-equipped kitchen. As a matter of fact, if I am not sure of the motel's equipment, I pack some basics from my camping gear--who wants to get stuck without a corkscrew when you are staring at a nice bottle of wine?
Car trips are a bit different than plane travel, because I can take coolers. I have been known to pack a roast chicken and salad fixings to feed us at a lovely wooded rest area (there are a few of those!) I have taken pate (the recipe I previously posted) and gravlax (I use the recipe from Nourishing Traditions, replacing the Rapadura with honey) that I had on hand, both of which make great lunch and snack foods. I pack more fruit, and I can include things that might have gotten squished in a carry-on under the seat in front of me, like plums, grapes, pears. I plan on more fruit when we travel because the disruption in routines can cause constipation. When I pack a cooler, I use water bottles filled with frozen filtered water for most of the "ice packs," rounding out with gel packs. In a pinch--when we didn't have a freezer to refreeze the gel packs and water bottles, I have filled the water bottles with ice at a motel ice machine, adding water to make packs that will last pretty long and not make a mess of the food. If we are headed to a place where I will be cooking (like a regatta or camping) I will pack the meat frozen, and may even precook some things and freeze them--everything travels better that way, and I don't have to fret about any delays.
The other recent "travel" experience was actually two trips to the emergency room with two different kids. One turned into an overnight stay, so I really did need good food. I think hospital food rivals airplane food for being gross and devoid of nutrition. I am not sure how people are supposed to heal eating such processed, sugary junk, but I didn't have to find out! As soon as I decided to take my son to the ER the day before Thanksgiving (he had signs of appendicitis), I quickly packed a bag with a change of clothes, a book, a sketchbook, my phone charger, and some food. Since I was not sure how long I would be without refrigeration, I used a small insulated lunch box with a gel pack and included hard cheese, crackers, nuts, dried fruit and a jar of frozen chicken stock. I added a china cup (for microwaving, so I don't have to use styrofoam--microwaving is bad enough!) and some tea bags, herb for Ian and black for me. Once he was admitted, he was allowed to order what food he wanted from the hospital's food service. This is an improvement over other systems, and allowed us to chose the most "real" food available: bacon and eggs, a hard boiled egg for me, fresh fruit, grits. Yes, some of these are compromises--I would not normally use commercial bacon or degermed grits, and the grits would be soaked. But, under the circumstances, these were pretty good choices.
Pretty good choices. That's what Rick and I have worked to refine for travel. He travels a lot for business and used to come home with digestive upsets, some of which can last longer than the original trip! He takes nuts and dried fruit, sometimes a piece of fresh fruit, sometimes a can of sardines. Eating out, he has learned to order fish or meat grilled or cooked in butter (if real, he always asks) or olive oil. He gets salad and vegetables without dressings and sauces, unless he can be really sure what is in them. Instead, he asks for olive oil, melted butter, lemon or lime, to season them. Bacon and eggs (boiled, poached or fried, to avoid liquid egg products) and fruit are pretty reliable for breakfast. Using these tactics, he has been able to stay healthy and have some pretty good meals.
Travel is fun for us all, and we love tasting new foods. Still, because of our commitment to eating real foods, and owing to a few sensitivities in some family members, it serves us better to take much of our food and to experience local ingredients from farmers and markets, rather than eat our meals out. This ends up being more economical, healthier, and often has given us connections in a community that we would have otherwise missed. I know it might sound like I do a lot of work, but really the work is in the planning--on the trip itself it is usually stress-free and enjoyable, perhaps even more so than it would be eating icky food in crowded restaurants with a bunch of finicky kids.
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