Foodie Underground: What Are You Traveling With?

ColumnWhen chocolate and sea salt just aren’t an option.

Five minutes before I needed to be out the door I was running around like a madwoman. Leaving is always like this, even if it’s just for a short trip. Trash taken out? Check. Wallet? Check. Computer? Check. Computer charger? Check. Anything else? Shit. The hazelnuts and raspberries. Grab bulk bag of hazelnuts from freezer, not taking time to measure out how many I actually needed, and pulling the glass jar of raspberries from the fridge and stuffing it in right next to my computer case.

Completely normal.

“Can you take glass jars on carry-on?” I had asked a friend a few days earlier.

“What, are you taking your own mason jar with you or something?” she responded.

“No, I am taking fresh-picked raspberries with me.”

“Of course you are.”

Certainly I could have traveled with an old yogurt container full of raspberries, but where’s the fun in that? It was decided that glass jars were ok, fig raspberry jam was not.

I got pulled over for a butter knife in my backpack once which was leftover from a picnic, but the glass jar full of raspberries didn’t get as much as an eyebrow raise in airport security. And thankfully so; who wants to explain why they have a bulk bag of hazelnuts and a glass jar full of berries with them? (To make a birthday cake obviously).

The thing about writing a food column is that people expect this sort of behavior from you. “You pack your own lunch when you travel, don’t you?”

Well, yes, sometimes. But just like with many things in life, there’s the romanticized version of what you do and then there’s the reality.

“Mom, I’m sitting at the airport. My flight isn’t until 10 tonight, and I need to write Foodie Underground before I get on it or it won’t get finished… What should I write about?”

Given that my mother regularly calls with recipe ideas and food ponderings, it is no surprise that I call her with such questions. A weekly column comes, well, once a week, and sometimes you get stuck.

“Oh I don’t know, the fact that you’re writing your column in an airport,” my mother responded with an noticeable tone of snark. This comment came just one minute after she asked me whether my latest last-minute trip was “worth it” because she thought I was cramming too much into my schedule.

Never mother, never. Don’t you know that you have to travel and see new things to get inspired to write? Thank god there were fried pigs ears and absinthe sorbet on this trip. Yes, absinthe sorbet, and I was nowhere near Brooklyn, San Francisco or Portland. Foodie-ism really can be found anywhere.

Travel and food go hand in hand. We travel to new places so we can discover new things, and food is certainly a part of that process. Eating lets us explore, learn, connect and discover in a way that other activities don’t. But being on the road isn’t always glamorous, and although it’s easy to talk about the amazing meal you had on the outdoor patio of some charming, moderately hip corner joint, you tend to glaze over the fact that on your return trip you planned poorly and were stuck eating a taco salad with god knows what GMO ingredients in it, even if you were eating it with your travel spork.

But the reality – even for a food lover – is that life is not always dark chocolate and sea salt (although I always make a concerted effort to have it so.) There are times when my backpack is filled with hazelnuts and a glass jar of raspberries, as well as a healthy dose of sliced apples and carrots and then there are the other moments when I have nothing and I am stuck penning an article on food while sitting next to a Reese’s peanut butter cup wrapper.

Nobody is perfect.

Sometimes we bring our travel thermoses to be filled with craft roasted Americanos, sometimes we break down and get middle-of-nowhere truck stop coffee in a Styrofoam cup because there simply isn’t another option and it’s 2a.m. and we need a kick.

Sometimes we pack a lunch to eat on our weekend excursion, sometimes we’re slamming an unidentified energy bar because we’re exhausted and there was so little planning that went into a hike that we forgot to bring real food.

Sometimes we prepare fancy meals for one, drizzling some reduction sauce over a sautee of organic vegetables from farmers market, and sometimes we’re hungry enough and pressed for time, that yes, yes we accept the piece of leftover pizza that the neighbor offers up.

Eating, and enjoying food, is all about balance. Pairing low-brow with high-brow and being perfectly accepting of whatever we come up with in between. Call it the yin yang of food; without the bad stuff how do you appreciate the good?

It’s just as important to not be embarrassed by your demand for a quinoa salad with a side of kale in a rural town as it is to not be embarrassed because you’re craving a drive thru milkshake. Eating is enjoyable, and the more we appreciate the process instead of stressing about it, the more we can relax and move on. We have to get rid of hangups. Eating in excess is one thing, fulfilling a once-in-awhile craving or refueling because your body absolutely needs it is another.

A Reese’s peanut butter cup? Sure, why not. Because you’re traveling, and it’s your guilty pleasure and you’re tired and you know perfectly well that you’re not finishing this column until 5 minutes before you land.

There will be plenty of time tomorrow for kale smoothies.

Editor’s note: This is the latest installment of Anna Brones’s weekly column at EcoSalon, Foodie Underground, discovering what’s new and different in the underground food movement, from supper clubs to mini markets to the culinary avant garde.

Anna Brones

Anna Brones is a food + travel writer with a love for coffee and bikes. She is the author of The Culinary Cyclist and Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break. Catch her weekly column, Foodie Underground.