Food on the Road

Food when traveling is a menu apart, often mere survival, but sometimes a focus of pleasure. Our East Coast junket required long and short airplane and car rides – and the meals to accompany such journeys – no home visits and few real restaurants, late arrivals at hotels, and college food service dinners under a big white tent at the reunion. But searching out food on the road seems to get easier – packaged nuts dangle from airport newsstands, portable fruit like apples and bananas appear in coffee spots and highway stops, and vegetables find their way.

In Maine we arrived late and driving-weary at our hotel, on the outskirts of the college town, not perched near the sea or in fragrant pinewoods but in a field of asphalt surrounded by a mall of box stores and smattering of chain restaurants. We walked across the road to one, me dragging my feet. But I was happy to find a menu full of vegetables as “sides” – grilled zucchini, steamed broccoli, sweet potato fries, roasted squash, and more – also brown rice pilaf and a salad bar that included mesclun, fresh spinach leaves, and black beans!

We did have a real meal to celebrate the graduate – tasty pizza-like crusty flatbreads baked in an open oven with a roaring wood fire. One, covered with caramelized onions, olives, mushrooms, artichokes, zucchini, and a tomato sauce, reminded me of my intention to roast ahead vegetables to use on a pizza (first encountered on my Alaska trip).

On our return trip to Seattle, we landed at a small jet terminal at O’Hare and walked to a bigger concourse. The link between terminals is a slightly curved, all-glass, elevated walkway with student paintings on translucent material – hanging from the ceiling and on windows (but not blocking light). Best were the benches – not airport furniture but slatted like real benches in a garden or park. Travelers paused here – transported for a moment to a plaza with a people promenade.

Instead of a “food court” with predictable choices, smaller farmer’s market-like stands edged the concourse across from gates. One had “real food” – a selection of fruit, chips, salads, sandwiches including a delicious hummus and roasted vegetables offering in a wheat wrap – a great picnic lunch.

Roasted vegetables served hot used to be just winter fare – but now seem versatile and interesting for summer sandwiches or pizza.

Please, let’s bring on summer!

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