Here are some things you can do to get more food enjoyment out of your next trip:
“You mean, you ordered all this food from room service, and you put it on the Underhills’ bill?” – Gayle Stanwyk
“Well, I knew this was where my mouth would be.” – Fletch
So goes one of my favorite parts of one of my favorite movies, "Fletch." This quote brings up a valid point: When you go on vacation, you and your family take your mouths with you -- a fact you can use to your advantage.
Often, families plan a trip solely for the change in scenery -- but there likely are taste thrills unique to the area they visit.
In May, when my family and I packed up and headed to Myrtle Beach, S.C., we were most excited to walk out of our trailer and be right at the ocean. But the food there was an unexpected pleasure, with strawberries just coming into season and restaurants offering not only great seafood but also hush puppies -- addictive, deep-fried cornbread.
Because we had a kitchen available to us, we ate in lots more than we ate out. Some homemade food highlights of our vacation included oceanside picnics of chopped-egg sandwiches and PB&J, a huge bucketful of pick-your-own strawberries – which the four of us picked in just 10 minutes -- and biscuits and pancakes cooked on the barbecue.
Vacation cooking was made easier with advance planning. Here are some things you can do to get more food enjoyment out of your next trip:
- Options are limited in a standard hotel room, but there are still ways to eat well. Make sure to have a trip’s worth of portable, healthy snacks – perhaps visit a local orchard for some peak-of-season peaches that don’t need refrigeration for a week or so. Also, scope out family-friendly restaurants with dependably good food, so that you’ve got a place to return to, if need be. On one memorable trip, skiing in the Mont Blanc area of Europe, my traveling buddy and I ate in the same great restaurant every night!
- If you’re lucky enough to have a kitchen unit, or a camp-cooking set-up, you can do some advance prep to make meals go smoothly. In the weeks leading up to your trip, write a list of possible meals, and a shopping list of items you’ll need right away but can’t transport. Make sure that everybody’s tastes are taken into account, so that vacation is enjoyed by all (here’s a from-experience tip: Don’t try to force something new on a reluctant child while on vacation, it’s an invitation to a meltdown!)
- Make up a batch of biscuit and pancake mix (see my recipe below) before leaving home. In our two weeks of bliss, this mix was the base for treats like pancakes, strawberry shortcake, and banana pan bread. My parents, in whose trailer we vacationed while they stayed in a cool high-rise nearby, loved the mix so much that they took a batch on their recent houseboating trip to Canada.
- Take advantage of local eateries and farmstands while away; the closer to your destination food is grown, the tastier it is. Also, many restaurants proudly feature “Locally Grown” menu items, and if you’re planning a late summer trip, just about everywhere you go will have something ripe, ready, and yummy!
Make it your goal to eat well while away, and then take steps to ensure that you follow through. You’ll all feel the positive effects – children, like adults, are happier when the food they eat is fresh, nutritious and tasty. And when the children are happy, everybody’s happy, right? With a little advance planning and effort before you leave, you can eat really well while away. Have a great trip!
Biscuit and Pancake Mix
10 cups whole-wheat flour (or mix ½ white flour and ½ whole-wheat)
2 cups cornmeal
4 Tbsp baking powder
1 Tbsp baking soda
1 Tbsp salt
Mix well, store in a zip-top plastic bag, or other airtight container. Here are some of the things we did with this while on vacation:
Banana Pan Bread
2-3 bananas, mashed
½ cup milk
1 Tbsp melted butter
¾ cup sugar
2 cups biscuit mix
1) Preheat the oven to 350, and grease a 9” square pan.
2) Mix bananas, eggs, milk, and butter. Add in sugar and biscuit mix, and stir until moistened.
3) Pour into greased pan, bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes. This may take longer, so continue baking until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (check every 5 minutes after 40 minutes in the oven). Let cool, cut into squares, and enjoy!
Right now, with so many great berries in season, you may want to skip the bananas and go more seasonal. If so, here’s what you do: Mix the dry ingredients, and use a pastry blender or two knives to cut (non-melted) butter into dry ingredients until the biggest bits are pea-sized. Mix in two cups of cleaned, fresh (or frozen) berries, then add in 1 ½ cups milk (note the change in quantity from the original recipe!) and eggs. Follow above directions from step 3, and enjoy!
The Best Pancakes Ever (and I really mean that!)
Combine with a whisk in a mixing bowl:
2 cups biscuit mix
1 ½ cups milk or water (plus another ¼ cup if batter is too thick)
2 Tbsp butter (optional, but yummy!)
1 Tbsp maple syrup (ditto the butter)
Pour batter into hot buttered skillet, by the ½ cup or more; turn pancakes over when you see lots of bubbles on the surface of the pancake, and edges look cooked. Serve hot with butter, maple syrup, and fresh fruit – great for breakfast dinners, too!
These are even better with fresh blueberries; after pouring batter into pan, sprinkle 5-10 berries onto each pancake (depending on size of fruit and ‘cakes).
We were so determined on our vacation to have strawberry shortcake with our fresh-picked strawberries that, when the oven didn’t work, Max and I put these biscuits on a small, greased cookie sheet – and cooked them on the barbecue! It worked great, with the heat set on medium (at a guess, 350-400 degrees) and the lid closed; we checked them every few minutes to make sure that none burned, and moved them around toward the end of the cooking time if they looked too browned.
2 cups biscuit mix
2 Tbsp butter, softened
¾ cup sour milk (milk combined with 1 Tbsp vinegar) OR plain yogurt OR sour cream
1) Preheat oven to 450, grease cookie sheet.
2) Combine biscuit mix with butter, cut in with a pastry blender or two knives until biggest bits are pea-sized.
3) Stir in milk, yogurt, or sour cream until batter is well mixed.
4) Drop biscuits onto greased pan, making 8 total.
5) Bake 10 minutes at 450. Use in strawberry shortcake, or serve with butter and honey.
Karen Kolp is the author of “The Old-Fashioned Kitchen of the Future: Eat Well without Convenience Foods,” a cookbook-in-progress. She lives in Bellingham with her husband and their two young boys.