18 July 2010

Three banquets a day, our favorite diet

I never really escape from food preparation, even on vacation, which doesn't necessarily bother me. It's not unusual for us to take long road trips, generally made longer by the fact we travel on the smaller roads rather than the Interstates. Again, we find this preferable, even when getting caught in an enormous flock of sheep moving to greener pastures delays us more.

When the kids were younger, and our trips were exclusively by car, we'd carry with us coolers full of fruit and lunch makings, fresh bread and homemade cakes and cookies, replenishing our supplies at local groceries along the way. When traveling by road, particularly the back roads, one never knows whether an eating establishment will be available, and I really dislike fast food and avoid it like the plague, especially on the road.

Coolers weren't really an option on this recent trip, and the utterly vile Chrysler 300C we'd rented wouldn't have held one anyway. It barely held us comfortably. I did, however, rent condos along the way, and the one in Banff also allowed me to prestock the fridge with makings for breakfast, which for us, was enough for about 4 full meals and then some.

We arrived in Banff late on Friday, and the idea of battling the crowds in the main part of town for a spot at a restaurant was unbearable as everyone was exhausted almost to the point of tears and really hungry. Running around in the great outdoors (all of us), running away from giant bugs (the daughter), and walking around landslides (again, everyone, but mainly the spouse) all while assiduously avoiding fast food (me) will do that to you.

Serendipitously, I discovered that the people who'd stocked the condo's fridge with breakfast happened to run a little grocery down the hill, so we walked down to it, and I collected the makings for dinner, and then we hiked back up the hill, and I produced a meal of spaghetti with fresh local sausage and salad. The spouse and I drank a local Cabernet and there was ice cream for dessert, after which, everyone was able to approach the hot pools overlooking the valley with a great deal more equanimity.

The following mornings, of course, I made enormous breakfasts of pancakes and eggs and local breakfast sausage and and juice and coffee, and everyone ate hugely and happily.

Food is always a topic of intense interest around here, and when we travel, it never fails to mystify servers that the daughter, who is the approximate width of a blade of grass, can down enormous steaks along with salad and potatoes and still want dessert in the end. They tend to look dubious when the son, also a fit and lean individual, orders something like rack of lamb, and happily polishes off the entire serving then finishes his father's fried chicken and wants dessert in the end.

Since we've returned, I've gradually also returned to cooking meals, and the daughter, who likes to help, has taken to reading my cookbooks aloud to me. Her particular favorite at the moment is one written by Fannie Flagg that served as a companion to the book and film Fried Green Tomatoes. My children tend to forget that I was raised on a good deal of Southern cooking, and the daughter will sit and lovingly catalog lists of ingredients for chess pie (yuck), stewed tomatoes (shudder) and cheese grits (Velveeta, for crying out loud!). Still, it serves as a reminder that though I have made them fried green tomatoes (because I love them), there is room yet to give them fried chicken and lemon meringue pie, especially because the temperature has been running around 100F, and nothing tastes better in the steaming depths of summer.

Go listen to some good music: "Food, Glorious Food" from the musical Oliver!, book, music and lyrics by Lionel Bart. I used to cook fried chicken for my father-in-law, but it's something I haven't made in years. And most people refuse to believe that I'm not fond of either chess pie or pecan pie because they are so sickeningly sweet. We won't even go into okra.

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