09 September 2014

Road Trip: On Food And Cooking

Fourteen nights on the road in a small RV means finding a balance between meals out, and meals prepared out of the little kitchen. I’d guess that we ended up eating one meal out every day, usually lunch. Breakfast was easy – cereal, or pancakes, or bread & butter & jam, or eggs – all things that were easy enough to make using the one functioning burner in the tiny kitchen. [The other burner was missing one of the four legs that hold up a pot, so it was pretty much out of commission.]

Dinner was easy too: we’d make a wood fire out in the fire pit, and use it to grill steak or chicken or hot dogs, and sauté some onions & peppers on a cast iron skillet, and tuck some potatoes in a foil packet alongside the coals. That, and a salad, that’s a meal.

And because you’ve got that wood fire going, you make s’mores. I’ve decided, though, that s’mores are completely overrated: the bland insipid Hershey’s chocolate doesn’t get melty enough, and the graham crackers are way too boring. I had my sentiment corroborated when we invited a Dutch family in a nearby campsite to share our dessert. The children loved them, the parents, not so much. They were polite, but it got me thinking that it’s time to reinvent the s’more. The answer? Stash the good chocolate for that kind of emergency, and use Anna’s ginger thins for the cookie. Perfection.

Figuring that there were going to be nights when we weren’t going to want to cook a steak over a wood fire, we laid in a jar of tomato sauce and some dried pasta and a small block of parmesan. The cheese was the girl’s idea, and not thinking it through, I went along with it. Of course, when it came time to get the cheese into a form that could be sprinkled over a bowl of pasta, I was stymied.

The small serrated knife produced a better result, but the vegetable peeler was a lot easier.

Groceries were a bit of a challenge. We stocked up on good stuff in Salt Lake City before we left, and at a fancy Whole Foods clone at the midpoint in Jackson, but in between, the pickings were slim. I actually rejected a package of hotdogs in one Yellowstone convenience store because they just looked too gross for words. We did buy various things that we never buy at home, like factory-farmed chickens and cereal in single serve boxes. I also experimented: that roots-intact, hydroponic lettuce that comes in a clamshell does fine banging around on the counter of an RV for a few days.

Meals out were a mixed bag. We avoided fast food restaurants completely, but staying away from the predictable sameness of McDonald’s in favor of one-off eateries found on Yelp or Roadfood meant some indifferent meals, some mediocre pie, and one meal that I would happily fly back across the country for. Located on Scenic By-Way 12, a 100 mile road from nowhere to nowhere, and called Hell’s Backbone Grill, my husband thought it was going to be a biker joint. But no – it’s an oasis of calm, with blue flower petals sprinkled on the homemade limeade, unpretentious fabulously prepared food with a Tex-Mex veneer, a resident Maine Coon, and their own organic farm. They were exceedingly nice to our morose carsick 10yo and let her eat naught but a perfect peach and a fresh toasted biscuit.

On our first day in Salt Lake, we ended up getting great sandwiches at a place called Toasters, which I confess that I picked mostly because someone on Yelp dissed it with “overrated, expensive hipster sandwiches”. And on our last day, we drove up to Park City, and ended up having pizza at Vinto, splendid little wood-fired pizzas followed by some of the best gelato I’ve had in a long time. The girl had the butterscotch pudding with salted caramel sauce, natch, and that might have been even better than the gelato.

Eating in the National Parks – we ate in the lodge at Bryce Canyon, and in several lodges in Yellowstone – was a happy surprise: decent food, not outrageously priced. Also, there was something divinely mind-bending about encountering a bison in a parking lot near the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and finding bison burgers on the menu at the Canyon Lodge Dining Room an hour later.

Hands down, the worst meal of the trip was the one we had at Mom’s Cafe. I found Mom’s written up all over the place, not just Yelp and Roadfood, and it wasn’t far from our first campground, so we went there for dinner our first night on the road. No, no, no. It was dreadful. Moral of the story? Don’t eat at Mom’s.

And by far, the best thing kitchen implement I brought on the trip was my plastic wineglass. Cheers!

Part 1, The Hut, is here.
Part 2, The Campsites, is here.


Jeanne said...

That limeade is beautiful.

City Twins Chicago said...

Yes. Is that limeade? I cannot stop staring at it. Looks yummy.