Leaving. On a Jet Plane.

And then another plane. An express coach. Three trains (including the cute red one you’re seeing right here). Several cars. And that’s just the beginning. For my next journey, which unfolds this week, there will also be a large ship, aerial trams and funiculars, taxis, chair lifts, Tube rides, a horse-drawn carriage, a colorful mountain bus, and a rental car that I’ll be driving on the “wrong” side of the road. These red clogs are on the move again.

Why do I do it? Why the strong pull to move, to abandon my current (very fine) station, to suffer all the Sturm und Drang of modern travel just to arrive elsewhere. Especially if you don’t have to?

Paul Theroux observed, “The wish to travel seems to me characteristically human; the desire to move, to satisfy your curiosity or ease your fears, to change the circumstances of your life, to be a stranger, to make a friend, to experience an exotic landscape, to risk the unknown.” Yes!

I have friends who live in a typical American town. They harbor no interest in leaving it. “We have everything that we could ever want right here”, say the friends. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But since my baby muscles were strong enough to propel me forward, I’ve discovered no thrill greater than travel. And as I’ve (gulp) aged, I find new reasons to embrace my passion. In addition to my interpretation of what  Theroux attests – see new things, meet interesting people, explore, get away from the daily routine, eat more ice cream – I love wiping the slate clean for a bit. Travel lets you do this.

Despite hundreds of flights,  from Moscow to Marrakech to Myanmar, one simple truth amazes me every time;  I plunk myself down in a seat and for the ensuing hours, I don’t do much at all. Matter of fact, I barely move. Watch a movie, drink bottled water, nap, listen to music, munch snacks, use the lav.  And then, at once, in the very same clothes and shoes I sported “back there”, I emerge into a brand new scene. I’m still the actress, but the play has changed, the scenery has been replaced, the cast members are new, the script isn’t fully fleshed out and wait, what’s that they’re eating?

You knew it would come back to food.

I can’t wait to report in from overseas on tasty and interesting bites, both expected and unexpected. In the meantime, though, a girl (and her family) has gotta eat.  Below I share what a few of my recipes look like when it’s hot and I’m pressed for time.  As in, right now. But first, a couple of  key travel hints.

I am gearing up for a 4.5 week journey (using only a carry on!). What are my departure rituals? Well…I start early. A table corner is dedicated as the holding pen for all those items that might easily be forgotten (earbuds, mini flashlight, slipper socks for long flight) or daily use items that trigger me to set aside (favorite pen, Burt’s Bees lip shimmer, almonds, chocolate!). I pre-pack several days ahead of my departure to manage the unavoidable realities – e.g., the shorts I planned on bringing are in the laundry hamper or the Tylenol supply is down to 2 caplets. And then 4 days before flying, I start to follow the jet lag diet. You can learn more about it on anl.gov or buy the book.

The concept is to begin to re-set your body several days before “impact” when you land in the new time zone. There are Feast days (days 1 and 3) and Fast days where you consume less food (day 2 and day 4 – day of flight). Breakfasts and lunches are high protein, dinners are high carbohydrate. And you have to be very mindful of caffeine intake (otherwise known as methylated xanthines – now there’s a SAT word!). For me in Los Angeles this typically means I may only enjoy my beloved coffee between 3-4:30pm and on the day I fly, I must drink 1-2 cups of it at 6pm.  I have followed this regime for decades; if nothing else, it’s rewarding to take some control of the dreaded jet lag situation. I still vividly recall a scene at NY’s JFK airport in 1991. My in-laws, husband and I were flying to Zurich, all managing our “methylated xanthine” intake, per the Jet Lag Diet. At precisely 6pm, I purchased 8 cups of coffee for us to imbibe. But then one more security checkpoint appeared. And so there went the 8 styrofoam cups full with piping hot coffee, onto the conveyor belt and thru the screening machine. (for you kids under age 20 reading this, back in the Cro-Magnon age, liquids weren’t considered hazardous substances)

Ok, but what about the FOOD? Since these July days are both hot and replete with pre-trip craziness, I’m favoring simple, cooling dishes.

Fresh greens, citrus, apple, ginger awaiting juicing

First, green juice. This week’s version has featured a blend of spinach, cucumber, celery, apple, lemon, and obscene amounts of fresh ginger. Also a bit of jalapeno. It all goes in the juicer – and voila – a refreshing, healthy start to the day.

Next, a delicious and thirst-quenching watermelon gazpacho, which is truly Summer in a Bowl. It comes together in minutes in a food processor, looks glam enough to serve your guests, and the flavors are anything but one-note. I love it with fresh tortilla chips. This recipe originated from Chef Richie De Mane at my favorite local restaurant, Pearl District.

 

 

And finally, bite-size ice cream cookie sandwiches. These will take you all of  5  minutes to make and are quite simply, addictive.

Ok, gotta finish packing and enjoy my methylated xanthines while the time is ripe.  My next post will be from the Swiss Alps – Tschuess!

 

Richie De Mane’s Watermelon Gazpacho – Alysa’s Summer in a Bowl

  • 4¼ cups seedless watermelon chunks
  • 1½ bell peppers, at least 2 colors -red, yellow, and/or orange, chopped
  • 1 cup seedless cucumber, copped
  • ¼ cup red onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • ½ small fennel bulb, chopped
  • ½ jalapeno pepper, with seeds, chopped
  • 1 medium red tomato
  • ½ cup tomato juice or puree
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • ⅛ cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
  • Splash each of Tabasco and Sriracha sauce
  • ½ teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning (optional)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • ⅓ cup goat cheese
  • ⅓ cup mixed herbs (basil, cilantro, mint), chopped
  • Olive oil (preferably smoked) – optional
  • a healthy pinch of paprika, the smokier the better – optional

Place watermelon, peppers, cucumber, onion, celery and fennel in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Reserve 1⅔ cups of this watermelon-vegetable mixture in a smaller bowl. Put the remaining watermelon-vegetable mixture in a blender, and beginning with short pulsing, puree until smooth. Pour in a large bowl and add tomato juice or puree, lemon and lime juice, seasoned rice wine vinegar, Old Bay (if using), Tabasco, Sriracha, and stir. Chill in refrigerator chill 30 minutes or longer.

While gazpacho is chilling, cut the reserved watermelon-vegetable mixture into ½-inch piece. Place in refrigerator to chill if not serving right away.

Remove gazpacho from refrigerator, add salt and pepper to taste.

Pour gazpacho into individual bowls. Put about ⅓ cup of watermelon-vegetable mixture in the middle of each bowl. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon goat cheese around the mixture and 1 tablespoon herb mixture over the gazpacho. If using olive oil, drizzle some over the middle of the gazpacho and finish by dusting with paprika.

The original gazpacho recipe appeared in Edible Magazine.

 

5 Minute Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches

You can use any kind of ice cream and any kind of cookies as long as they are sturdy enough not to absorb the ice cream. You want crunchy cookies and ideally, since they should be “bite size”, not the monster ones they sell in the glass case at the delicatessen. You could make your own cookies, but it’s the lazy days of summer, so I buy a few varieties in those clear plastic tubs from Trader Joe’s. The pistachio white chocolate  ones were killer, but they seem to have followed several of their compatriots into the Trader Joe’s Graveyard.  I always splurge on the premium ice cream for these treats.

Ingredients

1 quart Trader Joe’s French Vanilla Super premium ice cream (or your favorite brand/flavor)

Crunchy cookies  – Trader Joes plastic tubs or your choice

Directions

Remove ice cream to soften on counter. (try not to consume in entirety before making cookies 😊)

Prepare a small to medium cookie sheet (size should fit in your freezer) with wax paper, parchment, or foil. Take half the cookies and turn them top down so the flat side is up, place on cookie sheet. Using a spoonful of ice cream for each cookie, place ice cream on top of cookie. Not too much; you want it just starting to come out the sides of the cookie when you sandwich them together. Top with reserved cookie halves and freeze immediately.

Tip – before serving these, I freeze a metal serving platter (use oven mitts or a dish towel when removing to avoid freezer burn) which prevents the sandwiches from melting quickly. Then again, they usually aren’t around long enough to melt….

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Comments (27)

  • Alysa, thank You so much- Your blogs are joy and inspiration, both for travelling and delicious food. Looking forward to Your first book with Your collected blogs with photos and recipes 😉 Kisses and hugs from good old Vienna, Yours Sylvi

  • What can be better than great travel and wonderful food? Love your blog and can’t wait to hear more. I’m ready to pack my suitcase and head off to new adventures. I think the travel bug got me.

  • I so enjoy reading your blog as I find it gives me new insight about you and your passions, plus your have a vivid writing style. I look forward to the next installment!

    • how many time zones are you crossing? in other words, what’s the time change between where you are now and where you are headed?

      • Going from Central Daylight time (GMT/UTC minus 5 hours) to China Std time )GMT/UTC plus 8 hours), so when I depart at 1 a.m. from Texas, it’s 2 p.m. in China… 13 hour change.

        I’m usually fine on the westbound trip. It’s coming eastbound where I hit the wall of exhaustion in early afternoon of 2nd day home.

        I’m only in China for a few days, then heading back east to CDT for 2 days, then west to Pacific DT for next conference!

        • Katy, wow, sounds like you’ll be on the move! Yes, i agree that the return to US is always harder and of course, we don’t want to be worrying about following jet lag diet while we’re overseas. (but if you do, it can definitely reduce that jet lag when you come home).
          So, for your upcoming trip which is a 13 hour westward change, follow the recommendations for eastbound 11-12 time zones (I know that sounds weird, but it’s the best approach). Do your feast and fast days, starting three days before your flight to China. on days 1-2, you can have coffee between 3-4:30pm. the day before your flight, have caffeine between 7am and 11:30am central time. On the the morning of the day you fly, drink your 2-3 cups of coffee or tea between 7-11:30am. Then, no more caffeine the day you land in China (however decaf tea or coffee is ok) Hope it works for you and enjoy the trip!

  • Sounds like another adventure is about to happen. Thanks for the travel tips. I am curious what clothes you pack? You can tell me when you return. Enjoy.

    • happy to share more about the clothes. this trip is really testing my cleverness and creativity in terms of being prepared for everything from hiking (boots! poles! outerwear! daypack!) to gala formal nights on a cruise ship (gowns, shoes, purses!)! i try to keep to one or two main color themes, and always pack/wear layers. And I try not to stress too much, I can always augment if need be.

  • Martha Aines-Lessard

    Have wonderful journey.sending love.see if u can find ice cream as good as crescent ridge.and also u came by travel gene from both ur parents.its a wonder u r ever still! Sending love

    • I’m taking on the ice cream challenge. i can’t imagine anything will come close to Crescent Ridge’s Toasted Walnut Fudge, but oh-so-happy to research for the benefit of all! 🙂

  • Bon voyage! Travel safely, observe carefully, photograph constantly, feast regularly, write fluidly … and share it all with us!!!

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