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.
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.
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
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….