Always Thinking About Food
Food. So simple, yet so complicated. On this journey, we’re always thinking about food. Sometimes it’s as simple as daydreaming about our next meal or figuring out what to pick up at the market. Other times, we’re stressing about running out of food or lamenting the seeming lack of control over our daily intake or worrying about the sustainability of our eating habits.
The truth is, even after a year on the road, finding and eating food is still a complex and often-troubling issue. We have to consider portability and our lack of refrigeration, as well as all the facets of eating healthfully. And the further we travel and the more I think about the issue of food, the more I realize just how spoiled we were in Long Beach, with our daily farmers’ markets and whenever-we-wanted-it access to high-quality, organic ingredients.
Sometimes, I’ll be in a market, trying to figure out what to buy, and I’ll think about how different my purchases would be if I had daily access to a kitchen, especially a refrigerator. It’s a weird thing to think about, because I don’t actually want to own a refrigerator, I just miss the comforts one allows. Yogurt, fresh meat, ice… all luxuries that I never really thought about a year ago.
Then there’s the issue of storage. I don’t really want to lug around 40 pounds of food every day, so I choose to buy only what we’ll eat in a 1 or 2-day period. And, subsequently, put us at the mercy of what’s available on a day-to-day basis. Staples that we used to eat a lot in Long Beach (such as quinoa, lentils, fresh spinach) aren’t as readily available in small town markets.
Then there are issues of health, which are wide and deep. I think about the ways that I would choose to eat in a situation where I wasn’t moving constantly… and it involves a lot of fresh vegetables that don’t keep well in a food bag, whole grains that take a long time to cook, meat that doesn’t survive 90-degree days. Ironically, while I feel stronger than ever before, I don’t feel as healthy as I did a year ago, because I don’t have the same control over what I eat.
And don’t even get me started on issues of sustainability. I have been deeply schooled in the lesson of what passes for food in most of this country. Organic, locally-grown, ethically-raised… How about meat that’s not purple and vegetables that don’t come out of a can?
So how do I take all these many different thoughts and locate foods that meet all the above criteria, while maintaining enough nutritional calories and some semblance of my own food belief system, and not make myself totally crazy? The answer is… I don’t know, I’m still figuring it out. In the near future, when we cross the ocean to Asia or South America, I’ll figure it out all over again.
At the base of this dilemma, of course, are all of the concessions that I’ve made over the past year. In the name of being able to eat through the myriad small towns we’ve explored, I’ve had to set aside my personal food politics, and look to the grey areas. When a half-dozen bruised apples in a basket make up the whole produce selection, you can’t afford to choose ‘organic.’ And, really, when I want to meet people where they are and make connections, how can I possibly project my set of ideals onto a situation that has no chance of supporting them?
But when my stomach grumbles because it’s full of sugar and hasn’t seen a green vegetable in days, I realize that I have to find a grey area within the grey area. There has to be a solution somewhere, a way to eat from small town offerings that leaves me feeling energized and confident in my choices, a way to stop longing for the comforts of a built-in kitchen and make amazing meals from just what I can carry.
In a way, all of these challenges open up an opportunity to grow, to learn. Food choices no longer come easily, so I have to put on my thinking cap and re-educate myself about a subject I thought I knew perfectly. As we get ready to enter our second year on the road, it seems the right time to take stock and have “beginner’s mind” about what it could be like to eat while we travel. We’ll share our food changes as we figure them out. In the meantime, if you have ideas, feel free to share. Here’s to thinking more about food!