today we are making another journey northward to celebrate the wedding of james’s sister in new york’s finger lakes! the car is packed, and we’re leaving in the wee hours of the morning to arrive in new york by the late afternoon. having lived in north carolina for the past two years, we have made this journey more times than i care to remember. the bad news is, the ride never gets any shorter. the good news is, we are better prepared each time. and by better prepared, i mean, of course, we have better food. because, let’s be honest, the food consumed on a car trip can make or break the experience.
growing up, my family took a lot of road trips. four kids meant that flying was out of the question, but with relatives in toronto and raleigh, we had some traveling to do. before each journey, my dear, dear mother would lovingly pack all manner of healthy choices for us to munch on in the car–carrot sticks, grapes, cheese, crackers, apple&eve juice boxes–all of which was utterly and completely unappreciated by her four, darling daughters. what we really wanted was a bag of bugles (to stick on our fingers), a fistful of chips ahoy cookies, and hi-c juice boxes. but to no avail. no, our trusty igloo cooler was packed to the brim with blue ice-packs and my mom’s choice of healthy snacks.
my parents drove the hoard of us around in a blue mini-van and i sat in the “way-back” with my sister caitlin. the twins, laura and devan, comandeered the front seat (a position that became coveted later in life when we got a second-generation van, this one with “bucket-seats”). but even after the little bench was replaced with the ever-more desirable buckets, i enjoyed my seat in the back for one, ugly reason. it meant that i would not be responsible for doling out the goods from the cooler. there, i said it. the effort of having to lift my gaze from the ramona quimby i was in the midst of devouring so that i could reach my hand into the cooler, plastic bags wet with melted ice, and distribute 100% juice, juice boxes and stale crackers to my sisters, was far more than i was willing to expend, and i was never very good at pretending to be asleep.
well, a lot of time has passed since those days, and i’ve learned a few things. namely, how to get james to fish for things in the cooler now that my sisters aren’t always handy. just kidding. mostly. no, but seriously, i’ve wised up a bit, and now that i pack my own cooler, i have a few car-trip must-haves.
1. water: plenty of it.
2. dried mango: no need to keep it cold, thereby eliminating need for icepacks. so, so tasty.
3. fresh fruit: apples are preferable. not sticky or messy.
4. chocolate: for obvious reasons.
5. cashews: salty. tasty. no messy shells.
and two good rules to live by:
1. rest-stops should be used for peeing and buying the occasional cup of hot coffee. never for eating.
2. dried mango will only get you so far. if you stumble upon a little local eatery, stop the car. get out. enjoy a real meal. you will arrive all the happier.
so, let’s have it, what are your favorite car-trip foods?