Setting out on a month-long road trip to the northwestern United States to promote my new book, The Good Life Lab
, Mikey and I wondered, How do homesteaders uphold a food standard while traveling?
|Driving from New Mexico to Washington|
We remember an afternoon we spent at a café on Avenue B on the Lower East Side of Manhattan where we sipped coffee and tapped away at our laptop keyboards. From the corner patio table we noticed the driver of a Sysco truck making a food delivery to a run-down deli. When he was finished, he crossed the street and walked two storefronts further down to deliver the same food to a fancy, expensive health food restaurant. Witnessing this was like having a piano dropped on our heads. We realized that food eaten out is all the same. No matter how it has been dressed up, unless produce is certified organic, it can be assumed to contain pesticides and/or be genetically modified. And conventional meats are heavy with hormones that affect our own. Most of the conventional food we eat comes from a truck like the one we saw that day in New York.
Our experience that afternoon was one of the mounting reasons that led us to change the way we were living. We started wondering what healthy food really was, and we set a goal to obtain it. Today at our New Mexico homestead, we make cheese from the milk of a local cow named Princess and eat vegetables from our own garden. Wild game comes to us from the nearby open ranges along with wild-crafted plants that we forage for food and medicine. Our kitchen is a reflection of our wish to avoid highly processed foods, additives, preservatives, pesticides, hormones, and GMOs.
For the very first time since we built our homestead, this month we would be on the road traveling. Without a strategy, we'd be eating who knows what. So, we set a goal before leaving: avoid Sysco.
This strategy helped us travel 1,600 miles from home, from southern New Mexico to Seattle, without a single stop for food or drink. Traveling in a not-so-big VW sedan, we had to keep our food setup small. All our gear fits into a medium-sized plastic bin. Most of the cookware was acquired for a buck or less at yard sales. The edible goods are from New Mexico farms and our own garden; the few store-bought foods are organic.
GEAR: One 20 x 16 x 6 plastic bin to hold cooking gear, a dual-burner propane camping stove, a cast-iron fish pan (flat without edges takes up less space, and ours was 50 cents at a yard sale), a stainless-steel French press for tea, a spatula (whipper flipper acquired at a yard sale for a quarter), a set of titanium camping bowls, cutlery, one sharp camping knife, two insulated travel mugs, a cooler that we found at Elephant Butte Lake after a holiday weekend, a large thermal Mylar freezer bag that a guest left at my house (which we use to hold everything that is not in a bottle or jar, to avoid spills), and a TDS meter (to determine safety of drinking water)
BASIC SUPPLIES: roll of paper towels, olive oil, Dr. Bronner's soap, a 2-gallon jug of water
BREAKFAST and SNACKS: Variety of granolas, nuts, dried fruit, a box of hemp, a box of almond milk, and fresh fruit
LUNCH and DINNER: Pork roast sandwich with caramelized apples (ingredients: pork from a New Mexico farm precooked in a Dutch oven at home, mesquite bread baked at home using foraged mesquite, preshredded homemade cheese, apples). We warm the bread on the camping stove and caramelize sliced apples in the cast-iron pan. Once the sandwich is built with all the ingredients, we warm it in the pan to melt the cheese. One half-gallon Mason jar of whey-fermented kimchi made with bok choy from our garden makes a spicy green side dish that is also a probiotic. When we finish the jar, we use the liquid in the kimchi to inoculate a new batch. We plan to keep this going for the entire road trip.
BEVERAGES: We use the TDS meter to test water we are considering drinking. We choose not to drink water with over 200ppm (parts per million) nonwater molecules. For tea, hot or cold, we packed dry coda that we wildcrafted and mint from our garden. We left home with two mason jars filled with our kombucha before we put our mother to rest in the fridge, and one bottle of homemade wine to have with our evening dinner.
MEDICINE: Homemade tincture of ocotillo for bellyache; ephedra for a stimulant and bronchial opener; grape-seed extract for bacterial food poisoning (just in case); creosote for stings, cuts, and bites; homemade sleeping pills containing kava kava, hops, and valerian root.
|Cooler of healthy goods|
TIPS: Hot water for tea and coffee can be obtained free at truck stops, made by warming water on the camping stove or by using hotel coffee pots to heat it. Free ice can be picked up from hotel ice machines. Maple syrup is a great all-purpose sweetener that can be added to cereal, sandwiches, and beverages. (A Minnesotan neighbor who snowbirds in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, gifted ours to us before leaving.) Earplugs are a must when you don't know where you'll be sleeping. The storage bin that holds the kitchen gear, when emptied, becomes a vessel for washing dishes.
Did I mention we are traveling with a cat and a dog? To keep everyone's belly stable and avoid carsickness, we travel with two cups of premade white rice that we mix with their food. And we travel with Rescue Remedy in case anyone gets panicky.
Arriving at our Seattle destination, we meet the arrival of a book we had ordered and shipped to Washington before leaving: Wild Harvest: Edible Plants of the Pacific Northwest. We plan to use this guide to help us to search out wild edibles in the Northwest. We are on the lookout for nonconventional food that we expect to find at farmer's markets throughout Vancouver, Portland, Bellingham, Corvallis, and Powell River. The first 1,600 miles have been Sysco free!
Cheers to good health and planning.
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