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The Road Not Bacon

July 17, 2011

Keeping kosher is not easy. Not even in New York, where there are dozens of kosher restaurants in every borough and dozens more in the few predominantly Jewish suburbs.

Keeping kosher while traveling is a lot more difficult. The nonkosher don’t know how easy they have it. They can eat anywhere, at any time, and they never have to plan their meals in advance, let alone plan their days around their meals. Whenever they’re hungry, wherever they are, there’s a restaurant of some kind nearby. For us kosher folk, well, not so much. Keeping kosher forces you to be more conscious of everything you put in your mouth, and everything you don’t. You can’t just mindlessly nibble whatever junk you find in that table in the office or being handed out for free in the supermarket; you have to know where it’s from, who made it, what organization (if any) certifies that it’s kosher, and whether that organization is trustworthy. You can never, ever, just pop something in your mouth without thinking about it. There are some major benefits to that mindset, but it sure complicates travel. Food is always the first thing Sarah and I think about when planning any sort of a trip: where we’ll be able to find it, how much of it we’ll need to bring with us, when and where we’ll be able to eat it, etc. We’ve brought entire suitcases full of frozen take-out on trips and even once checked a toaster oven as luggage.

Keeping kosher while traveling across the entire country for five weeks in a car, well, that’s on a whole new level of “not easy.” Living on PB&J and granola bars for a day or two is one thing, but five weeks is a whole different animal. And with no access to a freezer, even the very best cooler on the market only helps for so long. Complicating everything considerably is the fact that I’m traveling with a 9-year-old boy who is generally agreeable but is not necessarily known for his patience or his adventurous palette and is not quite mature enough to suck it up in the name of a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

Plus, even when you don’t keep kosher, it’s damn near impossible to eat healthy on the road but I would nonetheless like to include some balance (and vegetables) in our diets. And I’m working with other issues, too. For one, I’m trying to keep food costs as low as possible so that I can afford to sleep in beds instead of in the car. And I also want to pack as light as possible but at the same time limit the amount of shopping we have to do on the road because it takes time away from the fun stuff.

Add it all up and you end up with weeks of planning and shopping and a back seat full of raw and cooked meat, cheese, vegetables, fruit, bread, condiments, cereal, peanut butter, ramen, Parmalat, drinks, snacks, and paper goods. My basic thinking was to bring enough nonperishables to last the entire trip, freeze as much as possible in advance to help it last longer, bring enough perishables to last until we got to Cleveland (our first stop where there are a handful of kosher places), restock for the next few days, continue restocking in every major city, where kosher food tends to be more available, stay in as many hotels/motels that have in-room refrigerators as possible, and above all make sure there’s always something Sam likes to eat.

So far it’s worked perfectly, other than the fact that my back seat–my entire back seat–is loaded to the headrests with the above items. I would even go so far as to say we’ve been eating pretty well. The biggest food-related problem we’ve had so far has been the torturous aromas of the surprisingly robust free treif breakfasts at our hotels, which have included such items as the Travelodge’s waffle maker with ready-made batter and Embassy Suites’ hot french toast and cooked-to-order omelets.

My main concern is for the 8 days immediately after we leave Minneapolis and before we arrive in Seattle. Saying that South Dakota and Montana are not hotbeds of kosher food vastly overstates the amount of kosher food available there. But if we can make it to Seattle without eating each other (or worse, eating at a Waffle House), we should be OK.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Yehuda and Esther permalink
    July 18, 2011 11:58 am

    I’ll have to make you guys some pancakes when you get back. What specialty is Sara going to bring you when she meets you?

    • ABH permalink*
      July 18, 2011 12:25 pm

      She’s bringing us all the stuff I forgot to pack, like my baseball mitt, more shorts for Sam, etc.

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