I remember one time I took a bus from Boston to NYC to go to a friend’s wedding. I heard one of my fellow passengers say, “Oh, good—Dunkin’ Donuts. Let’s go get something to eat.”
Of the hundreds of places they could have chosen in a food mecca such as NYC, they had to go to a Dunkin’ Donuts. Why? Perhaps they felt compelled to have a bit of something from home. Something familiar in an unfamiliar place. (Dunkin’ Donuts is based in Braintree, MA.) But it’s only NY, not a foreign country, right?
I hate to admit it, but my family has its own little dining foible. Because of the Princess’s food allergies and pickiness about what she likes to eat, we often end up having McDonalds as one of our meals while we’re on the road. Not my first choice, but it seems the most reliable.
For her, it’s a bit of home that can be found in virtually every state. There are no surprises. A Hamburger Happy Meal will taste the same no matter where we go. The only difference might be the level of freshness—the bun might be softer in one location, or the fries might be cooked in oil that is regularly changed. Or maybe we might see some unique offerings such as lobster rolls, pizza, or McRib sandwiches. Nevertheless, the standard food items will be there. HB would get his two cheeseburgers, I’d get my Filet-o-fish, and the Princess would get her Hamburger Happy Meal, Chicken McNuggets, and a good chunk of the fries. Or if it’s breakfast time, I’d get an Egg McMuffin and coffee, HB would get a Sausage McMuffin and orange juice, and the Princess would get the two hashbrowns from our Extra Value Meal. (And wouldn’t you know, McDonald’s is based in Oak Brook, IL, not too far from where I grew up.)
My parents went to Europe not too long ago with a tour group that guaranteed a Korean-speaking tour guide and one Korean meal each day. To them there’s nothing like bap (rice) and kimchee to help the food go down. (I have to admit that I am curious to find out how Korean food tastes like in the European countries.)
When my parents, siblings, and I took roadtrips back in the day, I remember my mom would wake up at the crack of dawn to make kimbap—a Korean maki consisting of a sheet of seaweed encasing rice, finely shaved bulgoki (Korean marinated beef), egg, sauteed julienned carrots, spinach, fluorescent yellow, pickled daikon radish, and Japanese fishcake. It would be sliced to 2 cm thick, stored in Tupperware containers, eaten throughout the drive to our destination, and washed down with borhee-cha (barley tea). Side dishes might include slices of hotdog, kimchee, and dill pickles.
But oddly enough, I can’t seem to stomach the idea of kimbop now as an adult. I associate kimbop with getting carsick and it being possibly the last food I’d eat before I die—literally. Dad wasn’t the best of drivers, especially with the jerky acceleration and last-minute breaking. He also liked taking in the scenery while driving, so we’d often be drifting and swerving back into our lane. I learned that sometimes it was best to be engrossed in a book or sleeping, instead of worrying about a possible collision. If you don’t see it happening, it won’t hurt as much, right?
So, what are your comfort foods while traveling?