Getting to know my destination’s food culture is one of my favourite things about travelling. Food and the way it is eaten teaches you so much about the place you are visiting and the people that are inheriting it. I find it truly inspiring to learn about our differences, as well as our (maybe unexpected) similarities through food. I don’t need an “international” breakfast buffet, so don’t you dare hand me Nutella in a teeny tiny plastic box to make me feel at home! Instead you’ll find me at the local market, happily glazing at colourful boxes, tins and unfamiliar fruits, trying to imagine what a traditional family gathering around the table would look like at the place I am right now. I will admit – since I’m vegan and into a lot of green stuff the hunt for food is not always that easy, but mostly there is always something local I can eat and will enjoy as long as I stay humble and open-minded. And also the things I can’t eat are somewhat exciting and salutary…
More tricky are the in-betweens, the en route food, a sometimes food-culture-free zone, almost as if it has been decided it would be too hard to pick a flavour, so one went with none at all. I’m talking airplane, train and gas station food. That kind of stuff. This is where I will become picky and rather bring my own food, neatly bedded in a reusable box. No sad lettuce in a pile of crinkly plastic for me please. No mushy veggies, no sandwich without a soul. There might be contrary examples, but I feel like I’m always better off with my own stuff in those situations – a properly fuelled body switches places so much easier. Apart from that I actually like packing lunch boxes for loved ones and myself. I guess this is my domestic side speaking. Put me in a car with some friends, a proper snack pack, some good tunes and a plan to ride all the way south and I will be at my happy place, sharing home-made vegetable chips with the biggest grin on my face. Or sit next to me on the plane, being intrigued by my giant stainless steel box at first, just to later admit that those energy balls I shared with you actually were much better than that blueberry muffin, that did not taste like blueberries and made you feel a bit sick. Just sayin’.
However, packing a proper snack pack does not have to be a complicated or time-consuming act, so I thought why not share some of my favourite food en route tips with you for your next journey:
Fruit always is a good idea, since it needs zero preparation and is very refreshing. Fruit that travels well are apples and hard pears – sturdy companions, that won’t get your bag all sticky! Grapes also work, as long as they don’t get too hot. Fruit with a high water content or very soft produce like apricots spoil easily or get mushy, so you rather leave those guys at home. Dried fruit like dates, figs or raisins are more robust, rich in fibers and help your blood sugar stay in balance.
I almost always take veggie sticks with me for a light snack en route. Vegetables that travel well and are easy on the stomach are carrots, celery, firm cucumber, bell peppers and sliced fennel. Stored properly all of those will stay fresh for a while. My all-time favourite lunch boxes are the stainless steel boxes from Eco Brotbox, since they are really durable, come in various sizes with multiple trays and are a local Berlin product, worthy of support. Stainless steel is my preferred lunch box material, since it is hygienic, long-lasting, sustainable and free of nasty plastic stuff. If you don’t travel via plane you can jazz up your veggie game with some vegan dips. All of those are good travel companions and not too sensitive. If you plan on snacking above the clouds you might wanna skip it – security is still not loving hummus. As an alternative try Dukkah, a traditional and extremly tasty Egyptian nut, spice and seed blend that you can dip your veggies into without endangering national safety.
Ginger energy balls
I love smushing a bunch of good stuff, sculpting little balls out of it and calling it an “energy ball”. It’s just a very handy and easy solution and as tasty as candy. I often prepare a bunch and put them in the freezer for easy access. My travelling faves are ginger balls, since ginger is very soothing and can prevent travelling sickness. For about two hungry travellers simply blend one cup of cashew nuts with 10 very soft mejidool dates, 1 finely grated knob of ginger, 3 to 4 Tbsp of coconut flour, a pinch of vanilla and 1 tpsp. of baobab powder or lemon juice for an extra vitamin C kick until a sticky dough forms and roll it into little balls.
The perfect sandwich
Even if you are not vegan or vegetarian you might wanna look into vegan spreads when travelling, since those simply handle life outside of the fridge much better than cheese or meat does. If you are not that much of a chef yourself try out some vegan spreads from the supermarket or healthfood store – the variety is quite impressive these days and there is something for everyone. As for the base: Proper wholemeal bread will stay delicious much longer than white bread will and also make you feel full longer.
A salad that will still taste good in another time zone
I love to prep a super quick and easy salad out of carrots – it will stay fresh for quite a while and is very delicious. Carrots are just more forgiving, than those fragile salad leaves. For one hungry traveller thinly shave 4 big carrots and add 1 tbsp of tahini, a squeeze of lime juice, a pinch of agave syrup and salt, pepper and cumin according to taste. Massage the dressing mix into the carrots until they are soft. Feel free to add fresh parsley, mint and toasted pumpkin seeds for some extra deliciousness.
Wherever I go I always have my water bottle with me for a quick refill. I already tested quite a few bottles, looking for one that is sustainable and leak-proof. Not that easy. My current favourite is from 24 bottles, super safe, made out of stainless steel and with the most beautiful jungle print on it. I highly recommend only using your favourite water bottle for water, so it will stay clean and not taste like anything but water.
What do you always bring as a snack when en route? Curious to hear about your tips and favourite dishes!