Road Trip Food

country road

I've always loved road trips. When I was a kid, my sister and I would lounge in the back of our parents' blue Caddy: heads on the leather seat; feet propped up on the door near the open windows. We would nap, read, play the license plate game (where you got to punch your sister if you spotted an out-of-state license plate first), sing American Pie at the top of our lungs, and argue. Between bickering and giggling, we would also enjoy quite a few scrumptious meals.

I realize that many people think "scrumptious" and "road trip" are two terms that should never go in the same sentence, but my parents were smart enough to avoid the trail of McDonalds and Jack In the Boxes that seemed to attract all the other families roaring down the highway at about 70 cents a gallon. My parents overlooked these "restaurants" as others ignore bugs smashed on a windshield. They knew they were there. They were just unappealing and so took no notice of their existence.

Instead of fast food, my mom would make fabulous road trip meals. One of my favorites was the Neopolitan equivalent of the Spanish tortilla (i.e., eggs and potatoes) set inside crunchy Italian bread. After sitting for a few hours in its foil wrapping, the eggs and potatoes would adhere to the squishy inside of the bread and the flavors would meld into one of the best sandwiches around. My mom would also sometimes get leftover meatballs from her Italian gravy and make meatball sandwiches in the same Italian bread she used for the eggs. These, combined with a nice piece of fruit and an orange soda were a full meal.

Years later, my husband, kids and I now take our own road trips, although our excursions are a little different than the ones I took as a kid. First of all, my children are securely strapped (sitting up) in booster seats. We're also paying far more for gas than my parents ever dreamed was possible way back when. But some things never change. Although the license plate game hasn't made its way to our kids' repertoire yet, they love to play Punch Buggy (where you get to punch your sister if you see a VW bug), with no punch-backs (meaning she can't turn around, see the same VW bug, and punch you back -- that would be unfair!). They also giggle and argue, read books, and sing random songs for hours on end.


Our excursions usually take us down I-5 to San Diego and LA (where our families live). Anyone who has ever driven down this populated, but seemingly desolate, asphalt line knows there are few non-fast food choices to be had, other than a Split Pea Andersen's and the Harris Ranch Restaurant, which I have never been able to set foot in after seeing those sad cows wallowing in manure for miles upon miles. So, just like my mom, I’m making our own road trip feasts.

I have kept the tradition of making car picnics for each journey and have been known to bring along my mother's menu of freshly made potato and egg sandwiches and fruit. I additionally like to stash some homemade banana nut muffins, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, hard boiled eggs, dried apricots, and popcorn. Hidden away in my purse are chocolate treats, ginger chews in case anyone feels nauseous, and licorice.

Now that the price of gas is almost $5 a gallon, I wonder if the tradition of the summer road trip is going the way of the dinosaur. Should you take one, however, I'd love to hear what meals, if any, you're carrying along. Finally, if you're looking for a good sandwich recipe, feel free to make my mom's potato and egg on Italian bread.

Mama Mella's Egg and Potato Sandwiches

Serves: 4

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large potato chopped into small cubes
6 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
1 large loaf of Italian bread

1. Heat olive oil in a large pan
2. When the pan is hot, add the potatoes and heat until they're cooked through and golden brown on the outside.
3. Season potatoes with salt and paper to taste
4. Scramble the eggs in a bowl.
5. Lower the heat on the stove to low and then add the eggs.
6. Stir as if making scrambled eggs and cook until done (I like to take mine off the stove when they're still soft)
7. Insert into cut bread to make individual sandwiches.

Note: I sometimes add parsley and pancetta to this recipe, which is something my mom never did, but I think tastes great. To do this, just add the pancetta to the pan with the potatoes and then add the parsley while scrambling the eggs.