Help me with my cross country theme
The new husband and I are moving back East from LA to the Jersey Shore. In two cars, with our medium sized dog.
I am determined not to have terrible, horrible road food the whole trip!
To that end, I was thinking of making one ingredient the theme of the trip and seeking out that one thing the whole way, noting the regional differences. (Since it's August, how about TOMATOES?)
We're leaving next week-- probably 10E, stopping in Scottsdale, 17N to the 40E stopping in Amarillo, 40E to 44E to 70E stopping in Columbus, 70E to the Penn turnpike and on to the Jersey Shore.
Any thoughts? Is this an unchowly route? I would prefer the 10 the whole way, but it adds so much time...
Having made several cross country trips, we've found the more you stay on the main roads, the harder it will be to find good food. What I found interesting is how dinner salads change, depending on where you are, as does "vinaigrette" dressing. It's simple but the variations are huge (and it would hit the tomato idea). I know the consensus is to ask locals on where to eat but I haven't had much luck with that. The majority of Americans aren't chowhounds. Since you have your route planned ahead, you could post on each regions board and ask for recs. The one thing we have now that would have been so helpful and didn't then was a GPS. We use it all the time now to find little rinky dink places that we couldn't before. On our last trip, I had bought the book Roadfood and hoped to use it but couldn't find any of the restaurants since we didn't have maps of the cities. Next time, we'll map ahead and plan to be near the restaurants we want.
Tomatoes might be harder than you think since you're thinking like someone from LA who's about to be from New Jersey and in both places tomatoes might be everywhere in August. On the road, you might not know from the looks of a place if tomatoes will even be on the menu.
I'm traveling right now and had the most fabulous fried catfish dinner last night followed by fresh peach pie for dessert at a wide place in the road. No plain tomatoes on the menu. They won't be in the BBQ place we're going to Friday night either. This weekend we'll hit some of the Tamale Trail places in the Mississippi Delta and I'm not expecting the produce stand tomatoes to make it into the restaurants. We bought some great ones and sliced them up for lunch and snacks but they weren't avaiable as nice plates of vine-ripes on menus.
You will find CORN everywhere. From tortillas in the SW, real creamed corn in the Heartland, corn on the cob which you can even eat raw from a farmstand, grits for breakfast, cornbread, coating for fried foods, caramel corn, popcorn, cornmeal in some buttermilk pies in Amish country, corn-nuts, etc. You'll even be putting it into your car as ethanol and watching it being harvested along the highways.
We have talked constantly on CH about how it has now affected every part of our food life. Now's your chance to see it as you drive across America. You can enjoy the delicious things that all of us use it for, but also see first-hand its impact on the landscape. Keep a scorecard - like an old-fashioned car game from childhood - of corn, corn, corn from Sea to Shing Sea.
Too bad your route won't take you by the Corn Palace in South Dakota. A real sight to behold!