Remember the last time you traveled? I’m not sure why but have you noticed that when you do, your desire for food rises? Something savory, maybe? Or else something sugary and sweet. Whatever you crave, touring ticks the hungry box.
If you happen to be travelling with teens, it’s more like the ravenous box. Boy, can those guys can eat! So you always need to factor in a small fortune for food you can’t imagine ever needing. It’s all part of that mysterious thing called “family life.” For us that means fiscal family planning of the low-priced kind. Hotel rates: check. Budget car hire: check. Food, factoring demands for sugary sweets: check, check, check, check, check!
Then again, meals are a big part of the psychology of travel. So, not surprisingly, you tend to remember places by what you ate there. If you had a pretzel in Manhattan from a street vendor, well that’s Manhattan for you. Just one big place put there to provide you with a pretzel. You choose to scoff sushi from a station in Tokyo? Suddenly it feels like the city is an elaborate backdrop for your good food experience. It sounds strange, I know. But I’m sure you get the picture.
So when we were all famished driving along the Florida Keys last year we looked for something local rather than yet another yellow-arched fast food franchise. Spotting a spot by the water (being the Keys everything is) we decided to stop because it looked kind of fun. We went in and ordered, expecting something appetizing. After all, the sign outside said the deal of the day was “turkey and chips” which seemed a good enough fit. Perhaps turkey was the new fish for Key folk.
Which brings me to another revelation about food, sweet food. You can’t expect it to be the same from one place to another. Meaning, a milkshake in Melbourne won’t be anything like a milkshake in Milwaukee. Nor will a coffee in Kyoto even vaguely seem like a coffee in Cologne. Only the words stay the same. The ingredients have been changed, supposedly to protect the innocent.
So here we were in a semi-outdoor lounge, festooned with ropes, lamps, and flotsam, whilst all the while being eyed by a rather large pelican. After a time a lady came and spoke with an accent more like Slavic than Florida Keysian:
“You vont to eat? Yes? Vot you vont? Turkey chips? Yes? Okay I do.”
Then at the sound of a distant phone, she disappeared. This is the life, we thought. Here we are in a far off place, being sized up by a hungry pelican whilst we take it in turns to harmonize our stomach growls.
A long time later, the lady returns with our order: turkey and chips.
When travelling, one of your greatest vulnerabilities is fatigue. You get tired. Then your thinking slips. Of course, when served with a meal, “chips” in Australia, New Zealand, and the UK mean big fat fries. And turkey means roast turkey with an accompanying gravy. But we were weary and sense had given way to salivation.
As the plates were placed before us we tried to stifle our laughter. There, before us on our plates were a small pile of cold crisps pressed against some thin minced up bits of processed turkey in a slurry of thick sugary mayonnaise. Size wise, the whole arrangement would struggle to fill a coffee cup.
Disappointed as we were, it was a great experience to laugh about. The sickly sweet flavor of the mayonnaise drowning crisps and turkey bits reminded us of a telling truth. Travel is all about surprises.
Rather than being rigid, the chief thing we can control is our expectations. Being flexible is a key to making life better. By accepting that what we get isn’t always going to be what we expect, we can still stay sweet more often. And that, when it comes to it, is much more important than what we eat.
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