My idea of vacation party fare
I often tell people that my life on the farm revolves around food. Basically everything I do around here - whether it's putting up hay (next month!), freezing tomatoes, fixing fences, feeding the chickens, sowing lettuce seeds, spreading donkey manure in the organic heirloom kitchen garden, or making sure a newborn lamb is nursing - is in some way responsible for eventually puting food in our and other peoples' mouths.
For a foodie farmgirl whose mind is never very far from her next meal, this is extremely good news, because even the most loathesome task (that would be putting up hay) is a lot easier to bear if you tell yourself that doing it will keep you from starving to death.
Food played a large part in my life before I moved to the country, but in a different - and much less work-related - way. Most of my fondest memories have to do with eating, especially while traveling. Some people go on vacation looking for beautiful scenery, amazing architecture, or some really good fly fishing. I go on vacation to eat.
Many years ago I spent a glorious couple of weeks in New England hopping from one historic diner to the next (passing up the free breakfasts at bed & breakfast inns so as to squeeze in even more diner fare), and I once took an 80-mile detour while driving through Arkansas in order to sample some highly recommended, but very out of the way, barbecue.
It was worth it, but to this day I wish I'd had room for one of their fabulous looking desserts. I'm a sucker for a piece of good homemade pie.
Other unforgettable food-related moments I've enjoyed over the years include high tea at Harrod's department store in London while living briefly in England as a kid, a hunk of Hula Pie for lunch (not dessert, but lunch) at the Kapalua Grill & Bar on Maui, and way too much breakfast (that had to include a pile of those signature home-fried potatoes and one of their enormous, freshly baked drop biscuits) in a booth on a crowded Sunday morning at Bubba's diner in San Anselmo, California.
Then there was the black rice pudding at a table in the tropical garden of Poppy's Restaurant on Bali, and a tiny taste cup of Cherry Garcia ice cream scooped right off the assembly line at the Ben & Jerry's ice cream factory in Vermont. Actually I did the Ben & Jerry's tour twice.
Living on a farm puts a pretty big damper on vacations, but that's okay. These days my idea of a perfect getaway is spending a couple of days on the farm but blowing off most of the work - and sometimes that's almost sort of kind of possible. On the rare occasion I do leave for more than a day, it's usually to visit friends or family in some exotic and decidedly non-foodie place like Kentucky.
The truth is that besides having become a great big homebody, I'm probably unfit to travel. The other night as I was unhooking the bib of my overalls, Joe looked over as a couple of syringes dropped out of one of the pockets and onto the floor.
"It's a good thing you don't like to fly anymore," he said, shaking his head. "I'd never get you past airport security."
Fortunately I'm also a cheap and easy to please traveler. I love it when there's good country cooking to be found and make an effort to seek out local hole-in-the-wall eateries. But give me a motel room, a bottle of cheap champagne on ice, and a big bag of plain potato chips and I'm perfectly content. Throw in air conditioning and a container of dip and I'm practically at Club Med.
One of the things I love to do while visiting another place is scope out the grocery stores. Despite the profusion of cookie cutter malls and big box behomeths taking over the landscape, there are still some interesting local and regional food stuffs to be found around the country.
When Joe and I were in Cincinnati few years ago, I discovered an entire section in the supermarkets there devoted to nothing but pretzels. This apparently has to do with the German influence in the area (which also means you can find some really good bratwurst). There are so many different kinds of pretzels available that they literally get their very own aisle. So along with my enormous bag of 'I'm on vacation' potato chips, we picked out several packages of pretzels.
Then Joe announced that we needed some dip to go with our pretzels and chips, and we proceeded over to the dairy section where he tossed a carton of something I swear only said DIP into our cart. What a turning point! How had I been missing DIP all these years? This was vacation party food at its finest!
There are many things, like that black rice pudding in Bali, that can never be fully recreated at home, often because at least half of the memory has to do with the atmosphere. Even perfectly made black rice pudding served in a Northern California suburban kitchen simply doesn't taste the same.
Fortunately DIP does not suffer from this problem. DIP can be thoroughly enjoyed anywhere, anytime, and this homemade version I was inspired to create tastes infinitely better (and is better for you) than that slightly scary - but very exciting - stuff from the store. Of course it would be even better if I served it up in one of those cartons labeled DIP.
We generally try to hide out on the farm during holidays, so we don't have any big plans for this Memorial Day weekend. I could really use a little vacation, though, so I'm thinking I may have to dash into town for a big bag of potato chips and whip up a batch of dip. The cheap champagne is already chilling in the fridge.
So what's your favorite (or most embarrassing) food-related travel memory - or favorite vacation/party food?
Susan's Sour Cream & Onion Vacation Party Dip
2 cups sour cream (light is fine)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
4 to 5 scallions, green & white parts, chopped
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup dried onion flakes
1 teaspoon onion powder (or granulated)
1 teaspoon garlic powder (or granulated)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
A smidge of anchovy paste (optional)
Salt & pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and chill for several hours. Serve with potato chips, pretzels, tortilla chips, cut up veggies, or a spoon. If desired, close your eyes and pretend you're on vacation in your idea of paradise while consuming.
Still hungry? You'll find links to all my sweet and savory Less Fuss, More Flavor recipes in the Farmgirl Fare Recipe Index.
© FarmgirlFare.com, the chip and dipping foodie farm blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories, photos, original recipes, and sometimes embarrassing foodie glimpses into her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.