Friday, May 23

Foodie Travel and a Recipe: Pretzels & Potato Chips with Sour Cream & Onion Dip

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.

©, 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.


  1. My sweet husband took me on a European vacation 5 years ago (except for our Honeymoon - we hadn't been on a trip by ourselves in over 9 years - was definitely worth the wait). During out trip we were in Brugges, Belgium. In a restaurant there we both ordered muscles.

    I got an appetizer in one kind of sauce and an entree with another. In America (at least the Coastal South) the appetizer would have maybe been 5-10 muscles (if you were lucky) and the entree maybe 20.

    Well - the appetizer was no less than 50 and the entree came out in a small looking cauldron - that was truly a never ending source of muscles (100+). I can't remember if I finished them all - but I think I rolled back down the street stuffed like a teddy bear. It was fantastic!

  2. We were in Montreal a few years ago, a city that is, of course, very French in many ways, but also has some incredible ethnic food from all the immigrants that have settled there. We ate very, very well while we were there. And as for embarrassing . . . in the three days we were there, I ate eight croissants. A trifle excessive, perhaps? (HAHAHA! Know what the first three letters of my word verification are? "fat" Are you trying to tell me something?)

  3. "I go on vacation to eat."

    You took the words right out of my mouth. I've said the same thing many, many times. When in Italy, I gain a pound every day, and I don't care. I just pack my fat pants.

    Favorite food memories include most meals in Italy, but also a few learning experiences in other countries. Haggis was a revelation in Scotland, (it's tasty if you get a decent batch) as was the Cullen Skink. I'm a sucker for great names, especially for food names. I also at fish on the banks of the Orinoco river in Venezuela. It was river fish breaded and fried, sorta like catfish, only bigger. And it had a very unusual spicy orangish sauce on it. When we asked about the sauce, we were told it was made from the heads of fire ants.

    I'm always proud of myself when I'm brave enough to eat things that I would normally think of as scary or revolting. I was the world's pickiest eater as a child, so I've come a long way.

    Nice post! You should include more lengthy ones.


  4. My wildest food-travel memory comes from high school, when I took a trip to Spain with a group of students. I spoke Spanish well, had memorized most menut words (or so I thought, and for my first meal in Spain ordered "Trucha" -- trout. I thought a good Wisconsin girl would enjoy it. It was served whole -- head and face intact. Jet-lagged, culture-shocked, and staring at this fish -- I can't remember what it tasted like, but I can still picture it!

  5. After being gone for 2 years, I just went on vacation back home to Georgia with a stop in Charleston, SC.

    Put it this way: I had shrimp & grits 3 times in one 24-hour period. I currently live in Los Angeles, but I must say that I find the food variety in Atlanta to be much better, and the quality as well. Oh, and I've missed sweet tea and fresh biscuits! YUM!!!

    My favorite food memories are :

    The first time I ever had Indian food and was blown away by it.

    The first time I ever tried to *cook* Indian food, and the mess I made out of my kitchen!

    The first time I ate at a favorite mexican place, and my party of 3 ate over a quart of their fabulous salsa!

    The first time I ever had a Pomegranate Margarita (Pozole in Va. Highlands, Atlanta)

    The first time I ever had jerk chicken. I had it with a pineapple brioche served with guava butter (heaven!) and the chicken came with a stunning raspberry coulis. This was also my first time having a mojito, and I was hooked!

    Discovering the Hanabi roll at my local sushi spot--tempura shrimp and avocado rolled and topped with pepper seared tuna.

    Trying fresh tomatoes again as an adult, but this time getting organic farmers' market heirlooms. This time, I understood what a tomato is supposed to taste like!

    Eating my first fava bean. There's nothing like it on earth.

    Trying tuna salad with no mayo-- Just olive oil, basil, lemon and salt. On focaccia. Bliss.

    Getting fresh-squeezed sugarcane juice in Chinatown, then experiencing the oddity that is boba tea right after.

    Grandaddy's bar-b-q and biscuits.

    Grandmother's Banana Pudding. From scratch. With baked meringue. No instant pudding. the REAL thing! And still hot from the oven...

    Daddy teaching me to scramble my first egg. He was also there when I made up my first recipe... Adding mushrooms to a packet of Ramen noodles! I was quite the innovator at age 5!

    I desperately want to go to Japan to try the milled-and-made-to-order buckwheat noodles at the best soba bars and real Japanese curry. I swear that what made me so happy on my vacation was the food. Just being around home cooking was awesome!

    I could go on forever, but I won't. Mainly because I've just made myself hungry, and I'm headed into the kitchen!

  6. I'll be the boring person who hasn't gone so many exotic places - Oh wait -I did one very (for me) exotic trip to Costa Rica and ate the most incredible sea bass (at least that is what the guide said it was and who was I to argue with a man holding a machete?) ceviche - standing on a sand bar in the middle of a river with class 3 and 4 white water rapids eating ceviche - yum. Oh and Las Vegas (don't go food snob on me here) - at the Mirage - eggs benedict with truffles - oh my GOSH. Embarrassing food thing on vacation - in Germany going to a festival with friends and everyone buying us beers and sausages until I literally needed to be indelicate. I was blessed by a gigantic dog(the 4 legged kind) who took a liking to me and stood close enough - all I had to do was hold a sausage behind my back for a second and he'd take it in one gulp. Then I realized someone was taking pictures of the american weird woman feeding the dogs :::sigh:::: I was forgiven because by that hour everyone had already had plenty of the beer half of the equation.
    Great post Susan -

  7. I am so lucky that I can create food vacation memories every time I go to the grocery! If you are ever back in the Cincinnati area, you MUST go to Jungle Jims. That place is incredible. They have a huge international section, and I don't mean just a little space in one aisle. There are aisles upon aisles of every thing you can think of from countless countries. Their produce department alone is advertised as being one acre in size (which I can believe), and they sell from local farmers when they can.

    The dairy and wine/beer department is beyond belief. I could go on and on...and no, I don't work there or own the place!

  8. All I can say is, Yes. I travel to eat (hello, Rome three times in as many years), I love roaming ethnic and mysterious grocery stores in new towns and I can be perfectly happy with crispy potato chips and a nice sour cream dip ANY DAY OF THE WEEK YAY.
    I'll just have a nice gin and tonic in place of the champagne.

    My indulgent naughty party food of choice is a two to a bun meal of Nathan's hot dogs with yellow mustard (don't get fancy on me y'all - French's is great) chopped red onions and a quarter dill spear.


    If that happens to come with potato chips and some dip- I can go ahead and die because that's all I need.

  9. There are so many foods available today that weren't available to a girl starting life 65 years ago in a small Texas town. Things that are now common place were not shipped all over the world the way they are today. As a result, I can remember the day and occasion when I tasted my first avocado, shrimp, blintz, anchovy, etc. I also remember those who shared in the my first tastes of those "new-to-me" foods.

    I prefer food prepared at home, and delight in the memories each bite of avocado, shrimp, blintz,etc., brings.

    My love for Mexican food is the result of the many meals I have been served here in the city where I live, New Mexico amd Mexico. The most memorable are those eaten in Mexico City. There really is a difference in TEX-MEX and real Mexican food. I love both.

    (I am definitely going to make that onion!)

  10. Back when I was a teenager, my boyfriend at the time took me to have dinner with his parents - good working class people with a large family on a limited budget. Every thing about their life was different to mine, and when I was told it was delicious lambs brain fritters for dinner, I probably looked unconvinced. Mrs K looked a little hurt at my expression so I grinned and tucked in, if not with quite the enthusiasm the rest of the family showed. I think I chewed that damn thing for a full 30 minutes; chewed it till it was dry; chewed it till it was so chewed that I had forgotten how to swallow. In retrospect, Mrs K held her hand out to me as a silent question: 'How are you finding the lambs brain fritters I slaved over all afternoon?'...but as a teenager, I saw a maternal gesture of compassion. And I delicately spat the chewed lambs brain fritter into her hand. At the time, the relief won over the embarrassment. I'm sure she always had a soft spot for me - she just didn't show it much.

  11. My best food memory comes from the trip I'm on in Montreal right now. I went for research to a giant Catholic cathedral, only to return a book to the priest. Instead, I was given the "Grand Tour" as well as my second lunch of the day tucked into a little kitchen upstairs, where the smell of the chicken, rice and beans, millet and peas was heavenly. There's nothing greater than a welcoming kitchen when you're alone in a giant city.

  12. Hi Everybody!
    I'm just loving all these wonderful foodie travel stories and memories. Thank you so much for taking the time to share them! : )

  13. Susan, I found your blog from a link at Kalyn's Kitchen and now I have you both bookmarked! My most embarrassing food/vacation moment happened 32 years ago when I was 16. I was on vacation in Philadelphia with my parents. We were eating in an historic tavern where waiters were dressed 1776 type costumes. As the waiter was serving me my spinach salad his breeches, with a laced up fly, got hooked on the spindle of my chair back. His hands were full and my were free, so....I will never forget that spinach salad!

  14. Hi. I love your blog and aspire to be a farmgirl myself one day. I'm from NYC. The only time I went out west was to Beaver Creek, Colorado where I was to assist my chef in a demo at a pastry competition. After a long morning, I got to Denver completely famished. This usually spells trouble because I revert back emotionally to a three-month old when I'm hungry. I saw a Mexican place in the airport and was overjoyed. There were real Mexicans working there and everything!! (In New York, you can find lots of "Mexican" food that has never been touched by a Mexican. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of places with authentic Mexican food, too.) I ordered a taco or something and was distracted by a barrel of ice and lots of colorful glass bottles of Mexican soda when I was asked what kind of sauce I wanted. I said hot without a second thought. At home, many hot sauces are practically a medium for my taste. Well, I took a bite of my taco and within seconds, my nose was running, I was sweating and tears were starting to form in my eyes. I thought, "I'm so stupid. This is Colorado. This is real Mexican food by real Mexicans!" My chef was standing over me saying, "What's wrong?" I said, "I asked for hot sauce." He's like, "Are you gonna eat it?" and I said as I cried, "This is the best damn taco I ever had. Can you get me some more napkins?!"

  15. as a teenager i had all sorts of adventures when i went traveling in the summer. one year when i was 15 or 16 i went to san diego (from canada)with nothing but two sarongs, a bathing suit, a guitar, a can opener, a fork and a case of alphaghetti. yes, a case of it. seriously. i slept on the beach (one sarong as clothes, the other as a blanket) swam all day, sat around bonfires all night, and lived on alphaghetti. the corners of my mouth cracked and bled from the godawful canned spaghetti. but i had a great time.
    every now and then when i'm feeling sentimental about my misspent youth i get a can of alphaghetti and eat it cold, straight out of the can. ahhh, the memories...

  16. you are so right - vacations are all about the food! My favourite moment was in Barcelona - I went by myself and spent most of the time wandering the side streets and having snacks at local cafes. One morning I bought a back of dried kiwi and mango and sat on the beach eating them while street performers behing be played "Hava nagila" - bizzare and wonderful!

  17. I must make this Thanks so much for sharing bc we love french onion dip and my dh will be very pleased with this ;) We have been trying all kinds of "new" foods lately because we are loving whole and healthy foods in our "green" life. Our latest (last week) was Kamut pancakes! Oh how I love trying all of these great new recipes!!


December 2015 update: Hi! For some reason I can't figure out, Blogger hasn't been letting me leave comments on my own blog (!) for the last several months, so I've been unable to respond to your comments and questions. My apologies for any inconvenience! You're always welcome to email me: farmgirlfare AT gmail DOT com.

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