Have you ever been on a roadtrip?
Did your parents ever stuff you with your siblings into a station wagon, metal cooler in the back, bags of Old Dutch potato chips in the front, a comfortable bed in your past and nothing but lumpy motel beds in your immediate future? Did you sip Fanta from a straw while watching flat prairie landscapes, the world sliced neatly into blue and yellow, spin monotonously past? Did you kick your little brother and then say you didn’t? Did you read Cosmopolitan magazine in the back seat of the car, even though you were only 14, because it was all they had at the supermarket checkout in Moose Jaw Saskatchewan and your mom was too tired to notice or care, and was that where you learnt about the most foolproof mascara ever, and how to win (and keep!) a man?
Did you see the Rockies for the first time from the window of a Volvo?
Did you stop at a Husky restaurant in Alberta and have fried perogies and pie?
This time, it was all about the chip wagons. And it wasn’t quite a family road trip, though it felt like one. And there was a sweet dog named Sorrel. And we only drove for about four hours til we got to our campsite on Lake Mazinaw, though, coming back, it took almost twice that long, what with Dairy Queen drive-throughs, several beach stops and one last full-service chip-ice cream – blueberry-homebaking wagon, where the wild blueberries went for $7 a pint, and whose blueberry tarts I will forever regret not buying.
There is a kind of inherent pleasure to leaving town, camping, and being on the road, that smooths away whatever kept you irritated and sarcastic in the city. There is an implicit goodwill and cameraderie to setting up camp, taking turns with meals and washing up that may have gone missing elsewhere. There are deep conversations and giggly, silly ones, and, of course, there is the food. The Teacher’s Sicilian pasta, piquant with saffron, pinenuts, and, oddly, deliciously, cauliflower. The Hair Dude’s incredibely simple, incredibely delicious vegetable-tofu curry with coconut rice. The Librarian’s satisfying huevos rancheros with her signature tomato and tomatillo salsas. My chicken brochette with Turkish muhamarra sauce, adapted from 101cookbooks.com (recipe below).
There is always a campfire. There are near-feral children, unleashed from school and schedule, running wildly and beautifully through forests, long past bedtime. There is a sunrise, there are birds. And then, finally, there is the long, winding, poignant, complicated road home.
Heidi’s Grilled Kabob Recipe
From Super Natural Cooking, Muhammara-Slathered Kabobs, page 102.
-If you don’t have a grill, the kabobs can be cooked on a baking sheet in a 350°F oven for 30-40 minutes.
-Heidi’s original recipe calls for extra-firm tofu in place of the chicken I used.
-The muhammara sauce is also delicious as a dip. This recipe will leave you with some extra.
-I found Heidi’s marinade a bit mild and ended up using a leon-mustard-soya marinade instead.
-If I made this again I’d add other vegetable in with the mushrooms, like red pepper and summer squash.
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
flakes or 1 small red chile
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 cup walnuts, toasted
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 to 3 roasted red peppers
1/2 to 1 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
2 red onions, each cut into 6 wedges
3 lemons, each cut into 4 lengthwise wedges
12 ounces boneless chicken breast, cut into 12 equal-sized cubes
extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
fine-grain sea salt
Special equipment: 6 wooden skewers
Prepare a medium-hot grill; if the temperature is right, you should be able to hold your hand a few inches above the grate for 4 or 5 seconds.
In the meantime, make the muhammara. Using a hand blender (preferably) or a conventional blender, puree the chile flakes, cumin, walnuts, bread crumbs, olive oil, pomegranate molasses, tomato paste, and red peppers to a smooth, even consistency. Mix in the warm water in increments to achieve an easily spreadable consistency similar to a thick yogurt. If you¹re going to use it for dipping, you might want to leave it a bit thicker. Stir in the salt and adjust the seasonings if needed.
When constructing kabobs, I don¹t bother soaking wood skewers in water. I just load them up with food from tip to tip, which seems to solve any problems with the wood igniting. Onto 6 medium-length skewers, thread an onion wedge, a lemon wedge, a cube of tofu, and a mushroom, then repeat. Brush each kabob generously with olive oil and season with salt. Put the kabobs on the grill and cover. Cook, rotating regularly and brushing with olive oil every few minutes, until the onions are tender, about 12 minutes altogether.
To eat, slather with the muhammara, slide off the skewers. and squeeze the juice from the roasted lemons over everything.
Must point out that your Ma’s Cherry Perogies leapt an entry into the Road Trip. Lightly pan-fried in sweet butter, dolloped with sour cream and sprinkled with sugar were lovingly dished out around a star-lit campfire. Thank your Mom on my behalf.
And as for the Marsh Mallow (Althaea officinalis) used by the Ancient Egyptians…mucilaginous roots boiled, seived; whipped with wild bee honey and egg white…baked into a spoon-dropped suckable size. Used as a cough suppressant
S’mores, a 1920’s Girl Scout invention using the recently patented extruded marshmallow ‘Fluff’. By then the Althaea officinalis had been replaced by the more commercially available gelatin. The Girls were in the habit of placing chunks of Hershey bars on melted marshmallows and pressing the gooey, sticky mess between two graham crackers. Dipping them in chocolate fondue must have been my own Caprice!