Sunday, April 3, 2022

AROUND THE KITCHEN TABLE: Road Trip Food! Plus 6 Book #Giveaway!

LESLIE KARST: I’m on the road right now, on my way by car from Santa Cruz, CA to Albuquerque, NM to attend the fabulous Left Coast Crime mystery writers convention. So what better topic for today’s Around the Kitchen Table discussion than ROAD TRIP FOOD? 

No matter how healthy an eater you may be during the majority of your daily life, I’m guessing that most of us have a little fun and break some of our usual rules when on a road trip: Forget that leafy green salad for lunch; let’s gorge on Cheetos, Little Debbie mini donuts and beef jerky! And if I feel a slight pang of guilt, there’s always that oh, so healthy-sounding trail mix (with its nutritious blend of nuts, raisins, and yes—the all-important M&Ms!).

As for me, I’m especially looking forward to stopping at road-side diners along the way to Albuquerque and feasting on fry bread (pictured below), chicken fried steak, and French fries. (Notice any pattern there?) I’ll diet when I return home.


HOW ABOUT YOU? What snacks are absolute necessities when you head out on a road trip, and what sorts of items do you love to order at a roadside diner? 


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VICKI DELANY: OMG, a road trip. How I've missed you. In the past I've done a heck of a lot of driving. I've driven across Canada, twice, and from Anchorage to San Diego. When I'm not in a particular hurry, I like to turn off the highway at lunch time and find a small restaurant in a small town, just to see what the town's like and the locals are eating.  When I've travelled with my Canadian mystery writing friends to conventions in the US, we usually stop at an Applebee's. Not that we love Applebee's all that much, but we know what we're getting and they are usually situated quite close to the highway. 

As for snacks, I don't eat in the car, but if I'm on a highway, I usually stop mid-afternoon at a Starbucks for a Tall Skinny Caramel Macchiato to drink on the road. When I'm on smaller highways, in British Columbia in particular where there are so many small independent coffee shops, I'll try to find a locally owned coffee shop for my afternoon latte.

Ok, now I want to go on a road trip!


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LESLIE BUDEWITZ:  Oh, road trips, we love road trips! Mr. Right and I seriously thought about driving to Left Coast Crime, but didn't get our act together in time to make plans, so I'm flying solo. But we're determined to make a drive through north-central Montana this May, and in every little town, we'll poke around for a tasty local spot.  

Like the brewpub in the classic redbrick in downtown Wallace, ID, an old mining town, where you can chow down under the watchful eyes of a moose (head) wearing a miner's hat. The Spokane diner in an old railroad dining car. Mr. Right and I have fond memories of childhood railroad trips and bumping our knees together under the tiny but beautiful wooden tables brings them all back. I created a montage of classic Montana diners, with prints of paintings by Frederick Remington and CM Russell on the wall, patrons who interrupt each other's conversations to set the record straight, and waitresses who call you "hon" and "dear" and remember your favorite pie even though you only stop in twice a year, in last year's Bitterroot Lake. Writing it was like taking a mini road trip, without shoes.

And then back to our little town and the Echo Lake Cafe, a lunch-and-breakfast all day joint where everything on the menu from Eggs Benedict to stuffed omelets to Reubens and patty melts and Cobb salads is just about perfect. Because much as we enjoy a good road trip, at the end of the day, all roads lead to home.


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LUCY BURDETTE: We usually drive from Connecticut to Key West and back, not all that much fun with pets on board! When we were in between pets, we bought a copy of Jane and Michael Stern's ROAD FOOD, and ate all the way up and down the eastern seaboard. Many, many servings of barbecued pork and beef, and fried chicken were happily consumed. One of our favorite finds was Sally Bell's Kitchen in Richmond--they serve the most amazing Southern box lunches! Sandwich, potato salad, cheese wafer, deviled egg, and a cupcake. Now my mouth is watering...

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MADDIE DAY: I love me a road trip! And I've made a few, criss-crossing the United States, plus many a trip back and forth from the Boston area to visit my sister, first in Quebec and now in Ottawa. But I usually don't take the time to stop in diners, especially if I'm driving solo. Back in my grad school days, when I did a lot of that criss-crossing, I always kept a jar of instant coffee in the car. In the afternoon I'd pop into a Dairy Queen or fast food place and order a tall chocolate milkshake. Stir some coffee crystals into that baby and I'd be set for hours more driving. 

These days I tend more toward water, mixed nuts, and Cheezits. Chewing keeps you awake! Maybe a bag of ready-to-eat baby carrots. And I do look forward to sampling local cuisine after I arrive.

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MOLLY MACRAE: Yes, Leslie, fry bread! I look forward to having that in Albuquerque during Left Coast Crime, too. I also look forward to it before my husband and I hit the road. We’re making fry bread with black beans, chipotles, cheese, and avocados for supper later this week. That way I can do a compare and contrast between midwestern homemade and the honest to goodness stuff. I plan to enjoy lots of southwestern road trip food while we’re there, including biscochitos, the buttery cinnamon and anise flavored state cookie of New Mexico, and sopapillas. What will we eat on the way to and from New Mexico? That’s a mystery waiting to be solved.


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TINA KASHIAN: Thank you for a fun topic, Leslie! Every summer we drive from South Jersey to Boston. I have family in Watertown, MA, but the main reason for our trip is to drop our daughter off at an Armenian summer camp for two weeks. NJ is long and it takes us almost two hours to travel from South Jersey to North Jersey (there’s always traffic, too!). We stop at the same diner before crossing the George Washington Bridge. I order corned beef special with Russian dressing and coleslaw on rye bread. I’m not a fan of a Reuben that is served hot, but cold, lean corned beef is a favorite. My girls order blueberry pancakes. Now I’m hungry! 

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PEG COCHRAN/MARGARET LOUDON: Okay, I hate road trips. There. I've said it. Most of our trips have been back and forth from Michigan where we now live to our home state of New Jersey. Then there was a horrendous trip to Boston to take my daughter to BU. I had had a torn retina and still couldn't see out of my left eye so hubby was stuck with all the driving. On the way out, I always pack bagels with cream cheese and sandwiches for lunch along with grapes or apples. In case you think we're completely healthy, I also throw in a bag of Sunchips and potato chips to nosh on. And we often stopped at a Burger King in Maumee, OH for an order of fries! On the return trip if we'd been to NJ, we'd pick up "sloppy Joes" at the local deli. These are NJ sloppy Joes made only in a handful of delis: three pieces of rye bread; Thousand Island dressing; ham, turkey or roast beef; Cole slaw and Swiss cheese. Those alone are worth the trip!


MAYA CORRIGAN: Like Peg, I hate road trips. In recent years all our trips have been up and down I-95, from Virginia to New England or Virginia to South Carolina/Florida. Either way the traffic's a bear and the trucks are everywhere. Before COVID, we'd stop for a break at a local restaurant or have a picnic of food we've brought along. But since 2020 we snack in the car on anything we can hold in our hands, like peanut butter crackers, granola bars, cookies, grapes, apples, and carrots. We also take sandwiches for our "big meal"--cheese with ham or turkey. I look forward to stopping for barbecue on my next road trip.

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CLEO COYLE: We are road trip lovers, Leslie! Marc and I have great memories from childhood, and we still enjoy packing up the car and driving America’s highways. Combos are my happy driving snack along with Kit Kats. Marc’s top trekking treat is a "HUGE breakfast" (direct quote!) of pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, the works. When he was young, his family spent summers at a lake near Elsinore, Ontario. North of Niagara Falls, the diners featured Canadian bacon, rolled in cornmeal and fried. Marc still remembers the taste of that toasted cornmeal and ham. 

As for me, my longest (and best!) road trip took place when I was eleven. My dad and mom wanted my sister and I to see America, so they packed us into our green station wagon (Mr. Green Jeans), and we drove west from Pittsburgh PA to California by way of St. Louis' Gateway Arch, sampling (for the first time ever) authentic Southern fried chicken, Texas BBQ, and Navajo fry bread along the way. We visited my aunt in Anaheim (where I tasted my first artichoke and picked my first orange), and returned via Yellowstone National Park, the Great Plains, and the Windy City. Like Marc, breakfast was my favorite road trip meal. I loved those little grape jellies on buttered toast and the smell of frying bacon in the chilly, fresh air that began a day with endless blue skies and an open road that seemed to roll on forever...


To be entered in this week's drawing
for the 6 terrific mysteries below,
join us in the comments.

What snacks are must-haves when 
you're on a road trip? 

What do you love to order at road-side diners?

Join the

Include your email address,
so we can contact the winner!


> DYING FOR A TASTE by Leslie Karst

> S'MORE MURDERS by Maya Corrigan

> ON THE LAMB by Tina Kashian

> ASSAULT AND PEPPER by Leslie Budewitz



Comments Open through
Wednesday, April 6

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  1. Haven’t been a road trip is a long time. We usually have a selection of snack to choose from will farmers cheese and rice cracker being the main snack.
    I love to order a cheeseburger and fries at road side diners or whatever specialty they have to order.
    Kitten143 (at) Verizon (dot) net

  2. We usually pick crackers and fruit snacks for a road trip. And if we stop off to eat I like to try different dishes that sound interesting. bmedrano34 (at) yahoo (dot) com

    1. That's one of the best things about a road, trip--trying new things along the way, right, Beth?

  3. Road trips for us now as retired, carefree seniors are a lot different than years before. Instead of just getting from point A to point B because of time and money limitations, we now can detour if we see something of interest or stay an extra day if we can't get what we want to do squeezed in the days we thought we could. That being said, it means that taking snacks is a must for us. After all, one has to keep the energy up to do all the things we wish to do.

    Before a trip, I do some baking which usually always includes my Ozark Honey Oatmeal Cookie. Not only do we love them, but they are the type of cookie that don't get crumbly or stale with age meaning they will last forever - well until devoured. I also make a big batch of homemade party mix. That way I can add our favorite cereals, nuts and decadent candies that we love so much. The bought mixes never seen to have all we want in them. Since we both love jerky, that's a must too - for me teriyaki beef and for hubby bacon. We also buy individual servings of things like apple sauce, fruit and puddings because you know late at night in a motel room you want just that little bit of sweet. I must admit that our goodie bag resembles more like a picnic basket. We learned while traveling in some of our national parks that grocery stores are often miles away and the convenient stores in the park are VERY expensive which means we have learned to go prepared. We have been know before a trip to go to our local grocery store and go up and down the aisles with the trip in mind. I've even picked up the little individual servings of sweet pickles which on the road can make even a regular cheeseburger or sandwich seem even better.

    In traveling, we search our Mom and Pop diners. We check out the specials, what the locals are eating (checking out what's on plates on the way to our table), and even ask the waitress for suggestions of what's good. We also learned to ask details questions because what you think something is in Arkansas is completely something else in Maine. Example - years ago before mozzarella sticks were found everywhere, they were often called cheese fries. While traveling, I bought cheese fries only to get French fries with cheese sauce on them. Both good, but when you are wanting one and get the other it can be very disappointing. So I would say my favorite would depend on what state we are in. In Texas it would probably be Tex-Mex anything but on the east coast it's going to be lobster or fried cod.

    Thank you for the fabulous chance to win some amazing books! Shared and hoping.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. That's a good idea to have snacks on hand. Motel vending machines are iffy at best (if they even work) and the gas station/convenience stores along the highway charge way too much!

    2. Okay, you've now succeeding in making me completely hungry, Libby! I'm in a motel in Bakersfield as I write this, and I can tell you the "breakfast" is not much to write home about.

  4. I haven't been on a road trip or any vacations, but when I went to Germany on an exchange trip I ate ice cream almost every day. They have so much variety in flavors and lots of odd ones we wouldn't find here. I had to try something at each new town we stopped in.

    1. We did that with gelato in Italy!

    2. Yes, the Europeans do love their ice cream and gelato--and it's SOOOO good!

  5. I'm not too crazy about road trips anymore. To get me through one nowadays it would take a giant bag of Peanut M&M's and a six pack of Diet Pepsi. Thanks for the giveaway. ckmbeg (at) gmail (dot) com

    1. Great idea--I'll have to pack M&Ms for our next trip!

    2. They melt in your mouth, not in your hand!

  6. What a fun blog, where we can find out about all the road trips and snack preferences from our favorite authors!!! As for me, I prefer flying, but for the almost 3 hour drive to my son's home, I map out where Thai restaurants are located, research reviews and the menu, and am always finding a new ma and pa Thai restaurant somewhere near the many route options available. I select two. One for the 'going' trip, and one for the 'return' route. Such fun!!! Thank you for the opportunity to win such a generous goldmine of cozies!!!! Luis at ole dot travel

    1. Thai food--yum! And yes, it is good to research the reviews, but so often on a road trip it's not possible, 'cause you have no idea where or when your next meal will be.

    2. INFINITE THANKS to Leslie, Maya, Tina, Leslie, Maya and Tina for your most generous prize!!!! You are providing me with hours and hours of fun. god bless you all, and may the writing be easy and fun for you as well!!! Luis at ole dot travel

  7. Getting ready for a 7 hour road trip this weekend north Jersey to Martinsville Va. always have tea and some kind of cookies in the car. snickerdoodle’s or my favorite. We usually stop in a local mom and pop if we can find one and try the local specials!

    1. Ooooo...snickerdoodles! And yes to mom and pop restaurants!

  8. I love a good egg salad sandwich, so I expect it would be a good idea to stock up your car with egg salad sandwiches, and to order them at every diner you go to! Of course, egg salad sandwiches can be a bit of a gamble--they can be dry (weirdly), or the bread can be mushy or squished, or the consistency can be so sort of weirdly gritty (like it's made of little spoiled lumps?), and I personally abjure anything green or crunchy.

    But a good egg salad sandwich can be great! --the same with fried-egg sandwiches with runny yolks and mayonnaise and mustard!

    Let's make things easy--fill your car from top to bottom with deviled eggs!

    jsmith[delete brackets]3may[delete brackets]2011

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