Talking Clearly About Food: My Travel Shoes


As I got my travel shoes off the top shelf of my closet, I was surprised to find that almost two years of dust had accumulated on their shiny beaded tops. These shoes have guided me in airports, ships and train stations for almost 10 years. Comfortable they are, these navy blue shoes, like a friend for so many years.

I was on my way to visit friends, the Lambings, who moved two years ago from Bonny Doon to South Carolina, a move that I still can’t understand. Train travel is my preferred medium, however, with so many connections from here to there, I chose to take my flight on this trip. And when I got off the plane in the sweltering heat of Greenville at midnight, I swore on the spot that I would never leave Ben Lomond, ever.

I had traveled all day, first from San José, Texas, then South Carolina. The flights went off without incident except for one thing. The food that was served to us was not identifiable. I was asked what I wanted: the protein meal or the vegetarian meal. I chose the protein which was the turkey; the other, the egg salad.

I struggled with my frozen sandwich which was wrapped in shrink wrap and contained a slice of Swiss cheese and a brown slice of something seemingly smoky that I had never seen before, wedged between a very thick roll that did not contain no butter, no mustard, no mayo. Salad? unthinkable.

On the tray were five small plastic containers, one of which contained another unidentifiable object that had neither smell nor taste; small round translucent dumplings and three yellow raisins I believe, held together by a thick white substance. Six raisins and 12 blueberries were in another container, while another tried to mimic some kind of pudding. Finally, a bland tasting yogurt and a paper-wrapped healthy bar seemed like the dessert of the day. How I longed for my super crispy pot of Skippy’s peanut butter at home in my pantry.

In the 1960s, Pan Am airlines served the same meals to all classes of their passengers. However, in the 1970s the quality of the meals changed. Flight attendants served steak or lobster to their first and business class passengers, and coach passengers were given “roast beef”. Fish or chicken were options.

My husband traveled business class and one of the perks of Qantas Airlines was access to the luxurious “Captain Cook Piano Lounge” up a narrow staircase at the top of the plane. This area contained a bar, swivel chairs around small tables, and a piano. Flight attendants (their title at the time) served cocktails, appetizers, and delicious open-ended sandwiches, and if desired, your meal could be had on site as well. Passengers played cards and interacted with each other, creating a wonderful flying experience.

Downstairs in first and business class before the three-course dinner service, the hostess draped your tray with a starched white linen napkin and passengers were given appetizer platters with caviar on toast, smoked salmon , various smoked sausages, a mini open-sandwiches and, of course, cups of fine champagnes, wines and beers. On some airlines, you can even request your favorite label of these libations. Nuts and dried fruits of all kinds were served in small crystal dishes. Salads and entrees were served on china and liquids were in glasses. Coffee, tea and hot chocolate came in cups and saucers. French pastries, as well as cakes, pies and mini cheesecakes, were on offer. The latter, the cheesecake, which I had never tasted before, has become my favorite. After dinner came European custom; cheese platters were served with a wide selection of the best cheeses in the world accompanied by port or an aperitif of your choice. Finger bowls with lukewarm water and a towel followed. Not being hungry when dinner was served, you could ask for your food later. The only restriction after all this, no cigars were allowed.

Passengers before the 1990s wore suits, ties, hats and heels. Today I looked across the aisle where a woman in her twenties had both knees glued to her $ 90 Levi’s styling and not once during the trip from four hours, even while eating, did she put down her iPad.

I find myself living in a different world today, a world where I constantly wish for the “good old days”. Isn’t it Thomas Wolfe who wrote “You can’t go home anymore?” Ah, if I could. If only I could.

Mini cheesecakes

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Mix 1 ½ cups graham crackers or shortbread crumbs with 3 Tbsp. of cooled melted butter. Divide among 18 muffin cups and press onto the bottom.

Mix until smooth:

  • 3 pkg. (8 oz.) Cream cheese, softened
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 C. vanilla

Then add three medium eggs, one at a time, on low speed.

Pour the mixture over the cups and bake for 25 minutes or until almost set.

Before baking, I like to add a quarter teaspoon of strawberry syrup in the center of each muffin and swirl with a toothpick for a nice and tasty topping.

Colly Gruczelak, a resident of Ben Lomond, loves people and loves to cook. Contact her at [email protected].

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