While most spring breakers head south for the week, RM and I drive north to visit friends and family along the way. RM is not Thelma but I am his Louise. Our destination is McHenry, Illinois, to visit C2 for a few days. The overall journey was 2000 miles of interstate driving through Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, and Kansas – traveling the heartland.
Any culinary connoisseur knows that the perfect dish is all about the pairing. One pair that’s always been in sync? Food and travel. The two passions go together like spaghetti and meatballs. Like chicken and curry or farmers’ markets and fresh produce. It’s a match made in heaven, and hardcore travelers will tell you that trying a destination’s cuisine is one of the most enhancing experiences of a trip.
RM and I drove through sunshine, fog, rain and sleet and temperatures varying greatly from highs in the 80’s in Missouri to below freezing at night in Illinois. We drove through two cities hosting the NCAA men’s basketball tournament (Des Moines and OKC), stopped to tour Lincoln’s home and tomb in Springfield, Ill and a quick visit with dear friends in Springfield, MO.
Food was a part of each and every experience. We sampled local food favorites like Chicago-style hot dogs with pickles, tomatoes and peppers on top, wet beef sandwich (dipped in juice) with a Pop (not Coke) and toasted ravioli, tree ways like in one, two, tree (it’s fried with reduced calories if they call it toasted — it’s my theory). We took long gusty walks with our daughter’s high energy dog, Atticus, to counterbalance our foodie treats and transferred the Transmogrifier to my nephew Todd for much needed repair work. Of course, we met him at a bistro specializing in local craft beer and we sampled Irish delights of corned beef and shepherd’s pie — it was St. Paddy’s day, dear readers. C2 and I made chili paired with cinnamon rolls from scratch; a family tradition served on Friday nights growing up in the Midwest.
We stopped in Topeka to catch up on family news, celebrate the matriarch of the Marshall clan’s 81st birthday with chocolate cake and gobbled up classic, lemon Madeleines baked by C3 — I call them French butter cookies. On The Great British Baking Show, they call them sponge cookies.
On the last leg of the trip, we didn’t stop to eat anything but fasted all day except for a cheap cup of coffee from McDonald’s just to keep us awake through the beautiful, expansive Flint Hills of Kansas. I pulled into our driveway, eight hours later, with a roaring headache due to severe butter withdraws, low blood sugar levels and eye strain from navigating down I-35 between the Red River and the Fort. My demeanor was similar to a mama grizzly exiting her den in the spring. Not pretty but I was home.