Primal Traveling + Breakfast Nori Wraps

Thank you for your patience the last few weeks. Second term at school is by far the busiest, and I’m still trying to gain that elusive property of balance in my life. It has been far too long without a recipe, so let’s get this show on the road!

I posted the Sugar Series while traveling on the school trip to Okinawa two weeks ago and while taking multiple business trips this past week. Traveling can be an uneasy, stressful, or downright scary time if you have food allergies, emotional issues with food, or simply choose to live an ancestral-based lifestyle and avoid all the modern toxins we conventionally label as food.

Nori Wraps for Two

I used to freak. out. about traveling and food. I’d stress eat carbs, not sleep enough, and just be anxious overall in terms of what food I would eat and how to source it. Generally, in terms of avoiding allergenic foods, I usually was able to find something and it always worked out. I think I made traveling harder on myself by stressing out into flight-or-flight mode and triggering all my emotional eating habits. It takes practice and a few blunders to find a technique that works for you, and also a little patience with your panicky self. I’ve learned a lot from this post over at The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen, this podcast by the Paleo View, and the ladies behind the Balanced Bites podcast – Liz Wolfe & Diane Sanfillipo.

So when I packed up and headed off to Okinawa, with 300 sixteen year olds, this time around I was prepared and unfreaked. Lugging my possessions over several continents has taught me that there is virtue in packing light, so I usually go pretty easy on clothes. I leave 1/3 of my suitcase empty for gifts, and the remaining half is devoted to food. I had a small rolling suitcase with all the necessities, including my travel favorites of canned fish, some form of squash packed in glass jars, cabbage, and a bag of chestnuts. I packed a salad for lunch for the plane ride to Okinawa, and upon arrival I sourced food by shopping at grocery stories and local markets.

Basic Travel Strategies

  • Visit grocery stores, vegetable stands, and farmer’s markets for fresh whole foods and local culture.
  • Bring supplies to help you picnic on the beach or in a park rather than pay for dubious restaurant food.
  • Research ahead of time to find awesome restaurants that do cater to your needs and provide an enjoyable dining experience.

My main strategy while traveling is to visit grocery stores or farmer’s markets. You can access fresh, whole foods, but I really love to visit these places to get a taste of the local culture. My fellow Japanese teacher agreed – she loved going to supermarkets when she visited Australia. Even better than grocery stores are local, whole foods markets and farmer’s or morning markets. The second night I went out looking for food, I ended up caught in the rain with limited supplies, no cell phone and therefore no way to call for a cab back to my hotel. I have to admit I stress ate some walnuts, which was not a good choice, but the lack of cab access lead me to walk around, where I happened upon a delightful yaoya, or Mom & Pop vegetable shop. Not only did they have an abundance of roasted sweet potatoes, a feature in Okinawa, but also some amaaaazing garlic chicken. I was chatting with the friendly store owner and he not only gave me a few extra sweet potatoes as “service”, but also offered to call me a cab! Dinner solved, no longer stranded, and happy after that small act of kindness – I was so grateful that I decided to strike out on my own rather than find a restaurant.

I usually tend to avoid restuarants in unfamiliar settings, mostly because I don’t want to deal with all the questions that come up: allergies, sustainability choices for meat & fish, takeout container waste, and whether or not they cook with industrial seed oils, which is pretty much a guaranteed in most places. I prefer to take the cheaper and more enjoyable option of shopping at grocery stores and picnicing on the beach. While I was in Chicago this summer, however, I was in a position to do some pre-travel research and I made a list of places to eat. I used Paleo Hacks at that time, but since then Bill & Haley at The Food Lovers Kitchen have created a delightful resource for travel & dining by city. My brother, sister, and I had such a great time at Wildfire in Chicago the first night that we went back again the second night (the fire-roasted sweet potato is an amazing side). We also ate lunch at the Whole Foods bar one day, but we all agreed we need to write in and tell Whole Foods to quit using canola oil.

What I ate:

- plane lunch: salad with ground chicken, avocado, seaweed, pickled red onion, & sauerkraut. My go-to salad.

- Sunday dinner: picnic on the beach ~ squid & salad from the grocery store, roasted kabocha pumpkin that I brought with me

- Monday breakfast: I forgot to buy ahead for this one, so I had some emergency reserves of sardines with an avocado. I first started eating sardines over 18 months ago, and then only for lunch or dinner. Once you acquire the taste for sardines, it gets easier to eat them for breakfast. I hear all this talk about having kids try foods at least 15 times, and I wonder why we expect anything different for adults?

- Monday lunch: bag salad purchased from grocery store with can of mackerel I brought from home. Afternoon snack was a bag of chestnuts.

- Monday dinner: amazing garlic chicken & sweet potato from the yaoya

The rest of my meals were one of the following ~

- lettuce wraps with canned fish or leftover chicken

- salad with canned mackerel or salmon

- nori wraps

Quick & Easy Nori Wraps

These are perfect because you can carry the ingredients separately and assemble on the spot. In fact, the nori will get soggy if you do it any other way. Nori is basically dried seaweed paper. I find that I enjoy these wraps even more than the sushi roll version, because I prefer the fillings over the taste of rice anyway. Primal sushi, anyone? (Actually, the first real sushi was a kind of cheap fish that they buried in the ground for several months and let ferment. I don’t know what is more primal than that). Just add your favorite filling, roll, and go!

Filling ideas:

  • smoked salmon
  • roasted chicken
  • canned sardines
  • cucumber
  • avocado
  • lettuce

My favorite combo is smoked salmon, avocado, & cucumber. Simply layer it on, roll it up, and enjoy!

As for all the daily business trips, refer back to my post that was part of Sunny’s Healthy Lunchbox Series 2012!