One of the best things about any incredible journey by road is punctuating the driving with generously rationed eating breaks, and frequent stops at places that proffer the best local produce. Here are some of my tips for satisfying the taste buds on an Aotearoa roadie.
A large coffee ordered from the first open cafe we come across is a non-negotiable for the two up front on our family road trips. The back-seaters get hot chocolates with extra marshmallows if the barista is obliging. Within an hour we're all tasked with keeping an eye out for a public loo of course.
Pro tip: BYO thermally insulated reusable cups and kiss lukewarm sips goodbye.
Honesty to goodness
Honesty boxes may not be quite as ubiquitous as they once were, but roadside produce stalls that operate on an honesty system (paying by cash into a lockbox or increasingly by bank transfer) dot our rural roads. Some areas are particularly abundant – the road to Ōmaha, the back route to Mangawhai from State Highway 1, the route between Waihī and Katikati, stretches through orchard country in Central Otago, and the berry-filled rolling hills of Moutere are some of the most fruitful areas (pun intended) for honesty boxing in my experience. Not only do honesty boxes provide a tasty reason to pull over, they're a good lesson that business can still operate on faith in human nature.
Pro tip: carry a bottle of water for rinsing fruit and vegetables so you can snack on them on the spot.
Circle the date
Plan ahead, searching the web and local publications to hone in on dates for farmers markets, food and wine festivals, and other food-related happenings in areas you're travelling to or through. Farmers markets are the best way of connecting to a place by tasting a wide range of foods grown and made there and chatting to those whose livelihood it is. Ditto A&P shows, school fairs, church fairs, and country fairs – all fertile ground for snapping up local goodies. Ticketed events require a little more planning on your behalf, so check and book early so you don't suffer FOMO.
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Pack some helpers
Pack chiller bags and some frozen ice pads (set a calendar reminder to put ice packs in the freezer the day before you set out, and another to take them out, if you're anything like me). If you're keen on collecting punnets of berries, local cheeses and charcuterie, or for keeping drinks cool, a chiller bag is super handy. Depending on where you're staying, you can refreeze the slicker pads as you travel around. Carry a lightweight rug for impromptu picnics, and if you're a fan of plate over paper, pack a picnicking set and a bottle of soapy water for giving your dishes a clean after eating. Pottles of sauce can be something you feel smug about having thought of when they're called for to anoint chips, pies, and more: tomato sauce, mayo, sriracha, or whatever your magic sauce needs are.
Summer road trips are way better when you've popped bottles of water in the freezer the night before, providing you with icy cold water for your journey. Works for juice too of course.
If space is at a premium in your boot, carry food and drink in collapsible containers (there are some nifty silicon options around these days). This way they're only taking up space when they're feeding and watering you.
We all love a roadie pie, but do yourself a favour and do your research – you really don't want to waste your appetite on an average one. Canvas opinion among friends, social media communities, and trusted sources such as the Bakel's NZ Pie Awards to help you hone in on which pies are most worthy of consideration along your merry way. The same goes for fish and chips, milkshakes, icecreams, coffee, and other road trip essential eats: a little asking around sets you up for fewer disappointments.
Don't peak too soon
In 1984's The Neverending Story, a hungry Sebastian takes one frugal bite from his peanut butter sandwich before setting it aside to dive back into the adventure of the eponymous book. "No, not too much, we still have a long way to go", he wisely quips. So too do you the road tripper have a long journey before you and – thanks to the many conveniences of the modern world – far too many opportunities beyond a mere sandwich to fill your tum at any given time. If you go hard and go early, you risk spoiling your dinner. And if you've planned well, dinner should be something to look forward to on a road trip. So take it slowly, like Seb.
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