DWV: Driving While Vegetarian

In about a month, I’m heading off on an epic solo road trip from Minneapolis to Atlanta. I’ll be visiting friends and family along the way, but I am also looking forward to the days on the road alone with my iPod loaded with audio books, the Go-Gos, and the Bangles; my camera; and my GPS. I’d love to be able to add my appetite to that list, but finding little-known culinary gems of the sort that have made Jane and Michael Stern famous is almost a lost cause for vegetarians.

Armed with a dog-eared copy of the 2nd (1980) edition of the Stern’s Roadfood, my first husband and I would take the back roads to find out-of-the way eateries, diners, and truck stops. On our honeymoon in New Orleans, the best meals we had were at Roadfood-recommended spotneworleans-snack-camelliagrill-2.jpgs: The Camellia Grill (greasy cheeseburgers sold by counter staff in white jackets and bow ties and an excuse to ride the streetcar), The Old Coffee Pot (calas cakes — sweet rice fritters), Central Grocery (muffalettas), Mother’s (the best ham Po’ Boy ever and Debris and Grits, made with the crunchy scratchings and scraps), and, of course, the magical beignet’s and chicory coffee and the Cafe du Monde.

Cafe Du Monde

Just because it is a tourist trap doesn’t mean it isn’t good!

It is testimony the to the quality of the Sterns’ picks that every one of these establishments is still going strong, 35 years later.

Sadly, there is no real vegetarian equivalent of Roadfood, or of the excellent Roadfood website, for vegetarians. Roadfood does tag restaurants that are suitable for vegetarians, but most of the promising ones (at least to me) seem to be Connecticut or the Southwest. Which is great if you are in Connecticut or the Southwest, but not so great if you are driving from Minneapolis to Atlanta and are not planning a route that goes through either New Haven or Tucson. I have made a note of one recommendation that is, more or less, mostly less, along my route. It is a grilled cheese sandwich joint called Melt, on the outskirts of Cleveland, which I suppose I could justify with a visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum. I can do that since Deep Purple’s (according to Simon, woefully late) induction.


When I Google “vegetarian road food”, I find lots of sites that suggest packing lots of your own carrots and celery, miso soup packets, and travel blenders. They also provide lists of things to ask when you do stop at a restaurant: is your bread vegan? Is your vegetable soup made with chicken stock? Etc. This is all excellent advice. [I can add one: don’t take prunes as a road snack. I learned that the hard way, driving across southwest Texas in 1987.] One site suggested eating only at Chinese restaurants and just ordering order tofu and broccoli. Now I love broccoli and tofu as much as the next girl . . . but . . . just kill me now.vegan-broccoli_tofu-zoom

I’ve encountered similar challenges since moving to New Zealand. There is a plant-based food community here, but it is scattered around a largely carnivorous country. It has taken some time to find sources of things like nooch (nutritional yeast — by mail order from http://www.huckleberry.co.nz), Bragg Liquid Aminos and Barley Malt Syrup (ceres.co.nz), tofu (the tofu man at the Riverside Market in Lower Hutt), and Jackfruit (Davis Trading in Petone). Wellington could really use a vegetarian fine dining restaurant. Right now, our choices are limited to Asian and Indian. Or things laden with hated pumpkin or kumara — or both.

So, what’s a vegetarian — and worse, a vegan — to do? There are some good resources. Happycow.net has an extensive listing of vegan, vegetarian, and vegetarian-friendly eateries around the world that includes brief reviews. It also includes listings of vegetarian and vegan shops and co-ops, which is really useful if you are staying in one place for a while. The reviews can be crossed referenced on Yelp or Trip Advisor for more guidance.

If you are traveling in the Southern United States, one good option is to pull off the main road, find the nearest town, and look for the meat-and-three restaurant. meat and threeYou can usually find one in the town centre, near the courthouse. It’s a lunchtime cultural experience not to be missed. Meat and three restaurants offer lunch (and occasionally dinner) plates consisting of a choice of three meat mains (say, fried chicken, country ham, and meatloaf) plus three of a fairly extensive selection of vegetable sides. In the old days, most of the vegetables would have been cooked with pork, but more and more, you’ll find plenty of meat-free choices. It might be tougher for vegans, but there should still be some options. Any good meat and three restaurant will offer a veg plate that usually involves three or five veg plus bread.

The ultimate meat and three experience can be had at The Blue Willow Inn in Social Circle, Georgia. ga_mapYou can find it here: http://www.bluewillowinn.com. Strictly speaking, The Blue Willow isn’t a meat and three but an all-you-can-eat buffet. But the effect is the same. It’s a little bit touristy, and a little bit Gone With the Windy. Still, this was probably my Dad’s favourite eating place in the entire universe. This was partly because they usually had fried liver and onions (belch!), but what kept him going back again and again on the least excuse was the fried green tomatoes and the grits soufflé. blue willow green tomsIf you are ever in the vicinity of Atlanta, or pretty much anywhere in the top half of Georgia, it is well worth a detour. Vegetarian or not, you can eat yourself into catatonia. Get there early, though, to make sure they still have the fried green tomatoes.

Another good option is, of course, to check out local vegan and vegetarian websites for the places you are going. The problem here, of course, is that finding a good one can be a hit or miss proposition. We need more of them.


There should be a law.

If you happen to be traveling to Bath, in the United Kingdom, you are in luck. My lovely sister-in-law, Ellie, has a local vegan website that is the Gold Standard for the art form.


It’s just the kind of local vegetarian website a funky, medium-sized city that calls itself The Coolest Little Capital in the World needs. That you, Wellington. Vegan Bath isn’t just a compilation of Yelp and Trip Advisor reviews. It is a thoughtful resource where you can learn stuff about being vegan, the history of plant-based diets, and, of course, where to go in Bath if you are a vegetarian.

I went to Bath once. It rained torrentially, the Pump House had a two hour wait, the  Roman bath was full of vile looking green water, and I didn’t see Ann Elliot and Captain Wentworth anywhere. It was a bad day.persuasion-1995-screencapture

Thanks to Vegan Bath, I can’t wait to go back and give it another go.

Well done, Ellie!





90 Things My Mother Taught Me: Part II


Today is Mum’s Birthday in our homeland, where it is yesterday, while I am already in tomorrow, where it isn’t Mum’s Birthday anymore. [Disclaimer: actually, it isn’t Mom’s birthday anywhere anymore. Thinking up 90 things took longer than I expected.]

As promised (rashly), here are the second 44 things my mother taught me, in more-or-less no particular order:

44:     If the Dawgs are behind in a football game, go into the kitchen and they will turn it around. This only worked for Mum, which earned her the nickname “the Kitchen Witch.”Dean Rusk During one of her dinner parties the Dawgs were behind in a big game (which the guests were listening to on radio, because . . . well . . . it was them Dawgs!), Former Secretary of State Dean Rusk (who was a Georgia boy and taught at UGA in his later years) politely picked up Mum’s plate, and his, and ate with her at the kitchen table. Georgia, of course, won.

This was the year UGA won the National Championship. Mum spent the entire 1980-81 football season in the kitchen, but never got the recognition she deserved. Hershal Shmershal.

43:      It is a bad idea to decorate your white dog with red and blue crepe paper for the 4th of July parade. It will rain and your dog will turn purple tie-dye.

42:      If you don’t eat it for supper tonight, you’ll get it for lunch tomorrow.

snoopy1241:      It is important to learn how to type, but only well enough to get a job. Don’t type so well that people might actually want you to do it. This was when they still had typewriters — manual ones.

40:      If a peacock falls in love with you, don’t look him in the eye, or he will follow you around all day waggling his tail feathers in your general direction.

39:      How to knit “continental style”: I didn’t know it was called continental style, Mum probably didn’t either. I just know she could knit really fast, and I can too. Mind you, I rip out a lot more than she did.

38:      Never tell people you love frogs. If you do, you will never, for the rest of your life, receive a gift that doesn’t have frogs on. Also, never tell your Aunt who lives in Milwaukee that you collect beer steins unless you really mean it. If you do, you will reach middle life with enough beer steins to open your own Ratskeller.


Thanks, Auntie June, for all the lovely steins!

37:      Flying coach to Los Angeles, then folding yourself into an overloaded, un-airconditioned Datsun 210 to keep your kid company on a three and a half day drive from Los Angeles to Athens is a supreme act of love. Knitting the same kid a gorgeous sweater in the process is even more awesome.


36:      The stripes on Raggedy Ann’s legs go round-and-round, not up-and-down.

35:      Colored towels don’t work. Actually, this one came from Dad, but it is too good to leave out, as is . . .


34:      There are no roads in Canada, and . . .

33:      You can drive to Manassas, but you can’t drive back.

32:      If you are born on the 4th of July, you will always get American flags on your birthday cakes. And people will ask you if you are a Yankee Doodle Dandy. To get a birthday cakes with no red, white, and blue, you will have to leave the country. But you might still get fireworks.

31:      If you see a flash of white fur followed by a barefoot woman shaking a raw piece of bacon shouting about Russian Dumplings, it’s just Mum trying to catch the dog.


The noble, and fleet of foot,  Piroshki with Miss Peanut

30:      Don’t leave any complicated cooking until the last minute, because parties always end up with everyone in the kitchen. Besides, the whole point of inviting folks round for dinner is to enjoy their company.




29:      Make friends with old people, they have interesting stories to tell you. I’ve had several adopted Grandmas over the years and my life was richer for it. I am now an old person. I am available for adoption.

28:      Edna Shakleford will never, ever give you the recipe for her Coconut Cake to die for. Make a pitcher of martinis and get over it.

27:      Bake Christmas Stöllen because: 1) it is a family tradition; 2) they are sort of like fruitcake, but people actually like them, and 3) people will be so grateful they will give you Christmas cookies that you can, later, pretend you baked. This saves you the onerous job of baking Christmas cookies.

26:      It also helps to have two sisters who bake wonderful Christmas cookies.

25:      Janice’s nutmeg logs are the best cookie ever, closely followed by Anita’s cranberry bark, which, technically, isn’t a cookie.

24:      When the rabbit starts running around in his hutch, you have about five seconds to get the freezer door open.



23:      Your kid will get potty trained eventually. Make a pitcher of martinis and don’t stress out.Then you can smile knowingly when a visiting neighbor’s little boy walks up to you and says, proudly: “Look! I made a poo-poo” and presents his mother with a perfect turd.



22:      When your daughter declares she might want to join a convent, make a pitcher of martinis and roll with it. The phase will pass.

21:      When your daughter takes an overdose of sleeping pills and lands in a psychiatric hospital on suicide watch, hug her a lot and tell her you love her. The phase will pass.

20:      When the troop leader tells your daughter that she has to sell two cases of Girl Scout Cookies, just buy them all and put them in the freezer. Added bonus: you will have something to fall back on if the stöllen-for-Christmas cookie scam doesn’t work.


19:      When the Band Director tells your kid that she has to sell four cases of Drix, just buy them all and put them in the freezer.

18:      When your kid melts her band hat by using it as a lampshade, don’t make her feel any stupider than she already does. Try to fix it by stuffing it with newspaper, then own up to the Band Director.65272_10151352831074442_1906667689_n

17:   Don’t use your husband’s royalty check as a bookmark unless you are sure you will remember which book you marked with it.

16:      1044516_10151782269223410_365771569_nGathering about 10,000 yards of raspberry pink sating for a bridesmaid’s dress is a way to spend a weekend, but not much of one. But you do these things for your best friends, and your kid’s best friends.

15:      When stealing peas from your mother’s garden, if you tell your brother that the shells are the best part, then you get to eat all the peas.


Mom and her brother Billy, who ate all the pea pods

14:     When your husband convinces his star graduate student to partake of a martini and radish and onion sandwich binge, legendary hangovers will ensue. Be on standby with Alka-Seltzer.

13:      Major Professors can convince their students to do just about any damn stupid thing.

12: During USMC Japanese Language School reunions, legendary hangovers will ensue. You will see a side of your husband/Dad that you never even suspected. And you will have a great deal of fun.


11:      Bunion surgery really sucks. Wear sensible shoes.sensible shoes

10:      If God intended for you to walk with bunions, he wouldn’t have made teenage daughters with driver’s licenses.

9:         You can wear white shoes any damn time you want to. Particularly if they are sneakers. Especially Chucks, which are even cool in Venice.


8:         Homemade gifts are the best. No one will remember that Pet Rock they got for Christmas in 1972, but they will still have, and love, the Raggedy Ann you made them with the stripes going the wrong way, the Amish dolls you made one year, the Mother Geese (Gooses?) you made another year. You daughter will keep, and cherish the Pooh, Tigger, and Paddington Bear you made her. When she lives in New Zealand, she will think of you, and miss you, every time she sees them – worn and well loved as they are.IMG_0109

7:         Kneading bread dough is better than therapy, and cheaper.

6:         Always write Thank You notes. Right through the 1980s and 1990s, everyone who donated money to the Athens Area Emergency Food Bank got a handwritten Thank You note written by Mum. And most of them donated more money, and received more Thank You notes. Mum was gracious and generous.missions_foodbank

5:         Good people fall on hard times. No one should go hungry because they can’t afford to buy groceries. And no one should judge. It could be you next time.

4:         You can change the world with a telephone, index cards, and a roll of stamps. I’ve seen it happen. Mum did it, right from this chair:


The Command Centre


3:        Mom to Simon: “Are you sure you want to marry her? She’s trouble with a big T!”



2:         Crossword puzzles are good for your brain. CCI06072016_6







1:         You were a beautiful soul, loved by many, and you are deeply missed. Happy Birthday, Mum!


90 Things My Mother Taught Me: Part I

1044844_10151784467348410_1806859731_nIdamae Saltenberger was born on the Sesquincentennial of the United States (that’s 150 years).


Idamae with her parents, 1926

I took this photo of Idamae Saltenberger Ziemke on her 50th Birthday, which happened to be the Bicentennial of the United States.

She hated having her picture taken, which is why she has that whole Princess Diana vibe going on.

This 4th of July (Independence Day in the land of my birth . . . and hers), Idamae Saltenberger Ziemke would have celebrated her nonagintennial.

She’d be turning 90.

I miss her.

She was my Mum. She taught me everything (important) that I know.

In honour of her 90th, I thought I’d compile a list of the 90 most important things she taught me. One for each year.

It turns out that 90 is a lot of things.

So, I will make two lists: one for her New Zealand Birthday and one for her US Birthday.

Here is Part I in no particular order:

90:      Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy get together at the end of Pride and Prejudice, even the 1,723rd time you watch it.lizzie and darcy

89:      If you eat an entire box of Christmas ribbon candy in one day, you will get sick and never want to eat Christmas ribbon candy again in your entire life. ribbon candyIn fact, just looking up images of Christmas ribbon candy on Google will make you queasy 50 years later.

88:      It’s a bad idea to use soft-boiled Easter Eggs in an egg hunt.

87:      Don’t spray insecticide on the rose bushes you planted next to your husband’s fishpond. The fish will die and your husband will rip up your rose bushes.


Enter a caption


86:      Never throw out bleach bottles, you never know when you might want to make them into [fill in the blank]. Mum’s bestie, Laura Huish, allegedly wept when she had to re-home her bleach bottle collection when her family moved to North Carolina. They came to live happily in our attic where some found meaningful careers as piggy-banks.bird feeder




85:      Never throw out egg cartons. See number 86 above. egg carton penguinsThis only applies to cardboard egg cartons. The Styrofoam ones are useless, even for holding eggs.


84:      Never throw out Reader’s Digests. With a little spray paint and a styrofoam ball, they make nice Christmas angels.


83:      In fact, best not to throw out anything. You never know when you might need that odd sock.

sock puppets

82:      Stay on good terms with your next-door neighbours (which means gracefully accepting when they offer you some of their goat barbecue) in case your oven blows up and you’ve made Baked Alaska for your dinner party. That way, you can use their oven and arrive at the front door of your own party bearing spectacular dessert.

81:      When your husband’s graduate student and his wife turn up a week early for their dinner invitation, make a pitcher of martinis and tomato sandwiches. Everyone will have a wonderful time.

80:      Episcopalians are happy to hear the Christmas Story on the 4th of July.

79:      If you choose to turn your hair green with Sun In, you can live with the consequences until it grows out.  1001483_10151782256448410_1697737890_n

78:      Don’t ever let Uncle Chuck make Dad’s drinks. If you do, Dad will never make it to the Friday Fish Fry.

77:      There is more to dessert than chocolate.

76:      If God had meant people to be outside in Georgia in August, he wouldn’t have made air-conditioners.

75:      And if you stay out of the sun, in the air-conditioning, you won’t have any wrinkles on your 50th Birthday and you will look awesome. For that matter, you won’t have any wrinkles and will look pretty awesome on your 82nd Birthday!


Mom’s 82nd Birthday with my friends Katy and Yvonne. I was on a train in Australia, meeting my soul mate. She warned me before I left. I didn’t believe her. Silly me.

74:      You cannot hear Gordon Lightfoot sing “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” too many times. You can, however, wear the grooves off the record. I wanted us to sing it at her Memorial Service. Turns out, it’s not in the Episcopal Hymnal.Wreck-45-200x200

73:      If you are fed up with your family and decide to run away from home, remember to put on your shoes and take your purse.

72:      You can never have enough index cards.

71:      If you are going to sew yourself a swimsuit, remember to use waterproof elastic. Otherwise, your bottoms will float away the first time you jump into the pool, and you will be pretty darned embarrassed.

70:      Life is too short to bake cookies.

69:      Never use bleach on the Altar Linens, only lemon juice. Bleach makes holes in fair linen.

68:      If you say you are going to the Golden Pantry with Becky but you actually are going to “meet boys”, your mother will know. She is omnipotent.

67:      “Your Father will be so disappointed” is worse than a spanking.

66:      If you are at the beach and the steaks fall off the Hibachi into the sand, wipe them off and make another pitcher of martinis. Always gin. Always olives. Dirty (with the olive juice). No one will notice.hibachi

65:      No one has invented the garbage disposal yet. This is still true.electric-pig

64:      Ankle strap shoes are trashy.

63:      So are halter-tops.

62:      Twenty-five years from now, no one will care that you weren’t tapped for that High School sorority. Neither will you. In fact, you won’t remember what that High School sorority was.IMG_0108

61:      But you will remember that your Mum suggested you start your own secret society and call it the D.R.I.P.S., which doesn’t stand for anything. But the girls you won’t let in (because they did get tapped for that High School sorority that you can’t remember the name of) don’t know that and will think you are very mysterious.

60:      Some day, you will be grateful that your Mum fished the tear-soaked pieces of the note you got from Winston in sixth grade saying “I don’t love you no more” out of the waste basket and taped them back together.

59:      Ditto the equally tear-soaked piece of the note you got from Winston six months earlier saying “I love you. You’re Jam Up an Jelly Tight.”


A valuable historical document. Sadly, I can’t put my hands on the break-up note.

58:      Always wear clean knickers in case you get in a car accident. You don’t want to arrive at the ER in yesterday’s undies.

57:      It is extremely difficult to get a finch to eat broccoli.

56:      Always clean the windows and dry crystal glasses with newspaper. It is cheap, you only throw it away anyway, and it doesn’t leave streaks (although you might get newsprint all over you).

55:      If you accidentally pour your kid’s grape Kool-Aide into the Beef Bourguignon instead of the red wine, just make another pitcher of martinis and roll with it. (Are you detecting a pattern here?) It will taste fine and everyone will wonder what the secret ingredient is. Sort of like those little cocktail wieners with the grape jelly.

54:      You can’t have too many homegrown tomatoes, but you can have too many figs.

53:      Fortunately, Southerners love figs.

52:      Money won’t buy you friends, but fig pizzas will.

51:      The Benny Hill Show is obnoxious, but Dad loves it, so humor him.The-Benny-Hill-Show-5

50:      You don’t have to speak German to cook awesomely delicious German food.

49:      Always make Klösse with old potatoes, even if your husband insists you only make them with new potatoes (and it’s OK to sneak in a few mashed cooked potato so everything sticks together – just don’t tell Dad).

48:      And they aren’t done with they float – whatever the cookbook says. If you take them out of the water as soon as they float, you will have raw potato mush.

47:      McD’s Quarter Pounders are best with onions only.

46:      Nobody at McD’s believes that Quarter Pounder are best with onions only, so be prepared to 1) explain yourself, 2) wait so long that your French Fries have congealed and, 3) end up with a Quarter Pounder with everything but onions.

45:      You can’t flush toothbrushes down the toilet, and ceramic toilets can catch fire when attacked by a mad Professor with a blowtorch.toilet barbecue