When I saw the number, I couldn’t believe it: 29 hours. It was undoubtedly going to be one of the longest travel days of my life. I’ve been to Bali twice before, but always from Copenhagen, which is about half the distance from Toronto. I almost gave it a second thought since spending that amount of time sitting upright just felt like it might end me, but the retreats were booked, and there was no backing out!
I knew what would get me through, and that was food. Lots and lots of delicious, nourishing, consciously-created food. I always always make a point of preparing meals for traveling, since eating mini, microwaved mystery munch seriously kills my vibe. Plus, the amount of calories in one of those airplane trays is barely enough to get me through one romcom and you know that I’m watching at least five in a row.
When you’re about to face any length of time on an airplane, there are a few things to take into consideration. First, fill your snack pack with foods that are hydrating: cucumbers, romaine, bell peppers, carrots, apples, oranges, celery, berries, grapes, and melon. Depending on where you’re traveling to, it can help to have the fruits and veggies already prepared or sliced, since some countries won’t let you bring in whole fruits and veg, but they will let you bring them in if they look ready to eat. It sounds nonsensical, but it works!
I love having huge vegetable salads with lentils and / or whole grains to keep me full too, since I have a tendency to stress-eat when I’m in transit and will totally mow down a bag of chips if they’re put in front of me (okay, sometimes I also eat those chips, and that is okay too, but I notice that it always prolongs my jetlag). For other filling munchies, I like my almond flour cookies, nuts like pistachios or walnuts, and granola – especially crossing so many timezones, which requires breakfast-y things. Veggie sticks are also nice, light fare that keep my crunch cravings under control.
As you can see from the photo, I bring my food in reusable containers, use washable wooden cutlery and a straw, all of which are convenient to have once I’m at my destination to use for my own cooking and storage. I also always have my 800-ml water bottle with me when I travel. I’ve mentioned it in previous posts, but it begs repeating: jetlag is exacerbated by dehydration, and drinking about half a liter (16 oz.) per hour of flight will make such an immense difference, you may never experience jetlag again. I used to suffer terribly from exhaustion for days post-travel (which really ruined my trip when it was a short one), and now it’s no big deal. I arrive, wait until a mildly appropriate time to go to bed, and wake up feeling about as normal as one could hope to. Yes, you’ll have to make friends with the flight attendants, since they are the keepers of the water, but go visit them at the back of the plane every so often for a refill, treat them like humans, and you’d be amazed at how accommodating and helpful they are. Make sure you fill your bottle before landing as well, since you never know how long it will take for you to get through customs, baggage claim and the taxi line. It always pays to have hydration close at hand.
Avoid the plane food if you can, since it is overly salted and often has added sugar. Our taste buds are actually less receptive at high altitudes, due to low air pressure, low humidity, and high levels of white noise. Yup – that is an actual thing. The way our brains interpret flavour signals is impaired, therefore, things taste different, so airlines pump up the levels of salt and sugar in their food to make them taste the way they would at ground level. If you ate that travel-sized “chicken or pasta” at your dining room table you’d be surprised at how exaggerated the flavours were.
Why is this the most epic travel salad? Because it’s got All. The. Things. Rich, hearty beets, protein-rich and satiating lentils, so it’s filling, but it’s not going to leave you feeling stuffed. And because of that whole flavours-being-less-powerful-at-high-altitudes thing, I endeavoured to add as many potent tastes as possible. Lemon, pomegranate, parsley, cumin seeds, and olives are like flavour fireworks that you can safely ignite at 30,000 feet. There is a Middle Eastern vibe going on for sure, and the multitude of textures tick every single box. You don’t want your mouth getting bored while you’re hurtling through the sky, and this combination will ensure that each bite is a surprise party.
Olives that come without their pits are often mushy and less flavourful, so I always opt to remove them myself, or leave them in until I eat them. The problem with leaving the pits in the olives in this situation, is finding a place to put them on your teeny table real estate (the airsick bag is a great option, just sayin’…and yes, I’ve really thought of everything). If you do want to remove them beforehand, it’s easiest to do so by smashing the olive with the flat side of a knife blade, then simply pulling the pit out. You can roughly chop the olives from there.
If you don’t have any black lentils, Du Puy or French lentils work just as well, with green and brown lentils as a passable fallback. I don’t dig these types of lentils in salads since they tend to be water-y and dilute the flavour of the dressing, but if it keeps you from making a special trip to the store, by all means just use them.
And normally I wouldn’t include alliums in a plane salad since your neighbours might give you the stink eye when you pop open your lunch box, but I’ve tempered their potency by pickling them ever-so-slightly. This is done in the same container that you’re going to put your salad in, preceded by mixing up the dressing right in there too. Easy peasy!
I guess I should mention that this salad is not just delicious on a plane – it’s also fabulous enjoyed at ground level. Perfect for road trips, picnics, school or office lunches, just make sure you make it the day before so that all the ingredients are cool. If you travel with this salad on the warm side, it could spoil in transit.
Maybe it’s a bit strange to have a travel salad as the first post of the year, but I’m a bit tired of the whole “new year, new you” rant. People expect me to talk about cleansing or detoxing in January, and although I’m all for reflecting and re-evaluating one’s lifestyle choices, I’m a bit bored of the narrative saying that the first day of the new year is the time to atone for all our dietary sins. Why do we need a specific day to act as a reason to start treat ourselves well?
If there a New Year’s resolution to pull out of this post, it should be to resolve to make yourself delicious food when you go anywhere. Avoid the overpriced convenience food, no matter how healthy it is, since nothing sold in a package will ever compare to the freshness, or high-vibrational energy of food you’ve lovingly prepared for yourself. Case closed!
If you’d like more travel food recipes, tips, and inspiration, check out my two previous articles here and here.
The Epic Travel Salad
Makes enough for 2-3 meals
3/4 cup / 170g dry black / beluga lentils, soaked overnight if possible
2 ½ pounds / 1200g beets
1 shallot, sliced into rings
½ tsp. fine sea salt
zest and juice of 1 large organic lemon
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. cumin seeds
1/3 cup / 60g pumpkin seeds
1 tsp. honey (vegans sub with maple syrup)
3 Tbsp. cold-pressed olive oil
heaping ½ cup / 80g pomegranate seeds
heaping ½ cup / 100g olives, with pits
1 cup / 25g parsley
½ tsp. flaky salt, or more to taste
1 small head romaine lettuce
1. Preheat oven to 400°F / 200°C. Place whole beets (with the skin on) on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for around 45-60 minutes, until you can easily insert a sharp knife into the center (baking time depends on the size of your beets). Remove from oven, let cool completely, then slip the skins off. Slice into bite-sized batons.
2. While the beets are roasting, cook the lentils. Drain and rinse well (if you’ve soaked them overnight), and place them in a pot, cover with plenty of fresh water, and bring them to a boil. Reduce to simmer, place a lid on the pot, and cook until tender (about 15-20 minutes if you’ve soaked them, a little longer if you haven’t). Salt the lentils a few minutes before they’re done – if you salt them at the beginning of cooking, the skins will be tough and they’ll take longer to soften. Drain and rinse lightly. Set aside.
3. While the lentils are cooking, prepare the dressing. Slice the shallot into very thin rings, then place them in the container that you’re going to use to store the salad. Add the salt and combine them well. Wait about 2 minutes, then add the lemon zest, juice and apple cider vinegar (these ingredients will lightly pickle the shallots, plus act a as a base for your dressing).
4. In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast the cumin seeds until fragrant, set aside to cool. Without washing the pan, toast the pumpkin seeds until fragrant and popping, then set aside to cool.
5. Back to the dressing: whisk in the honey and olive oil. Add the prepared beets, lentils, pomegranate seeds, olives, parsley, toasted cumin seeds, pumpkin seeds and flaky salt. Fold to thoroughly combine. Taste and add more salt if necessary (remember that the ingredients will absorb some salt while marinating, and that it will taste milder in the air).
6. You can either chop the romaine lettuce up and place it on top of the salad (don’t mix it in – it will get totally mushy), or you can leave the head whole and peel off the leaves and use them as little salad boats. If you’re going for the latter, wrap the washed head in beeswax cloth to keep it fresh.
The Wild Heart High Spirit Retreats are starting tomorrow, and I cannot wait to embrace each of the women who have traveled from every corner of the earth to join us here in Bali. We are going to eat the most delicious food, practice yoga, dance, laugh, learn, and celebrate the joy of being alive together! We have one space left for the second week, so if you’re interested in joining us in tropical paradise, please visit our site for more information.
Peace and blessings for an abundant, healthy, vibrant year ahead. Thank you for being here. I love you.
xo, Sarah B