In a few days, I'm getting on a plane.
While I'm not flying to Chicago this time, my last flying experience made me think. Not trying to be morbid, but the one thing that kept popping into my head when we were delayed with engine trouble was this: Great. I'm gonna die in a plane crash today and the last thing I ate was a gluten-free Larabar and a cup of coffee. That is bullshit.
What happened to me?
I used to be the traveler that other travelers envied and also sometimes probably despised. While they were stuck with their bag of airline-issued pretzels and flat Sprite with fecal-infused ice, I'd be the one setting up my little bento box of charcuterie, vegetables, and fruit. While they hauled on offensive-smelling bags of gristle and poo from Burger King, I'd nosh on smoked almonds, candied walnuts, cheese, and dark chocolate.
But lately it seems I've gotten lazy about my pre-travel food prep ritual. And with celiac, there are no gluten-free food options in airports or on airplanes, so I have to be diligent about bringing my own snacks.
So, I decided to kick myself in the ass and make something from the Alinea cookbook to take on the plane for this trip. After poring over the pages, drooling over some of the options, I decided to make the pickled watermelon rind from "Ayu, kombu, fried spine, sesame" on page 97 of the book.
Something in my body is changing and evolving because I can't seem to stop pickling things this summer. First it was green beans with dill. Then, I expanded to doing green beans with fennel seed, or clover and mustard seed. I pickled chard stems. I pickled cherries. I pickled fennel. I pickled grapes. All this from the girl who, a year ago, gagged at the mere thought of eating anything in a vinegary brine.
With a seedless watermelon from the farmer's market already on my kitchen counter, I got to work. I had to change the amounts in the recipe to accommodate the larger quantity of rind I'd be pickling, but this is so incredibly easy, I hope you'll try it. Watermelon pickles are soooooo good, and this whole process took all of 20 minutes.
I cut open the watermelon:
I scooped out the flesh and saved it for later (actually, I've been eating it all week and MAN is it good).
I sliced the halves into crescents and then cut the crescents into strips (easier to remove the green bit of the rind that way):
I removed the outer green rind, and the rest of the red flesh, leaving only planks of the white and pink rind, which I cut into smaller pieces (about 1" square):
The brine is easy:
200g water (just under 1 cup)
200g rice vinegar (just under 1 cup)
150g sugar (3/4 cup)
Heat all three in a saucepan, stirring until the sugar is dissolved, add the watermelon rind pieces, turn off the stove burner, and let the rind sit in the brine until it comes to room temperature (about an hour).
You can eat them right away, but they're even better 3, 4, 10 days out. After mine had cooled to room temperature, I put them in a mason jar with as much brine as would fit, closed the lid nice and tight, and stored them in the refrigerator (which is where they'll stay until I'm done eating them).
I'm totally stoked to be able to take a little container of these on the plane with me for a snack. Bet no one else will have anything this good in their carry on. (Watch. Freakin' Ferran Adrià will be on my flight, and will whip out some sort of avant-garde Chex Mix and put me to shame.)
When you travel, whether by car, train, or plane, do you bring your own snacks? What do you make? What do you avoid?
Edited to add: I'll be carrying these on the plane in a small container, no brine. No TSA agent is gonna make me throw away these beauties.
Resources: Seedless watermelon from the 14th and U Street Farmers Market; Domino sugar; Marukan rice vinegar.
Music to Pickle Things To: You guys, I am such a dork. I've begun what will likely be a year-long process of cleaning up my iTunes. Getting rid of music I downloaded on a whim and realized I don't like. Reorganizing my playlists. Listening to all the music I already have and downloading more from artists I love. Correcting typos in track listings (yes. dork.). Making sure all songs in albums are labeled in the correct order so I can listen to them in the way they were intended to be heard (again. dork. I KNOW.). This is all a very long way of telling you I listened to a lot of Adam Ant while I was pickling this watermelon rind. I'd forgotten how much I love "Desperate But Not Serious," "Friend or Foe," and "Strip." I saw Adam live at the old 930 Club in DC in 1989 and had a great time at the show (despite the rabid fan who pushed his way to the stage to show Adam the full back tat he had done of Adam looking over this guy's baby daughter, which, creepy). It was good to listen to his music again. And how fitting is the chorus of "Antmusic" when it comes to my music reorganization project: "So unplug the jukebox and do us all a favor, that music's lost its taste so try another flavor."
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