train food
December 16, 2009 7:37 AM   Subscribe

Train ride from Portland to Chicago. In coach. I don't want to buy food on the train. What should my food strategy be?

1. Food should be vegetarian (no beef jerky!).
2. As far as I know, there are no microwaves or refrigerators that I can use.
3. Food should be sufficient to sustain me for the entirety of the 46 hour train ride
4. I won't have access to a kitchen or cooking supplies while in Portland.
5. I would like some variety (I've tried just doing fruits&nuts on previous long journeys [though not this long] and it got boring fast.

What delicious things can I bring with me to sustain myself for the entire 46 hour journey?
posted by mustcatchmooseandsquirrel to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Hummus and pita chips? Cheese sandwich? I have taken cheese backpacking and had it be ok for at least 12 hours unrefrigerated, you could probably take a soft-sided insulating lunchbox and some ice packs and extend that. Toasted edamame packs a lot of protein.
posted by ghharr at 7:45 AM on December 16, 2009

There's always vegetarian jerky...
posted by j at 7:46 AM on December 16, 2009

Cooked rice and soysauce should keep.
posted by josher71 at 7:48 AM on December 16, 2009

I would plan meals and not just snacks. Snacks do get boring fast.

Three quick ideas:

A pressed vegetarian sandwich, wrapped in paper. Serve with good chips, a piece of fruit.

Cold pasta salad. I like pasta with cheese, broccoli, and walnuts. It's delicious cold and have enough protein to be filling. Store with a cold pack. Don't forget a fork.

Good cheese, good bread, pesto.
posted by mmmbacon at 7:48 AM on December 16, 2009

Instant soup cups (there will be hot water dispensers for tea).

A loaf of real bread and a decent cheese (a good cheese should survive the trip unrefrigerated just fine).

There are packaged indian foods that come in a pouch that do not need refrigeration, and can be heated by immersing in hot water (bring a big enough zip-loc to hold the food pouch and some hot water to heat it with).

Carrots are a good snack and should not need refrigeration for a two day trip.
posted by idiopath at 7:49 AM on December 16, 2009

Tasty Bite was the Indian food I was thinking of.
posted by idiopath at 7:51 AM on December 16, 2009

A friend and I used to regularly travel by train together (not for 46 hours). We used to start out with a bag full of bagels with cream cheese.
posted by not that girl at 7:51 AM on December 16, 2009

I live on S'mores flavor Luna bars when I'm travelling.
posted by elsietheeel at 7:59 AM on December 16, 2009

Hearty baked goods (jam bars) should keep. PB + honey + banana sandwiches are yummy. If you buy real hard cheese (eg Parmigiano-Reggiano), that'll keep for a week wrapped in paper or cloth (not plastic, it traps water and causes spoilage).

I've also had indian in a pouch, and it was quite edible.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 8:10 AM on December 16, 2009

Clif bars, a bit of cheese, and homemade gorp (my recipe: honey roast peanuts, dried cranberries, green raisins, and peanut butter M&M's) have gotten me across the continent (via car) many times.
posted by notsnot at 8:13 AM on December 16, 2009

I've been eating instant cream of wheat with dried fruit for breakfast lately. It would be easy on a train - just add hot water (which I'm sure they'd give you for free).

Seconding the PB/honey/banana sandwiches, or just a good old pbj.
posted by something something at 8:16 AM on December 16, 2009

PB&J, molletes (refried beans, cheese and pickled jalapeno on a bolillo), cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches, hummus/baba ganoush/muhammara/ajvar and crudites/pita/chips to dip. Hot or cold soup in a thermos. Apples, oranges, grapes, raisins, craisins ... wheee! Granola, cookies, rice cakes, the list goes on! Chill your sandwiches ahead of time and take a small cooler or insulated lunch bag, they'll be good for quite some time. Would you eat hard-boiled eggs? If so, they travel nicely.
posted by Allee Katze at 8:16 AM on December 16, 2009

I've done this travelling on Amtrak on and off for a month. Keep in mind that you can obtain cold and hot water from the dining car (may have to pay for "tea" if they're really being jerks) so things that you add hot water too [ramen, oatmeal] are totally okay. Bring a few ice cold drinks and put them in a soft sided cooler with....

- sliced cheese
- apples
- a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or celery and peanut butter
- raisins
- trail mix
- powdered milk
- cold pizza
- burrito
- napkins & utensils [at least a knife and a spoon] and handi-wipes
- powdered soup/chili mix
- a cup you can reconstitute dried/powdered stuff in
posted by jessamyn at 8:33 AM on December 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

Not all the things from Vegan Lunch Box will keep for the full length of your journey, but it's a pretty good place to start for transportable veggie yumminess!

I know you said no kitchen in Portland, but do you have access to a freezer? Because you can freeze cheese sandwiches (and indeed any sarnies that have a filling that you could freeze anyway). Bring them with you frozen, they'll defrost as you travel and be much fresher to eat later in the journey.

Also, chiming in on hummus. Mmmn, hummus.
posted by Coobeastie at 8:38 AM on December 16, 2009

Seconding Instant Soup, or instant noodles.

Granola bars and fruit, perhaps, too.
posted by backwards guitar at 8:39 AM on December 16, 2009

Can you get plain (Scottish) oatcakes? They slow your eating down, and become quite deliciously munchable if you are patient enough. Great with the cheeses. (My last batch is cooling off while we speak, I'm in fact munching).
Yes and the hummus, obviously. Dolmades too - can be eaten cold; buy a small can or two. Black olives with nice spices. Sundried tomatoes. Enough to drink. Something to dip and some pesto.
Small portions all, strive for variety instead of the Fist In Your Stomach. Double check tightness of containers with oily content (some of my books have orange edges that smell like garlic). I wish I were on that trip.
posted by Namlit at 8:51 AM on December 16, 2009

I always take vegetarian jerky with me when I travel. It's a good source of protein, and there are a few brands and flavors. Primal Spirit, Tofurky, and Stonewall Jerquee are three that are usually available at Whole Foods. I am also a fan of Larabars and Clif bars.
Personally, I would also bring cookies and candy, but I have a monster sweet tooth.
posted by aabbbiee at 9:07 AM on December 16, 2009


(chocolate chip, nuts, or oatmeal, from a local bakery. i took multiple 30-40 hour bus trips this summer and the sugar really helped, because my sleep and energy was really strange and i didn't want to drink caffeine.)

just avoid smelly food, and make sure to eat the quickly-perishable stuff first.
posted by acidic at 9:32 AM on December 16, 2009

Just a word of caution...I'm not sure how close you will be to others (sounds like you will be close if you are in coach) I would steer clear of the Indian. If I was sitting near you I'd be REALLY pissed if the car started stinking of Indian food on a long train ride with nowhere to go. Doubly so for the inevitable aftermath of eating Indian cuisine.

Ramen is a good suggestion but if you go to an asian super market you will likely find much higher-quality versions of that which will be a lot tastier and just as feasible.

I assume they'll have milk on a drink cart or something so consider bringing cereal and some plastic spoons.

Sandwiches or wraps would be good for day 1 as that stuff will keep just find for that period of time (especially if you bring a tiny cooler bag with an ice pack). Day two is the dry stuff.

Also, if you haven't already done so, I would call and ask if they are making any stops for which you will be able to purchase a meal at a train station or if they will be serving meals.
posted by Elminster24 at 10:50 AM on December 16, 2009

Try making onigiri (rice balls), if you can get Japanese rice. Pretty simple, traditional methods include seaweed (kombu, for example) or even natto, but as with the smell issue, natto won't be smiled on. Instead, chop some mushrooms into pieces about 1cm square, then saute in olive oil and whatever flavors you like. Doesn't have to be Japanese. I usually use garlic, basil, pepper, salt, and a touch of paprika. You can add minced onions for a bit more flavor, texture. Saute the mix, then add it to the cooked rice. Make sure to salt the rice/mushroom mix to taste, because it will be sort of bland.

Dried fruit and nuts can get boring, but you'll want some sort of snack. Do bring a cheese sandwich or two. Or bring slices of cheddar and sliced apples (use a little lemon juice to keep them fresh) and eat the apples with the cheese (or even peanut butter).

If eggs are okay, Spanish omelets will keep for at least the first day. blanch some slices of potato, slice some onions, cook in olive oil for about twenty minutes until the potatoes are slightly browned and soft, and the onions are nice and brown/limp. Add spices (salt/pepper/thyme, or salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder) and add four beaten eggs. Let the eggs cook a bit on the bottom so they aren't too runny. Put a plate over the top of the fry pan, then flip the plate/pan over so the eggs are on the plate. Put the back on the stove, slide the omelet back into the pan, and cook until the eggs are done. Slice, eat in pie wedges. You can add all kinds of things to this, cheese, mushrooms, cooked (or raw) spinach. Go crazy. Maybe bring a little hot sauce to liven it up.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:11 PM on December 16, 2009

Whatever you do, bring enough for 2-3 extra meals. Trains can run really late, especially in the winter.
posted by Good Brain at 2:25 PM on December 16, 2009

Couscous, oatmeal, and cream of wheat are easy and require only hot water.
posted by gregr at 2:42 PM on December 16, 2009

« Older Looking for an affordable USB amplifier.   |   Staying in the Smokes Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.