A ginormous bag of fresh veggies is my number one favorite road trip snack. I really enjoy endless nibbling when I'm on road trips... but I don't enjoy the feeling of being stuffed full with crappy junk food. So, if I bring along a huge bag of veggies and a big thing of grapes, I'm usually pretty good to go.
A couple of weeks ago, Mr VE&T and I drove all the way down to Palm Springs for our annual tennis-watching, grapefruit-eating, desert-enjoying spring trip. Mr VE&T is a devout tennis fan, and happily for us there is a super great tennis professional tennis event held every Spring in Southern California (the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, for those of you who are keeping track). I never saw it coming, but his enthusiasm has worn off on me, and these days I'm a pretty well-informed tennis fan myself. Plus, I am a also a fan of the desert, road trips, vacations with my bub, spring time in general, wildflowers, and swimming pools. So, it works out well for both of us.
My trusty little cooler packed full with roadtrip goodies: green grapes, giant bag of fresh veggies, Kevita for me and Iced Tea for Mr VE&T, and oranges. Once the cooler is packed, I'm pretty much ready to go.
big batch of grilled tofu, recipe from "The Real Food Daily Cookbook."
The tennis venue has plenty of food options, but not many of them are vegan, and they are all big bucks. On the other hand, they are totally okay with letting people bring in their own food. So, for a frugal vegan like me, that is the way to go. This year I brought down lots of sandwich fixin's (bread, tomatoes, lettuce, etc), and a huge batch of grilled herb tofu for my sandwiches. This big tub'o'tofu lasted me a whole week and guaranteed super-yummy and super-satisfying sandwiches. I was quite pleased with myself!
pleased with my own vegan lunch planning
Lord knows, the world loves it some Smug Vegans. Ha ha!
sandwiches + tennis
Here is a photo collage of all sorts of grilled tofu sandwiches featured throughout the week. Another great thing about bringing your own lunch is that you can just stay hunkered down in your seat and munch away while those players work so hard. Ha ha. Also, you can see that I have a cool little insulated lunch box. It worked great! We have a proper fridge at our hotel, so every night I would freeze an ice pack, and then load our sandwiches and goodies in with the ice pack in the morning. Even in the hot desert sun, the lunch box totally worked and the ice pack was still mostly frozen at the end of the day! How cool. Literally.
incidentally, it was pretty hot down there -- especially sitting in the sun and watching tennis all day! We both had sunscreen, sunglasses, sun hats, lightweight towels to cover our legs, and even special "wet towels" that we put under our sun hats. Ha ha. I think we looked like real weirdos. But we were comfortable and we didn't get sunburned!
spring wildflowers in the desert are most excellent
Another beautiful thing about going to the desert in the Spring is all the wildflowers. Uh, can you even believe it? On our drive down, we mostly just saw some green grass, but just one week later, after a spring rain, our drive home was pretty much 8 hours straight of amazing wildflowers. So beautiful and life-affirming. Why are flowers so special? Isn't it funny? You'd think we'd all be so jaded and adjusted to flowers by now... but somehow I don't feel that way at all. Each new patch of color sent me into rapturous fits of ooohs and aahs!
breakfast by the pool. I like it.
The hotel we've stayed at for the last few years is pretty sweet, with a lovely pool and garden. Every morning I like to wake up early and do my yoga practice next to the pool. There are citrus trees and flowers everywhere, and birds flying overhead. The hotel also provides breakfast, though there's not much there for vegans. It's lots of baked goods and yogurts and cereal and bread that isn't vegan. But, they do provide a huge platter of fruit each morning, which I am quite enthusiastic about. There's a huge Whole Foods nearby, so I stocked up on some Kite Hill yogurt and other breakfast supplements and was a happy breakfast camper all week. I mean really, sitting poolside in the morning sun is a pretty excellent way to start the day.
Most days we would just head over to the tennis tournament and watch hours of tennis... but this year I requested at least one whole Non-Tennis Day. Mr. VE&T was totally stoked on that, and actually, I think our Non-Tennis Day may have been each of our's favorite day of the whole trip. We had a lot of fun that day, but I especially want to tell you about our trip to a date farm! I looked around at various date farms in the area and decided to visit Sam Cobb Farms. I fell in love with his warm and homey website. I love supporting family farmers and small-scale operations, and this looked right up my alley.
Me with The Real Sam Cobb
We drove out mid-morning on a Saturday and were delighted to find The Real Sam Cobb* manning his own booth! (note: the farm is only open to visitors and shoppers on the weekends). I love dates, but hadn't ever visited a date farm before, so I was pretty jazzed up. Mr. Cobb was so friendly and was happy to show us around a bit.
*this is how he refers to himself on the website, so I introduced myself as The Real Amey Mathews
This is where our magical dates come from!
Isn't it beautiful? Remember, this is in the middle of the desert! Once the trees have grown a bit, and are large enough to provide shade, they actually create a very lovely and inviting canopy of shade. As you can see in this picture, it's necessary for farmers to cover the clusters of dates with cloth (the white one in the foreground) or paper (the brown ones) -- this is so that the birds and insects and coyotes don't eat them. I loved learning that coyotes like to eat dates!
He also taught us that the date trees grow quite slowly and that it takes several years for them to begin regularly producing fruit. Date varieties can't be propagated from seeds -- in order to ensure that you are growing the same variety, you have to harvest the suckers that grow at the base of other juvenile trees (kind of like with strawberries). Isn't that interesting? You can see come suckers growing out of the base of the main tree in this picture. If you plant a date seed, you'll get a date tree, but it will be its own new variety of dates. I guess this means that every time we throw out a date pit, we are passing up on the opportunity to grow a new kind of date!
On one "tour tree" there is one cluster of dates that Mr. Cobb has left uncovered, so that visitors like us can get a closer look, and so we can pick one off and eat it ourselves! I could have stood there like a little coyote and nibbled away at those dates all afternoon. I think maybe these were Zahiri dates, if I recall correctly.
I love this picture that Mr. Cobb took of Mr. VE&T and me. You can see that I am really in my happy place!
nature is amazing!
Look at this stunning close-up of dates on the tree! I love those squiggly little threads that the dates grow on, and the beauty of ripening dates. If you've ever had fresh dates, they are also super delicious - they're plump and taut and yellowish, compared to the brown and more wrinkly look of fully ripened dates. Mr. VE&T and I each picked a date to enjoy -- and you can see all the little nubs where dates used to be, from the other hungry folks who had come by before us!
just some of our purchases
At the farm stand, Mr. Cobb has a set-up such that you can sample all the different varieties of dates that they grow on his farm. I think there were at least 8-9 varieties? In truth, Mr. VE&T has never been a fan of dates... but guess what? It just turned out that he hadn't tried enough kinds of dates to know what he likes! Right away he fell in love with Mr. Cobb's Safari dates -- they are a really dry date with a lovely nutty flavor. To my joy and surprise, Mr. VE&T quickly selected two big tubs of Safari dates for himself.
sampling all the different dates was so fun and interesting!
I loved all of the dates, and I loved getting to try them all back-to-back, so that I could really appreciate and detect the differences between each one. I bought some to bring back for our much-appreciated housesitters. Fortunately, our housesitters are also dear friends of mine, so I am intimately aware of their date preferences, and I knew just which dates to buy for each of them.
But, as for what to buy for myself? I had a personal favorite: The Black Gold date! Holy deliciousness, Batman. These dates are a bit chewy like a medjool, but not as soft or gooey. Their flavor is rich and chocolatey and caramel-y. They are officially my new favorite date. And guess what? Sam Cobb Farms is the only place in the world that grows them! Suffice it to say, I have already finished off my giant 18 oz tub... and have already called Mr. Cobb and placed an order for more. They should be on their way to me soooooon. If you want to try some for yourself, you can just call him up, give him your credit card info and mailing address, and order some for yourself. It's so easy!
with arms full of cartons of dates...
I was a happy date customer, for sure!