When a band is on the road, daily life is put on hold and routines are shattered. It's a capital-fucking-A adventure into the unknown. Amenities, like a warm bed and shower, are complete uncertainties and food can be the biggest variable. Friends, new and old, might have a post-show feast planned or you could be stuck with Saltines and a gas station apple with as much petroleum residue as the blacktop outside. We asked some serious get-in-the-vanners about their experiences with food on the road and here's what they had to say.
What's the best home-cooked meal you've eaten on tour and who made it?
State Champion: Kacie Lees in New York made the best vegan mac and cheese. Maybe best home-cooked meal in general, not just tour-related. Nicholas Naioti made us super good vegan chili in a one-room cabin with an outhouse in the woods around Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Fitz's alligator gumbo/home-brew feast in Bellefontaine, Ohio when we were stranded for a few days. Burt No-Shirt makes the best hungover breakfast in Jacksonville, Florida.
Prince Rama: We were staying with Peaking Lights at their farmhouse in Madison and Aaron made us the most amazing breakfast of scrambled tofu with pine nuts and avocado… we've tried to recreate it ourselves since then, and it's never even come close!
Truman Peyote: The best home-cooked meal I've eaten on tour was definitely consumed when I went on tour in Europe a few years back. Our tour manager/driver/total pal, Ron, booked us a show in his hometown, Waarland, which is in North Holland. Upon arrival to the bed and breakfast his parents own and operate (after a six-hour drive from Berlin), in this very small rural town, we were greeted with a massive traditional Dutch feast. Greatest meal ever, seriously was an eight or nine course meal. Perfect food for us weary, hungry, broke Americans!
Circuit Des Yeux: Man, that is a tough one, I'd have to say there is a tie. In Paris my friend David of Cheveu made us an awesome dinner, which consisted of pan-seared steak, greens, wine, cheese, bread… the works. The other meal that sticks out in my mind would have to be a proper English breakfast Pink Reason and I were treated to in Manchester by our friend Nick of Golden Lab Records. It was AMAZING. For those who don't know what the “English breakfast” consists of, it's eggs, beans, toast, sausage and roasted mushrooms. I think both meals stick strongly in my mind because it had been quite a while since my last meal. I remember we had only bread for a few days while traveling to Manchester, so the hot food was a real treat.
What band has the best cooks?
Prince Rama: Probably Peaking Lights!
Truman Peyote: The Whitehaus Family. They aren't necessarily one band, but a collective of bands and artists living in a big white house in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts (I used to live down the street when I lived in Boston). I would say about 99 percent of the time I've walked into their house there has been a cooking adventure occurring (often initiated by Adam of Peace, Loving), and no matter what was being concocted it smelled 100 percent delicious. Whether it's grilling, baking, stir-frying, kombucha brewing or anything in between, you're bound to find some tasty treats at The Whitehaus!
Circuit Des Yeux: Laura B. of Daycreeper is my main squeeze when it comes to Midwestern cooking. Every time (and that is A LOT of times) that I am in Columbus, she always has food for us. She is the grill MASTER. I have never had grilled peppers the way this woman grills them. If I could bring her on tour with me as my personal chef, I totally would. She has an awesome sense of humor as well… something that is of high value while touring. David and Gher from “How Much Wood Would A Woodchuck Chuck…” from Turin, Italy managed to make the most amazing pasta on my very meager budget. We sat on a rooftop balcony by candle light and drank regional wine. It was the perfect Italian evening!
Who in the band is the best cook?
State Champion: Ryan is the best at making tortillas with hummus and crushed-up Triscuits and carrots at 4 in the morning. Sal is the best at smashing potatoes. Mikie is the best at making weird vegan soup (constantly). And Sabrina is the best at making homemade pizza, as well as most other stuff.
Do you have a favorite city or region for tour food?
State Champion: California has the best burritos. There's this weird spot in a strip-mall in San Diego that has “The Justin” burrito, with french fries in it. Rico's Tacos. Also, Elisa's in Bed-Stuy, falafel from Sultan's in Chicago, Vietnam Kitchen in Louisville, or El Mundo for margaritas, and Ryan's aunt and uncle's kitchen snacks in Washington, Vermont all come to mind. Oh, and that sandwich shop in San Francisco where we saw Barry McGee and Mikie's friend bought us all lunch. Can't remember the name. Love and Haight, or something.
Prince Rama: Texas!!!
Truman Peyote: Definitely the Southwest. I'm a total Mexican food addict, and after trying every taqueria I could come across while living in Los Angeles or touring through other parts of the Southwest, I've never tasted better burritos/tacos/tortas anywhere else. Seriously, I could eat a burrito three meals a day for the rest of my life and be just fine, plus being someone who doesn't consume animal products, places like this present plenty of options for me. The only drawback is that now I can't enjoy burritos anywhere else the same way I used to…
Circuit Des Yeux: Well, one of the best parts about touring is all the great food you get to try! My favorite was definitely getting Pizza in Bologna, Italy. Pizza in Italy is fucking amazing, and something that everyone should get the chance to try. It's so cheap too! For six euros you would get a pizza twice the size of your head! I would always get the Bufalina pizza which includes cheese made from Buffalo milk. In the states, I always enjoy Chicago food. I visit Chicago often and am always finding awesome cheap food to eat. Taqueria Moran in Logan Square is some of the best Mexican food I've ever had, and it's dirt cheap. My new favorite place to eat is Sultan's Market. Their falafel is amazing! And a huge sandwich is only $3.99. If you are on tour and only have the money for a “one-meal-a-day” plan, Sultan's is the way to go.
Best tour snack?
State Champion: Ramen with peanut butter. And Taco Bell. Mikie has a nice trick that involves Taco Bell sauce packets in a cold can of beans. I also once saw him down an entire packet of Starbucks “Via” without water. Sabrina only eats 40-60 percent of every meal on tour, but proceeds to store her scraps in a “nest” of sorts, to be eaten or sat on at a later date.
Prince Rama: Depends… In America, probably apples 'n' peanut butter; in Europe, baguette and Brie; in Australia, definitely Tim Tams.
Circuit Des Yeux: I had some awesome baguette, cheese and jam during my first time in Europe, and my first time on a train. Kevin of Pink Reason found some wine for 30 cents a bottle as well. We mixed it with orange juice (to look less conspicuous). I remember the eight-hour ride from Madrid to Vitoria was beautiful. We exchanged stories of our childhood, discussed magic, and by the time we arrived to our destination we were drunk, full and ready to explore.
Truman Peyote: Unsalted nuts, preferably walnuts, cashews, and/or pecans. When you've been driving for six hours with little to no breakfast, a couple handfuls of this healthy high-fat (the good kind though!) snack really keep you sane and fills you up quick. Make sure to go for the ones with as little salt as possible because being thirsty and driving is an uncomfortable and dangerous combination.
Worst tour snack?
State Champion: Unrefrigerated, week-old Boca chicken patties in Florida, in the summer.
Prince Rama: Jesus, we were in Hungary and couldn't read any of the languages on the wrappers and accidentally got this chocolate bar that oozed out this amorphous black goo that tasted vaguely of licorice and motor oil… It was probably the first time we ever didn't finish a chocolate bar. WORST TOUR SNACK.
Truman Peyote: Candy/soda/chips/any junk food. Seriously stay away from this shit. There is nothing of nutritional value in them, and when you're on the road working your ass off every night the last thing you need is a bunch of empty calories, salt and sugar polluting your system. Junk food will bring you down, make you tired and make you look gross, really gross. At least get some trail mix, or anything with at least a moderate amount of nutrition value from the gas station if you're desperate, your body will thank you, and in the long run you won't regret it.
Ryan Davis of State Champion during a wasabi eating contest in the van. Photo courtesy of State Champion.
Do you pack any food from home for the road?
State Champion: Ryan's mom usually sends us off for tour with a couple grocery bags. I think everyone's favorite snack from the bag is a homemade nut mix that has come to be known as “the potion.”
Prince Rama: We usually just bring some tea…
Circuit Des Yeux: I always make sure to have a can of peanut butter and loaf of bread. The last tour I went on my drummer's mom bought us Clif Bars and that was so awesome to have too.
Truman Peyote: Always! A cooler and a box of non-perishables are very important companions on the road. I've become very fond of packing a lot of non-perishable foods prior to embarking like rice, whole oats, quinoa, etc. and supplementing those food items by buying small amounts of produce in each city, and trying to cook wherever I can. If there are leftovers, throw them in the cooler and have free lunch and dinner tomorrow. Great way to save money and stay healthy while traveling, not to mention show off your super cooking skills in addition to jamming the tunes, haha. One exception for me is canned food. I used to be into canned beans and vegetables, but honestly the chemicals lining these cans are extremely dangerous and detrimental to human health. I can't get into canned foods anymore. Dry beans require a little more time and attention, but if you have a cooler you can easily soak them without making a mess of the tour vehicle, and honestly they are way cheaper and more tasty/nutritious.
Anything you regret eating?
State Champion: Jacob Calo once ordered a salad from a restaurant (which Aaron described as “a fucking warehouse with electrical wires hanging out of the ceiling”) where every single employee was smoking weed while making the food. I'm not sure if that was true, but the salad came in a styrofoam box and was just lettuce you would put on a sandwich, piled with an obscene amount of stacked deli cheeses and meats. We still talk about it to this day. Also, Ryan once ate a bagel w/ cream cheese in Mormon, Utah that brought him to tears of laughter, on and off for literally hours, beyond the point of it being funny to anyone else. He said it tasted like an ice cream sandwich.
Prince Rama: In Copenhagen, we were desperate for burritos so we found what appeared to be a semi-legit “Mexican” restaurant. We were overjoyed. When our chips and salsa came, we realized it was more like water crackers and tomato sauce. This should have been our first warning. We were so desperate at this point, that we were still optimistic. Then, when our burritos finally came, we were shocked to find a tortilla loosely wrapped around cauliflower, boiled string beans, stewed cabbage, pickled beets, and mashed up carrots with tomato sauce. It was then we realized we would never again be tricked into eating Danish “Mexican” food.
Circuit Des Yeux: Yes! In Paris, I made the mistake of ordering tripe, which was marked on the menu as “AAAAAA.” Those of you that don't know what tripe is, it is the intestines of oxen or cow. I remember it came out looking like an awesome bratwurst with fancy mustard sauce. As soon as I cut into it, the entire room was filled with a pungent smell of ass. I tried to eat it, and ended up scooping most of it into my purse where I discarded it into the toilet of the restaurant. What I did eat haunted me for the rest of the evening. I ended up spending 20 minutes in this bathroom of a Cramps-enthusiast bar, where both chicks and dudes threatened to kick my ass for taking so long.
Truman Peyote: Oh my, oh my. English breakfast every morning on tour in the UK for sure. Actually, that trip is what inspired me to stop eating meat and eggs altogether. I finally realized how tired and gross eating those foods made me feel after consuming huge, greasy, salty breakfasts every morning for nine days in a row (plus, I started reading a lot about how meat and dairy are actually produced in an industrialized food system like in America or the UK, YUCK!). Yes, they were cheap, large portions and filling. No, it was not worth it whatsoever. That was the only tour I actually gained weight on, and I definitely blame all the bacon and eggs in the UK (not to mention the cheap shitty kebabs for dinner.)
Prince Rama's meal during an eight-hour layover to Tasmania. Photo courtesy of Prince Rama.
What's the cheapest food you've had on tour? Most expensive?
State Champion: One time, Aaron got this soup at a Vietnamese place in San Fransisco that was probably 15 bucks. The soup filled to the top of a cartoonishly large bowl. He downed the entire thing. We asked him how it was as we finished our curry dishes and such, to which he responded, “It feels like i just drank two beers” and then went across the street and got a combo meal at a burger place. So that was probably like 30 bucks for him. But then one time in Bloomington, Indiana, we made a deal with Aaron that if he ate seven Taco Bell items in one sitting, Ryan would pay for all of it. And if he didn't finish, he would have to pay. It was like $12 or $13 worth of Taco Bell (we got to choose the items). He got a free meal that day. Ironically, next time we were in Bloomington, we found an all-you-can-eat falafel deal at a Mediterranean restaurant. Ryan asked the waitress what their all-time record was for the amount of falafel sandwiches eaten. She said she thought it was two and a half. So Ryan ate three and then asked to have his photo taken with the owner, who was just confused and clearly did not give a shit.
Prince Rama: Cheapest is maybe Waffle House. Most expensive was EVERYTHING we ate in Australia. They charge $16 for a bagel and cream cheese down there!
Circuit Des Yeux: The cheapest was probably eggs and beans. I've done that a couple times when money was needed for other things. Expensive: My last day in Europe happened to be my boyfriend's 22nd birthday. We celebrated by going to this grill in Madrid. We racked up a tab of 70 euros! But it was worth the money. We sat on an outdoor patio by candle light with these funny sprinklers that would mist every 30 seconds to keep us cool. He had a steak and I had a kebab. I'll never forget that meal, amazing.
Truman Peyote: The cheapest food I've had has almost always been in more rural areas, and the most expensive is usually in big cities like New York. This isn't always true and in no ways “a rule” so ask around and explore! Also, everything in the UK was super expensive because the exchange rate between the US dollar and the GBP is pretty outrageous.
Best food someone's parents gave you?
Truman Peyote: The vegetarian chili that Cameron Rath's (co-founder of FMLY) mother makes is divine. After moving to LA early 2011 and spending the better part of that year there, I received a lot of help from Cameron and his family. Cameron is one of my best friends in the whole world, and I totally consider him as close to me as a brother. His parents let me crash at their place for a month while I was getting on my feet right after my move, and I frequently had the pleasure of devouring many meals cooked by Cameron's mom, Sylvia. I always went for seconds and rarely skipped out on thirds.
State Champion: Organ Stop in Tempe, Arizona. The pizza isn't that great, but it's made by a man playing an ancient Wurlitzer organ that takes up an entire two-story building – each key producing a different topping. You have to see it to believe it.