Arrivederci Walla Walla... and bongiorno Italia

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Looking forward to a fresh start of the new year often involves lighter meals with more salads to compensate for over indulgence over the last month. For some, this time of the year means a new exercise regime, a promise to take better care of yourself and resolutions to be a healthy, more authentic person.

For me and my little family of four, it means having the courage to do something we’ve always dreamed of doing: Taking an extended period of time off our regularly scheduled lives to live in and experience Italy.

It means putting all our possessions in storage, packing a week’s worth of clothes in sturdy backpacks and hitting the road.

The opportunity to take this adventure arrived suddenly one day, although the idea has simmered and developed over many years.

What better to time to go, while our children are still interested in spending time with us. I’ve been promising to teach them Italian for years, and now we have incentive and inspiration to learn.

It will be a year off work and traditional classrooms, a journey together, exploring the back roads and small villages of Europe, camping and volunteering on farms in exchange for room and board.

I expect days of long uncomfortable walks, unhappy/hungry/tired kids, awkward situations and a lot of conversations lost in translation.

But that will be overshadowed by beautiful moments spent together, breathtaking scenery and awe-inspiring ancient sites.

There also will be the simple pleasures of browsing foreign grocery aisles, trying new flavors and simple, rustic foods. And the joy of getting lost with no specific destination in mind and inspiring, shared experiences that don’t require translation.

In this spirit of travel, adventures and preparation, my thoughts wander to road food and staying healthy while traveling.

Spending the past month bouncing from one relatives house to another, I have come to realize the importance of keeping a regular meal schedule for the kids, as well as adults.

My suggestions:

Stick to your usual mealtime hour the best you can on the road.

Pack nutritionally-dense foods that your family enjoys, like nuts, dry fruit, energy bars and maybe a jar of nut butter and jam.

Attempt to always have a raw or fresh vegetable with every meal to keep your intestines happy. And always, always drink lots of water.

Skip the sugary drinks and replace them with water, local milk or fresh fruit or veggie juice. Maybe even consider adding a multi-vitamin and good quality fish oil to your dietary travel routine. Also, don’t forget vitamin C, or an Emergen-C at the first sign of illness.

In preparation for our upcoming journey, I’ve been making dry foods to carry with us on the road. Fruit leather from assorted frozen summer berries, blended, spread thin on a parchment-covered cookie sheet and dried on the lowest setting in the oven overnight. Smoked dried wild salmon, brown sugar cured, and dried in the smoker on low for a few hours. And a batch of home dried prunes and maple syrup local walnuts.

We’re trying to save these goodies for when we actually arrive overseas and get the hunger attacks, but they look and taste so delicious, I’m tempted with a bite whenever I catch sight of them in my bags.

Resist! Resist!

Although we will be away from Walla Walla for quite some time, we plan to stay connected to our community we’ve developed over the last couple years. After all, we do plan to return one day!

I will continue to write my column, as well as my food blog at www.melissadavisfood.com.

We as a family also will share our experiences along the way on our family blog, www.freerangestudies.wordpress.com.

Stop by and see what we’re up to!

Happy travels and Happy New Year!

Melissa Davis, a chef with a bachelor’s degree in nutrition, specializes in natural foods. She can be reached at jadenluna@gmail.com.

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