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A head of radicchio for the road

Think of your must-have consolations for a marathon road trip. Do I hear any takers for coffee? Trail mix? Freshly loaded iPod? Someone’s bound to mention chocolate, and Tim-bits must have a champion or two. Obvious choices, every one. But I have yet to meet another living soul whose survival kit for a three-day drive—Toronto to Sarasota, in deepest, darkest winter—included a head of radicchio. And damned useful it turned out to be.

I thought I’d pitched the radicchio, along with all the other perishables in the fridge. We had almost finished loading the car when I found it on the kitchen counter, Not about to make one more run to the garbage room, I decided to toss it somewhere on the way. Into the tote bag it went, along my iPod and a bag of clementines.

Nearly one month later, we’re about to head home. And we can’t think about the road without thinking of food—the unmissable diners and barbecue joints that just might be within striking distance of I-75. My husband is poring over Dave Hunter’s Along Interstate 75, one of those books you never think of reading until it suddenly becomes an urgent priority. I’ve shelled out $19.95 for all the bells and whistles at roadfood.com. We’ve belatedly realized that without advance planning, we’ll be stuck with the likes of  Denny’s, where on the trip south I resorted to desperate measures.

The best thing I can say about the senior meal at Denny’s is that you get a whole lot of blandness for your buck: chicken breast unsullied by mustard, herbs or garlic; mound of white rice, green beans micrwaved into submission. Oh, and a side salad made with that sorry excuse for a green, iceberg lettuce. Did I have to settle for this?  No way! You’d be amazed how a Denny’s salad perks up when it’s topped with generous handfuls of bitter purple radicchio.

I’d like to think I was walking in the footsteps of Julia Child, who in a pinch would spike canned consomm? with herbs and brandy. But I’d better not give myself airs. I’m pretty confident of this much, though. I must be the only customer Denny’s ever had who cleaned her plate except for a head of radicchio, big enough for one more salad.

 

Posted by Rona

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