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We all in this family spend a lot of time with food: shopping for it, cooking it, packaging it, stressing over it, sometimes even hoarding it. We love browsing food stores — Gill’s favorite places are, as we’ve mentioned before, the Supercentre and the local Farmer’s Market that features Old Order Mennonite specialities.

We are all also seasoned travelers — some of us for work (Crazy D), some for pleasure, (me), some for trips home to see family (Gill), and some road trips to pick up new rescue dogs (L’il Sis…usually aided and abetted by me). Combine travel with food and you will see how a problem could quickly arise. And it has..again. When Gill lived with and had to go to Toronto, I’d pack snacks and/or a meal for her to eat on the train. Crazy D makes entire meals ahead and freezes or dries them to take with him when on location. So it’s not as though I’m unprepared for combining travel and food.

For my recent trip to New Zealand, I gathered together (as a chipmunk does in autumn) my supply of nuts and seeds (and, yes, chocolate) to take for the long flight…5 hours to Vancouver, a two-hour layover, then 13 hours to Auckland. I vow I will never be stranded anywhere in a strange or far distant country without something stashed (in my pockets, purse, or suitcase), to eat should there be no restaurants, a local famine, or other natural or unnatural disaster. Picture the squirrels burying seeds in the garden or the little chippie with its cheeks full of nuts…that’s me, only with a huge carry-on bag.

Gill recently spent a weekend in Spain with friends. I’m guessing she flew with her own snacks since she was in the midst of a Crohn’s flare-up. But what did she and her friends do? Go to market to ‘look’ and ended up buying everything in sight because it looked so scrumptious. Turns out their host had planned to cook for them but when they arrived with their hoard of food, he had to step aside. Yes, have food, will travel.It somehow comforts us.

Having been to Australia a couple of times, I am aware of their strict ‘do not bring into country’ rules about fruit, seeds, etc. But those rules looked like polite suggestions compared to New Zealand’s dictums. You are first warned by any tour companies with whom you may have booked, then by the visa people, then on the airline, then when you stand in customs /security lines. Signs everywhere warn you not to bring anything of a food nature, anything related to a food or an animal, anything stuck in the soles of your boots related to anything organic…I suspect if they thought they could get away with it, they’d examine your teeth to make sure you had flossed and brushed anything alien from your pearly whites–all to make sure you are not bringing contaminants into their country.

I totally understand their paranoia. They have an amazing, thriving agricultural  industry and don’t want it threatened by foreign, invasive species and diseases. They have had this happen before — when the Brits, original colonizers, imported things like rabbits,and then when the rabbits multiplied and began destroying their crops, they imported weasels, stoats (related to ferrets), foxes to control the rabbits. Trouble is, these animals ended up killing 40% of their native bird population since these critters ate the bird eggs and killed the flightless birds that were once common in New Zealand. I’d be sensitive too.

So, prior to entering the country, I ditched my leftover supply of nuts and snacks. I wasn’t going to be the one to destroy their country and/or find myself in jail! It was a shame, too, because my supply had been barely touched.

When The Man in My Life and I arrived in Auckland, we found our hotel suite had a full kitchen. So, out we went to buy supplies for quick breakfasts and lunches…and afternoon snacks to go with ‘wine o’clock’ drinks at 4 in our room. We bought crackers, cheeses, nuts. When we packed up to leave Auckland after three days, some were still left. Not wanting to waste, I threw the food in my ever-expanding carry-on.

We then commenced a nine-day bus tour of the South Island. We stopped at a different hotel each night. The cheese went in the room fridges, the crackers still coming in handy for ‘happy hour’ nibbles.

As we put the food in the fridge the third night, I said to him:”Let’s remember the cheese in the fridge when we leave in the morning.”

What did we do? We forgot it. Hopefully it would be discovered before it went off! I guess we could be seen as providing the hotel a service of sorts: if the cheese stayed in the fridge long enough to grow mold, it was evidence of poor hygiene practices in the hotel. Imagine it: rather like a surprise visit by a newspaper food critic to a new restaurant…

A few days later, still schlepping around the crackers, we put them in my man’s bag…mine was rapidly filling up with brochures, trinkets from tourist traps, and ticket stubs I kept as souvenirs. Yes, I hoard other shit as well as food. During the trip up and down and around the stunningly beautiful Southern Alps, the crackers fell out of his bag in the overhead bin onto the floor of the small van. “Oops,” I said to the other passengers. “Our bad…” as we rushed to reclaim the offending crackers — which were now a bit ragged around the edges.

“Should we finally throw them out?” I asked my man. We looked at each other and agreed, “Nope. They might still come in handy.” And so they stayed.

We finished the crackers during the course of our trip but, as we approached customs when leaving the country, I panicked: I still had a tiny bag of nuts at the very bottom of my carry-on. They are even strict about leaving the country. I ditched the bag in the nearest bin. So my new motto–instead of ‘waste not, want not’– has become: don’t end up in jail over a cracker’ or three or ten…

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