Friday, March 9, 2012

The ins and outs of eating on tour


Quite possibly the most oft-repeated question by touring Vancouver Chamber Choir choristers, after "what time do we need to be on the bus?" (or in the case of the ladies, "how did my nylons end up ripping again?!?!?"), would likely be "do we have time to eat?". Our touring schedule tends to be rather hectic, often consisting of the following pattern - wake up, board bus, rehearse, perform, repeat - so finding time to make sure our daily dietary requirements are met can be a tall order.  However, we've learned a few tricks of the trade over the years, and I'll outline some basic (and yummy!) considerations below.

When To Eat: This is trickier than it sounds.  If you're used to having the typical "three meals a day", fitting meals in can be a rather mind-boggling experience.  Our schedule changes on a daily basis, and can be rather unpredictable, so most of us have adopted the "seize the moment" approach and make sure we eat whenever we can.  This often results in early breakfasts, non-existent lunches, small snacky foods, and rushed pre-performance dinners.  The main rule:  if you get a chance to eat, do it...grab some food (for present and future noshing) or the window of opportunity might just slam shut.  (I speak from experience here.  A few days ago we stopped at a Starbucks for a break, but I'd already had breakfast two hours before and didn't feel like buying anything else.  It was six hours before the next time we stopped to eat, at which point I felt about ready to gnaw on the bus seats.)


Eating breakfast at 6:30 a.m. might leave you chewing with your eyes closed, but it's the best way to go.


A rather spiffy bowl of oatmeal seems just about right for those early mornings...

Where To Eat: This consideration can be separated into two categories:  those food stops that we have the opportunity to choose, and those we don't.  For the former category, we can often rely on the veteran choristers with the most travel/tour dining experience to point us in the direction of the restaurants serving up the best local delicacies.  For example, I know that Marla or Gordon will often be able to suggest something particularly decadent.  Some of the basses and tenors always seem to be able to sniff out the great neighborhood pubs.  Hotel concierges are good sources of information, too.

Once we've decided on a place, we either make a reservation en masse, or 10, 11, 12 of us will simply show up at the restaurant and hope they don't run away screaming at the thought of seating so many ravenous choristers at once...


Scenes like this are certainly not uncommon.

Of course, if the weather outside is frightful, we're having a day where we're less inclined to explore, or if we have 45 minutes to eat before we brush our teeth/do makeup/iron concert dress/review music/pack garment bag/leave for performance, the hotel restaurant often provides a wonderful (and speedy) alternative.

Then, there are those places which are chosen for us by simple luck of the draw, such as roadside truck stops in between bus destinations, hotels where only grocery stores are accessible, or even convenience stores, such as when we stopped after our long wait at the U.S. border.  (Everyone attempted, in their own way, to cover as many food groups as possible.  My selection:  chips, beef jerky, and a banana.)


A roadside restaurant somewhere between Saint John and Sackville.  I tried to talk myself out of the turkey sandwich and into a BLT instead.  It didn't work.  I tried to talk the waitress out of the peas and order a side salad instead.  It didn't work.  I am not a very persuasive person.  But the turkey sandwich was good.


One night, Marla and I stocked up at the grocery store and concocted a salad of romaine, avocado, raspberries, tomatoes and carrots.  Yes, I'm cutting veggies with a plastic knife and using a plastic bag as my cutting board.


The finished product.  See that hummus on the table?  Evil, evil resulted in a near-sleepless night for me.

What To Eat: This consideration is the most interesting, but it's also a balancing act between our taste buds, our gut, our vocal cords and our wallet. As touring singers, it's sometimes difficult to find the balance. Of course, in a perfect world, we'd likely all just be constantly sampling the finest of regional cuisine...


Very posh, ladies.


See, Larry and Edward?  I DID get a lobster roll!


This was just one of Grace's many lobster experiences on tour.

...however, if we were constantly wining and dining, our bank accounts would not be very pleased with us.  Perhaps more importantly, there are all sorts of extra considerations needing to be made to ensure we're able to stay healthy as touring vocalists.  We might love eating those fresh waffles from the do-it-yourself hotel waffle maker, but we might not enjoy them a few hours later when bouncing around on rocky roads on the bus. Yogurt is great for calming the ol' digestive system, but the dairy might not be great for that evening's performance.  A lack of snacks to nosh on throughout the day might leave one feeling faint under the theatre lights.  A decadent meal one night might mean acid reflux the next.  (And don't even get me started on the hummus..).  Since our bodies are our instruments, we have to be that much more aware of what we're chowing down on.  What I've learned:  drink lots of water, take probiotics, keep snacks handy, don't overindulge (too many times, anyway), and attempt to cover the major food groups.


See?  You got your protein, your veggies, your fruits, your carbs...

And, if you've successfully navigated all these basics, sometimes...there might even be room for dessert. 


(Happy birthday, Vi!)

-By Jenny McLaren, the non-picky alto eater



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