By Emily Tannert
I found myself having a very odd craving while driving home last week. I was considering the subject of what to eat for dinner, and I decided I would like nothing more than a chicken patty sandwich with barbecue sauce. Perhaps it was not that odd at first glance -- but my mental picture presented my evening repast on a white Styrofoam plate, such as are usually found at picnics and the like. I should add that I am not normally wont to eat chicken patty sandwiches. Then I realized that the last time I had anything resembling the aforementioned barbecue-laden fowl, I was on tour. At that point my craving became just another of those "I've been marching too long" moments. What is similarly odd, though, is that anyone would crave anything you might eat on tour. Don't get me wrong, the cooks do an amazing job making three or four square meals a day for upwards of 150 people, but tour staples like chicken patty sandwiches, canned-food-service beef stew, and eggs in a bag are rarely on anyone's list of fine dining experiences. As in most things, each corps has its own special culinary treats. At
Pioneer, we frequently had summer sausage and American cheese with crackers for our post-show snack, and you knew it was a Regional show day because we'd have Danish Kringle, a type of pastry, at breakfast. (What Danish Kringle had to do with an Irish corps is beyond me, but I enjoyed my almond kringle all the same!) At Glassmen we occasionally get the Power Crumbcake, the densest block of breakfast carbohydrate you've ever seen. Lunch and dinner tend to be more standard affairs: sandwiches, casseroles, burgers, dogs, chicken patty sandwiches, and of course, various types of Mexican food. Taco salad always seems to be immediately followed by either a breathing block or a tracking session, and anything involving salsa and tortillas presages an intense calisthenics workout -- almost as if the cooks consult with the staff in the morning before deciding the menu. Tomato (or chicken noodle) soup and grilled cheese sandwiches only get served on the hottest of days -- kind of like how showers are only hot when you've sunburned your back -- but invariably the chillier days will start off with cold cereal. Balancing the need to eat against the need to keep your meal in your stomach is another of those tricky skills you get to learn on tour. Even eating four square meals a day (breakfast, lunch, pre-show dinner, and post-show snack) most people lose quite a bit of weight on tour, so not eating or even eating light isn't much of an option, but then again, eating too much and losing it all on the field doesn't help much either. I made the mistake, on my very first day of tour, of putting a huge amount of chicken a la king on a post-parade hot stomach. I didn't even make it out of the housing site without getting sick, and to this day I can't look chicken a la king in the face. Now, none of this should be interpreted to mean that most groups don't eat well on the road. In fact, you'll probably eat more healthfully than you do right now, and you may discover some unusually delightful taste innovations (Twizzlers and chocolate pudding - mmm!). On top of which, you never have to make it yourself! And someday, you may find yourself, like me, craving some odd favorites from your tour days. However, take it from an old tour vet -- stay away from the purple punch. I'll leave it at that.