The Seasoned Traveler: Alison Roman
The writer, chef, and cookbook author reveals her travel routine to Air Mail
(A special content post in collaboration with AIR MAIL, a digital weekly from Graydon Carter. A few times each week, expect features from some of the world's finest journalists. Enjoy and please share with your food and culture loving friends.- John McDonald )
Although Alison Roman started her career making pastries, she’s best known for her savory recipes: her viral stew (chickpeas with turmeric and coconut), shallot pasta, baked ziti. Her third cookbook, Sweet Enough: A Dessert Cookbook, is her first book of sweet recipes. The desserts, including buttermilk pie, pineapple upside-down cake, and salted chocolate pudding, “strive for the animalistically irresistible, not the aesthetically pristine,” as Roman writes in the introduction.
For the next month, Roman will fly around the country for the Sweet Enough book tour. Here, she answers Air Mail’s questionnaire about what she packs, eats, and buys while traveling.
Last flight you took?
LAX to J.F.K. I’m actually on the plane right now. I love working on the plane. It gives me long stretches of uninterrupted (hopefully focused) work.
Delta. I’m very loyal.
What do you wear to the airport?
The pleated stretchy pants I bought from H&M about six years ago. Everyone thinks they’re Pleats Please [by Issey Miyake]. Depending on where I’m going, a button-down with a tank top underneath or a light sweater.
How long before your flight boards do you get to the airport?
If I’m checking a bag, an hour. If I’m not, 45 minutes. [As] I’m sure you can guess, I’ve missed more than one flight.
Check bags or carry-on only?
I much prefer to carry on. But when I’m on a book tour or doing two-plus weeks anywhere (which is generally some combo of a work trip/vacation), I check. Especially if it’s cold weather to cold weather. (Cold-weather clothes take up more space!) That said, lately, since I have a tendency to miss my flights when I check—J.F.K. is very strict, and I am always running late—I’m experimenting with a carry-on and a large additional carry-on that I pretend is my purse.
What do you bring in your carry-on?
All of my things—anything that will fit. A reusable water bottle, AirPod Max headphones, laptop, and vitamins.
T.S.A. PreCheck, or regular?
T.S.A. PreCheck and CLEAR. See above re: me cutting it close. I need all the help I can get moving through a line.
What do you buy in the airport terminal?
Nothing if I can help it. Cheez-Its if I’m feeling stressed.
First class, business, or coach?
First class for long flights is my preference, but that’s a recent development in a sort of “Life’s too short” kind of way. It also depends on what I’m flying for and who’s paying. I have been traveling a lot, so I have good status on Delta (Diamond, thanks for asking!), so often I’ll book myself in coach or Comfort Plus, in hopes of an upgrade, which works on occasion.
Window, middle, or aisle seat?
How do you pass the time during the flight?
Working, movies, sleeping. Sometimes all three on the same flight.
Favorite type of movie to watch on a plane?
Sexy 90s murder-thriller.
Do you buy Wi-Fi?
I have a monthly pass—yes.
Do you eat plane food?
I try to avoid it at all costs, but I’m bad at planning ahead and sometimes it can’t be avoided. The best plane food I ever had was probably Korean Air’s spicy noodle soup.
Favorite plane snack?
Best drink to get on a flight?
Bloody Mary or plain tomato juice/Bloody Mary mix if I’m not drinking. When Sally Albright does her special order in When Harry Met Sally, I feel very “seen,” as they say.
Do you talk to the people sitting next to you?
I’ll give a hi/hello if the vibes are right.
Keep shoes on or off on the plane?
I take them off, but only on long flights. Always with socks. If I see bare feet on a plane, I want to issue them a ticket.
What do you do when turbulence hits?
Close my eyes. I get very motion sick.
Worst part of the flight?
When people stand up too soon upon deplaning. Sitting on the tarmac too long before or after takeoff.
First thing you do when the plane lands?
Make sure I didn’t leave something plugged in or stowed in a pocket. I have lost and left many things, which if you’ve read this whole questionnaire would not surprise you.
Advice for travelers?
Always check the seat pockets and under the seat. Don’t trust your map app on how long it will take to get to the airport. (O.K., those last two are not pieces of advice I necessarily take, but …) Prepare to be annoyed—traveling is annoying, just accept it and remember travel is a gift. Hydrate. Moisturize. Don’t forget to eat. Be nice to the T.S.A. agents and airport and airline employees; they have to deal with so many irritating and unhappy people each day. Don’t be one of them.
AND on to the topic of travel:
If you missed Air Mail’s Alan Richman on the best small restaurant in the country. Or 5 Minutes with Chef Chris Bianco talking about Chef’s Table, pizza and life, right this way.
+READ: Home Cooks Find Bargains at the Restaurant Supply Store
These warehouses equip professionals with kitchen tools and food, but they’re also open to the public. (New York Times)