Road Food: What Via Audio and Elizabeth & the Catapult Eat on Tour

Panera feeds more touring musicians than you thought

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Elizabeth Zinman of Elizabeth & The Catapult

Last spring, Elizabeth & the Catapult and Via Audio each released new records after taking several years off, and both of their albums showed the musicians coming into their own sounds. The Catapult’s Like It Never Happened is full of Elizabeth Ziman’s songwriter-styled guitar and piano with a slight jazzy charm. Via Audio’s Natural Language marked the band’s first recording as a duo, with characteristically catchy yet serious-minded pop songs and introspective lyrics. To celebrate, the two bands set out on a brief tour back and forth from Brooklyn, NY to Austin for the 2014 South by Southwest Festival. We interviewed Elizabeth Ziman (of the Catapult) and Tom Deis (of Via Audio) about the good, the bad, and the ugly of eating on tour.

Paste: What’s a typical day, food-wise, when you’re on tour?
Tom Deis: Breakfast at a diner with some kind of eggs or french toast and potatoes, lunch at Panera Bread, dinner at our destination city, hopefully some place that’s not a chain, some local flavor!

Paste: How is eating on tour different from how you eat at home? Has tour food changed how you eat at home? If so, how?
Deis: We all cook our own food at home, so it’s easier to be health conscious.
Elizabeth Ziman: Despite what most people expect from road life, I eat way healthier on tour than I do at home. Mostly because I feel more like a machine out there, so I’m taking vitamins, emergency, plenty of nuts, fruits (bananas!) always almond butter, kale chips, crackers, that kind of thing before arriving at the club and eating a real meal.

Paste: Do you look forward to tour food, or dread it?
Deis: I look forward to experiencing standout restaurants from the areas that I’ll go. I’ve done a lot of Midwestern touring. There’s an amazing Indian restaurant in northeastern Pennsylvania on Rt. 80, and another great one in Columbus, Ohio.
Ziman: In a weird way I look forward to it because it’s so much more regimented and disciplined than I know how to eat at home. There are less options, but sometimes that forces you to be more creative and on your game!

Paste: What are the biggest challenges to eating on tour?
Deis: Avoiding the fast food! The smell of McDonald’s can be really tempting sometimes. Also, maintaining a healthy diet is hard on tour because it seems so much easier to go get a hot meal in a restaurant than to go grocery shopping. We do a little grocery shopping on tour, but restaurants are more likely where we’ll eat.
Ziman: No stir-fry goodness, and honestly it’s hard to make a fresh smoothie just because of how many ingredients you need to make one!

VIA audio Tom (2).jpg
Via Audio photo by Jessica Glick

Paste: What was the best meal you ever had while on tour?
Deis: We’ve had some wonderful meals prepared by friends. I have an old family friend in Cincinnati who made us an incredible meal with pomegranates and wine which we ate out in his garden. Also, we had a bandmate whose parents would hook us up with a huge Middle Eastern style feast whenever we got to their house in Houston. I have a few restaurants that I look forward to that much: Coastal Kitchen in Seattle, Banana Leaf in Columbus.
Ziman: I’ve played house parties where we’ve been treated like kings and queens. I remember there was a party at this photographer’s studio last fall where he had three different varieties of eggplant parm. I was impressed.
Deis: The worst? The worst would have to be Chinese food in Springfield, Missouri. Flat tough chicken with mysterious “gravy”?

Paste: What are your favorite cities to eat in while on tour?
Deis: I just want to go anywhere that will surprise you. Most towns have a healthy interesting restaurant somewhere tucked away. I remember driving through West Virginia last tour, which I think of as one of the least healthy states, and we had a super satisfying meal with kale salads and goat cheese, so you never know. I just look forward to the social side of eating in certain cities where our good friends are!
Ziman: I love love Chicago pizza, I’m crazy about the Tex-Mex in Austin, and I always get down with a good sushi dinner on the West Coast.

Paste: What secrets, tips, or tricks do you have for eating on tour?
Deis: I usually use Yelp to find something that only exists where we are.
Ziman: Just give in to beef jerky. Good source of protein.

Paste: What are your tour food guilty pleasures?
Deis: I eat a lot of Panera on tour. It’s food that would probably be better if I made it at home, but it does a great job of being comfort food. Soup in a bread bowl!
Ziman: Gummy bears at the gas station…so many gummy bears…

Paste: Who are your favorite people to tour with, food-wise?
Deis: Elizabeth and the Catapult is pretty cool to tour with because they don’t finish their food and I get to eat it.

Marissa Landrigan’s work has appeared in The Atlantic, Creative Nonfiction, Orion, Guernica, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. She received her MFA in Creative Writing and Environment from Iowa State University, where she completed a food memoir titled “The Vegetarian’s Guide to Eating Meat.” She currently lives in western Pennsylvania, where she runs the food-themed reading series Acquired Taste, and teach writing at the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown.

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