Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Greasy Five: Road Snacks

My daughter is out checking cattle with her grandfather, and I'm sitting on the front porch jotting down ideas for my writing and soaking up the big, open sky of southwest Nebraska. Even though there's a disturbing absence of trees, life is good.

(Highway 36: East of McDonald, KS.)

In Michael Pollan's book In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, he advises readers not to fuel their bodies at the same place they fuel their vehicles. In my daily life, I tend to follow this advice. No good can come from eating a Polish dog that's been circulating on a convenience store roaster all day and washing it down with a 48 ounce fountain drink. However, during a road trip, I tend to chuck this advice out the window. Eating whatever the hell I want is part of the charm of being on the road.
When I'm on the road, I like to indulge in the following five snacks:
  1. Beef Jerky: This is the perfect food to help me maintain my High Plains Drifter persona.
  2. Peanut M & M's: I like to store them in the cooler, so that they're nice and chilled when I pop them in my mouth.
  3. Soft Serve Ice Cream and Shakes
  4. Regional Specialities: Whoopie Pies in Maine. Boudin in Louisiana. Tillamook Cheese. You get the idea.
  5. Chili Cheese Fritos or Cheetoes: It's always nice to have a salty ying to complement the sugary yang. Although, if I'm driving, I can't eat either of these snacks. I can't stand the way they leave the steering wheel with an oily sheen. It drives me nuts!

Honorable Mention: Twizzlers. Yes, I have a sweet tooth!

As I grow older, I practice a little more restraint when I'm eating on the road. Experience has taught me well. During a 2004 trip to coastal Maine, I consumed 2-3 Whoopie Pies a day in for an entire week and gained about eight pounds Now I exercise a little more will power. On our drive to Nebraska, I only indulged in one of the above treats; we stopped at the Dairy Queen in Colby, Kansas, and I ordered a chocolate-dipped ice cream cone.

Now I'm trying to perfect the art of eating a driving. Typically, when I eat and drive, my shirt usually ends up resembling a Jackson Pollack painting by the time we reach our destination. I know that when my daughter reaches her teens that this might embarrass her.

What's your favorite road snacks?

The road goes on forever,



Steve O said...

Re: Pollan's advice on refueling.

Jim Harrison (The Raw and the Cooked) wrote a piece for an Outside feature on roadtrips. Said the best stretch of highway in America was Nebraska Hwy 2, plus or minus whatever you have to do to get from Lincoln to Grand Island. (I guess the highway is no longer continuous.) By his estimation, this road meets the requirements for a great roadtrip by maxing out the three primary conditions:
1) Great scenery, namely the Sandhills.
2) Eclectic AM radio
3) If you eat only at truckstops, you'll get the best steak, the best pie, and the best conversation you've ever had.

Cheers, and keep her between the ditches.

Steve O said...

I gotta know: Twizzlers or Red Vines?

Steve O said...

I guess I should answer the question...

1) Chocolate covered coffee beans. Helps keep you awake without the need for pit-stops.

2) Homemade trail mix.

3) Any pastry from a local coffee shop. I'm disappointed nine times out of ten, but some times you get a winner, and the one winner makes it all worthwhile. (All time favorite: Bongo Java in Nashville, TN, sells this almond shortbread muffin that must easily have three days worth of saturated fat.)

4) Tater tots. Everyone sells them: Stuckeys, Dairy Queen, Sonic. But Culvers makes the best.

Sarah said...

Road food is a challenge. I'm a fan of your roadside diner; the kind with a long counter that probably is fading into extinction! I had chili in such a place outside of Amarillo, Texas that still stands out in my mind. Other than that, I agree with Michael Pollen.

muddywaters said...


I'm a real road geek. I have a Rand McNally atlas at home that has every road I've ever driven highlighted.

Hwy 2 is a good drive, but I haven't driven it west of Thedford, which might be the best part. At Thedford, I always head north on 83 and head to Valentine, which is another great drive through the Sandhills. You should read The Last Prairie: A Sandhills Journal by Stephne R. Jones. He's a biologist who gives an interesting overview of the history, culture, people, and ecology of that area. I like listening to the Indian Reservation radio stations when I'm around Valentine and Chadron.

I've never read any of Harrison's fiction, but he's on a list of authors I've always wanted to read. I've heard that he's a big foodie, so I'll need to check it out.

As far as your Twizzler vs. Red Vines question goes, I prefer Red Vines. They're chewier and don't have the industrialized, glossy sheen that Twizzlers have.

I need to immerse myself in Trail Mix recipes. That might be the best way to achieve ying/salty and yang/sweet harmony.

Take care,