26 April, 2010

The Weird and Wonderful World of Road Food

I love going on road trips. I like to get out of New England every now and then - even if it's just a trip to New York City - and get out and see things and do things. But flying freaks me out, and trains are expensive and kind of limited as to where I can go as far as I'm concerned. So travel by car it is then.

And traveling by car has its perks. There are things you can see and do that you just can't when you're on a plane or train. Granted, you'll get to your destination faster in your plane or train than I will in my car, but I'll get the enjoyment of treating myself to stopping at midnight for gas, driving into sketchy rest stops at three in the morning, and trying strange local snacks from vending machines when I get hungry.

And that's exactly what my friend and I did over the course of our Spring Break. We were able to take a week's worth of clothes, two bags of road food, and a forty pound crate of soda and cram them into my tiny little Smart car.

Then we proceeded to drive from Connecticut to Naples, Florida to visit a friend of ours. While we were out, we kept an eye open for interesting foods along the way. The first was at a rest stop in Virginia on route 95. Sometime in the early morning, we were looking for something to snack on in the vending machines. Fairly typical snacks were packed into the side-by-side vending machines: Pop-Tarts, chips, cookies, candy bars, Vienna sausages...

Wait - what?  Vienna sausages? My friend and I did a double take and - yes, there on the bottom shelf for a whopping $1.25 - Armour brand Vienna sausages, packed between some cookies and cinnamon rolls. Thinking it too strange to not take a picture of, we snapped some photos, I called Dave from the parking lot to share the joy of my discovery, and then we went on our merry way.

A few days later, we were shopping at a Publix when, in the prepared foods section, I came across six packs of pre-peeled, hard-boiled eggs. I pulled my friend over and we laughed at that, too. I had never seen pre-cooked hard boiled eggs before. On top of that, neither of us were brave enough to get one of them to taste. They looked a little...brown. And oozy. So, after taking more pictures (and calling Dave again)  we went the safe route and get some store-made sandwiches before getting back to the road.

Finally, on the way home, we stopped at a rest stop in Pennsylvania. There, I saw some potato chips for a buck. I was hungry and overtired, and just needed something to hold me over for the next five hours until I could flop onto my couch and call it a day. And these were some very strange chips - they're cooked in vegetable shortening instead of regular oil.

Martin's "Kettle-Cook'd" potato chips are certainly worthy of my 'strange road food' classification. They're probably the best chips I've ever had, with a rich, full-bodied potato flavor and an amazing crunch.  And yet, they were also extremely heavy-tasting because they're cooked in shortening instead of oil.  They felt like they should have left a grease film in my mouth, but when I checked the Nutritional Facts on the back, the first thing I noticed was that they have the same amount of calories as regular chips. One one and a half ounce bag of these chips had 220 calories, and 110 of them are from fat.   They just tasted like they should have had a lot more calories than they really did. 

There were a lot of other things that we wanted to eat while we were on the road, but just didn't have the time for, like the temptingly-named but oh-so-shady-looking Waffle House;  Chick-Fil-A, which  I've heard so much about but have never tried; and so many strange snack foods and other fast food chains - but they'll have to wait for another time. But I won't hesitate to take another road trip, especially if it means that I'll get to see more bizarre foods in unlikely places.

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1 comment:

Andrew Green said...

Visiting weird truck stops and browsing for regional snack foods at gas stations are some of my very favorite things about traveling....