Friday, August 22, 2008

The Interstate Diet

Chuck has spent the past two days visiting medical facilities in the area and recovering from a strep throat. He reports having received very good care at the clinic (including a shot of penicillin in his “hip”). So, today we will cover one of the lighter sides of our travels.

So here’s the drill. We pull into the truck stop and verify that the pumps dispense ultra low sulpher diesel. If the answer is yes, I (Kate) note the pump number and proceed to the cashier’s station and request that the pump be activated—at times having to surrender my credit card in advance. I then have time to hang out with our fellow truckers and peruse the various truck stop shop offerings. These can range from the practical (over the counter medications, various truck operating fluids and repair materials, maps, discount cigarettes) to the unusual.

One day I observed two very large gentlemen (and by large I don’t mean tall), bearing a strong familial resemblance that led me believe they were father and son, proceed to the register. After paying their diesel bill (you’d shudder to hear how much), they then laid their personal purchases on the counter—two large bags of pork rinds, two large bags of another undetermined salty snack, four of the large cookies pictured here, and four large sodas. Yes, the lunch of champions.

Bagged pork rinds are sold everywhere, and all of the food markets I’ve visited have large mid-aisle displays. Now I have nothing against deep fried pork skin. I fondly remember being at a Cajun music festival in Mamou, LA and buying them as they came hot out of the deep fryer. The paper bag they were placed in became immediately stained with the fat, and my fingers became slippery from the oil as I ate them. But I did have the good sense not to eat the whole bag—even if I didn’t have the good sense not to order them in the first place. Still, I wanted to suggest that the snacking duo might want to consider a salad every once in awhile.

In addition to pork rinds, you'll find potato chips in all flavors and corn chips in all flavors. When truckers aren’t eating bagged snacks, they appear to have a taste for jerky. You can find plain jerky, barbeque jerky, and jalapeno jerky, whatever. The piece pictured here looks like it would last a cross country haul.

The truckers’ store has an array of candy – large bars included – and other products for those with a sweet tooth. In addition to large cookies you’ll find brownies, carrot cake, and fried pies (another Southern delicacy). Many of the truck stops have precooked items sitting under heat lamps – hot dogs, polish and smoked sausages, and chicken wings.

But there is hope. For those looking for health food, you see large displays of sunflower seeds—again in all flavors.

To wash all of this down, those who don’t want to consume mass quantities of sugary beverages can always choose coffee. I wonder how many pit stops a cup of this size (photo below) requires.

Since Chuck wouldn’t take a picture of the spit buckets on sale, I have to show you my second favorite truck stop item. Two years ago Alton Brown, on his first “Feasting on Asphalt” series for the Food Network, traveled on motorcycle from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and discovered the lunch box oven.
If memory serves me correctly, his initial attempt to bake a meatloaf in this appliance led to a blown fuse in the powering vehicle and he didn’t get his food cooked until 2:00 a.m. Of course, by that time all of his traveling companions were asleep and he had the meatloaf all to himself. No dummy our Alton.

As a final note, this is the big Sharpie 500 weekend at the Bristol Motor Speedway. The campground is crawling with large beefy men traveling together and carrying large quantities of ice back to their RV’s from the campground store. I am sure they are using the ice to keep their ice cream from melting—Right!! The guys next to us, who incidentally invited me to share their breakfast of biscuits and sausage gravy with sausages on the side, have camp chairs emblazoned with the number 20. (I think that is Tony Stewart's number.)

In case you’re wondering, I did turn down the breakfast offer—but reluctantly.

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