road food, tweaked


When we decided to go to South Carolina for this last vacation, we agreed on driving there instead of flying. It wasn’t so much the cost, but rather the desire of taking a mini-road trip that convinced us to go by car. Armed with a borrowed GPS system (that took a bit of figuring out!), a couple of Mapquest and Google Maps directions print-outs, some water, first aid supplies and morning cups of coffee, we set out on the road. Our drive, which took all day, was a curious observation in what people eat while on the road in various states. Up North here, we have an abundance of McDonald’s golden arches, Burger King’s puffy letters and believe it or not, Starbucks. As you inch closer to the Mason-Dixon line, you see a gradual increase in the frequency of Cracker Barrels and Waffle Houses. The further south we got, the more Waffles Houses we saw, and of course, being hungry from the drive, we popped into a Cracker Barrel in the afternoon and a Waffle House late at night on the way to SC. And it was all quite tasty, especially considering this was road food and we were famished.

While we ate sublime, beautiful food on our trip, I wanted to focus today on food you can bring with you while driving long distances that happens to be as unprocessed as possible given the circumstances, but also delicious and filling. There’s a part of me that loves chicken fried steak and fried biscuits and corned beef and hash as much as the next person. And every now and then, the idea of the golden arches is as alluring as a gourmet meal.


However, I can’t eat like this anymore. Time spent in the hospital a few years back, acutely and dangerously ill, left my digestive system a bit more sensitive to the processed and the deep fried. There’s only so much I can eat of it before my body goes on a full-scale revolt and stops collaborating. But what can you bring with you in a car that can substitute a meal, or at least provide a healthy, nutritious snack for the time being?


We decided to pack a large paper shopping bag with snacks and stopped only once for food on the way back – ordering eggs and grits at one of the Cracker Barrels. For the rest of the trip, we plied ourselves with peaches, steamed corn on the cob, raisins, nuts, steamed collard greens, crunch sprouts made up of soy, peas and azuki beans, a few Triscuits here and there, an occasional coffee and plenty of water. At the end of our trip back, we felt tired from the road, but not sluggish from what we ate.

The peaches, purchased from a farm road stand in South Carolina, needed a few days to mature, and on the way back were perfectly ripe and succulent, sweet and oozing with juice. Logistically, it also helps to pack a few extra plastic bags in the car with you so that you could deposit pits and peels into it and periodically throw the bags out at various rest stops.


Some might read this and decide that it’s a bit too much work to steam collard greens and corn prior to a trip and forgo the healthy snacking. Whatever makes you happy and energized while driving – whether these are cups and cups of Starbucks or chicken nuggets – that should be your road food of choice. However, if you’ve ever scratched your head of how to distance yourself from the highway fast food, there are ways to do it, be these foods I mention above, or hard-boiled eggs eaten with grape tomatoes, blueberries by handfuls, or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on some hearty bread. The list can be much longer and you can get creative here. I just wanted to provide some ideas, and the rest – is up to you!

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