Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Road Food / Accept No Substitutes

Road Food is a ritual that should accompany every out-of-town car trip, whether alone or with friends: stopping at a convenience store and making a meal out of stuff you can eat in the car--chips and soda, nickel candies like jawbreakers or Jolly Ranchers, maybe a sausage dog or microwave burrito.

Slim Jims are a prime example of Road Food. Where else do you find Slim Jims but at a Grab-n-Go hard by the side of the great American roadway? A variant of beef jerky, with its handy rope-like dimensions, its greasy-stringy texture. a Slim Jim is a snack that inspires action, and positively punishes contemplation. A bracing tonic for a diffident office drone on a three-day weekend.

There are foods that you'll eat in your car that you would never ever consider having in your home. A Slim Jim, for instance, has never crossed the threshhold of my domicile. Nor has any six-pack of Lance's sandwich crackers or cookies, like Nip-Chees or Necots. Cheerwine is another; it's a cherry-flavored soft drink that should only be consumed in a moving car, and preferably within 50 miles of the town of Salisbury, NC, whence Cheerwine originates. (This area encompasses Charlotte, Greensboro, AND Winston-Salem, so it ain't like your options are limited.)

I did once buy two sausage dogs at a 7-11 and bring them back to the Holiday Inn where I was staying with my young children in Orlando. This was wrong on many levels.

Here's a tip: don't try to scrimp by buying the generic Slim Jim substitute. I made this mistake recently. Mushy and bland, with none of the snap that distinguishes Brother James, this Faux Jim got my trip off to an inauspicious start. No, shell out the whole $1.19 for the real article.

I love Slim Jims because they link us to a simpler, more innocent time. Slim Jims partake of the restless pioneering American spirit. They are the modern-day analogue of pemmican and salt pork. They are a food I can imagine eating on a wagon train. I would definitely buy hardtack if Circle K sold it in nacho cheese flavor.

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