The Food Highway

December 2011 / Dec. 8, 2011 / by Steven
The Food Highway

It’s late in the evening and I have spent the last three hours on the highway stuck in what could be classified as the worst traffic known to mankind.  I am feeling cramped, tired, and my stomach is sending low rumbles as signals that it needs to be fed, and soon!  There is no way I can stand sitting in this traffic any longer.  So what do I do?

If you are anything like me, you know that I begin to immediately scan the right side of the highway while asking the heavens above that the next exit be filled with tons of food choices.  And if you are really like me, you know that I am crossing my fingers for a quick and easy favorite fast food restaurant to be one of those choices.  In the United States of America, that wish is most often granted.

As I pull up to the easily accessible fast food establishment, I already have my order memorized.  The raspy and scratchy speaker sound of a late night teenage worker is like a symphony to my ears, “Hello, can I take your order?”.  I respond in a timely and rhythmic fashion, “Yes. I would like a number 4 with a Sprite”.  My cost for the food stop, although not completely expensive, is but a trade off for the immediate satisfaction that will come from consuming my beloved fast food meal.

As I pull around to the side window I can already begin to smell the amazing aroma of greasy fried food.  It pushes through my half rolled down window like gale force winds attacking a light house on the coast of a beach.  I cannot help but smile as the food passes through the window and into my car.  For that brief moment, the employee dressed in their fast food attire is my hero.  

As I pull away from the window and continue on with my travels I reach into the bag.  I can feel my burger wrapped up and warm to the touch with fries sitting close by as if they know they compliment each other like peanut butter and jelly.  The wrapper is removed and I begin to, for lack of a better description, attack the sandwich.  In a matter of minutes all that remains of my meal is an empty wrapper, an empty sleeve of fries, and a crumpled up bag on the floor of my car, which will most likely remain there for an exponential amount of time.

And then it hits me.  I am awoken up from my fast food high by the blast of a horn.  As I focus my attention far ahead there again lies a sea of red brake lights stretching for as far as I can see.  My detour of fast food bliss, such an easy escape from my hunger and boredom, is now over and I am back where I started.  Only now my stomach is filled with greasy food. The feeling of being cramped is now also supplemented with feelings of drowsiness and fatigue.  My situation just got worse.

The story above may seem like an over exaggeration to many of you reading this, but to me its an exact account of my travels returning home on the weekend after Thanksgiving.  Although I am not proud of my easy gratification of eating fast food, I feel as it is a story that many Americans have in common.

Let me first say that there is nothing wrong with fast food restaurants or the people that eat at them, as long as it is done so in moderation.  Yes, the food is not the best for you and it lacks the dietary excellence of a well-rounded meal, but chocolate cake isn’t good for you either and people love that as well.  So I am almost certain that despite the unhealthy meal solution of a fast food restaurant, the culture of fast food is still here to stay for a long time.  My point is that, in my opinion, there is too strong of a dependence on fast food restaurants as a source of food while traveling or as a quick meal.

I can see the positives of why fast food restaurants are beneficial.  The meals are not very expensive and are affordable by the standards of many.  The meals are prepared quickly, which saves a lot of time and effort.  And above all, the meals taste extremely well to our taste buds.

But does that really out weigh the negatives of fast food restaurants?  If you have ever read the nutritional value chart hiding in the corner of fast food restaurants, you may be aware that the average meal is any where from 700 to 1320 calories.  Add that meal to the other foods eaten in a day and it could easily exceed anyones recommended calorie intake.  It just isn’t healthy for consumption by the average American on a daily basis in my opinion.  

So what you may be asking? Why does this have anything to do with Bus 52 and myself?  

The blog I will be writing over the course of the next year will explore as many aspects of eating on the road that can be thought of.  Since I will be traveling on a bus for an entire year, it will be really easy to want to eat at fast food restaurants because they are easy and familiar.  This will not be the case.

For the next year I have decided that I will not be eating any fast food!

Instead, I will be exploring creative ways to eat healthier while traveling as well as highlighting restaurants that I find while exploring new cities.  I want to find new ways to make favorite home cooked meals while at a campground or on our converted bus.  I want to find the family owned restaurants that are still long lasting staples for their hometown.  Restaurants that are making strides in trying to be healthier or provide the best quality ingredients.  Finding meal ideas that are healthy and yet easy to eat on the road while still staying on a budget.

Not eating at fast food restaurants and exploring new ways to eat while traveling, whether conventional or crazy, is going to be an exciting and difficult adventure that I am excited to share with all of you!  

I also want to hear and share your experiences of eating on the road! I would love to hear about any must visit restaurants or ideas of meals to try and make while traveling!  

So buckle up and come with me on my road trip through the food of America and hopefully this untrained amateur cook will be able to learn a thing or two about making eating anywhere feel like home.

Photo Credit: Matthew Rutledge