Thursday, July 20, 2006

Road Food

Food on the road is always an adventure. At most chain-run truck stops the fare is the same no matter where you are in the country. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll get seafood gumbo at a Flying J in Louisiana or Yankee pot roast in a Maine Truck Stops of America.

Wherever possible, I tried to stop at small, locally owned truck stops. The service was better and the menus were more varied than at the national chains. Sometimes the food was good.

On a trip to Fargo, North Dakota I parked at a little stop with a dirt parking lot and a diner next door. This was in Rothsay, Minnesota, the Prairie Chicken Capitol of the World.

I’d never seen a prairie chicken before. In fact, I thought they were the figment of someone’s fertile imagination –like Sasquatch. On the giant mural located in the Rothsay Diner, they looked like a cross between a chicken and a rabbit – no shit! They have two tufts of feathers or fur on their heads that look like rabbit ears. From what I saw on the painting, their heads and faces are shaped like a rabbit’s. I looked long and hard, but I never did see any sort of beak.

I ordered beef stew for dinner and got another surprise. It came on top of mashed potatoes – not with mashed potatoes and was the most tasteless meal I had ever eaten outside of a hospital. The meat, the potatoes, and the vegetables all tasted the same – like cardboard. I could taste the salt and pepper that I added, so I knew it wasn’t that my taste buds had suddenly stopped working.

On the other end of the taste bud scale was a small truck stop in Greeley, Colorado. I was waiting for a load of meat from a packing plant, and like every meat load I ever had, it was not ready at the scheduled time.

I found a small truck stop about a mile away and had dinner. I’m a sucker for pot roast, but a good one is hard to find on the road.

When my order came, I stared in disbelief. Mashed potatoes were surrounded by large chunks of meat and vegetables. Good looks do not always mean good taste, but these did.

The potatoes were home made, not that instant shit restaurants normally serve. The meat was tender enough to cut with a fork. The vegetables were done to perfection and the gravy was delicious. I almost asked for another serving, but the portion was huge.

So, to any of you future kings of the road out there, eat at chain stops if that’s all there are, but stay on the lookout for the small, independent joints. You won’t regret it.



No comments: