Unfolding the Map
William Least Heat-Moon (LHM) stops in Siler City on his way to the Carolina coast to load up on supplies. We go with him, but we're not buying healthy food for ourselves. Normally I don't put links in the quote, but today I did because a lot of those chewing tobaccos don't exist anymore. Check out where Siler City is located by clicking on the map. Or make a comment about your experience with food on the road.
"...You never feel better than when you start feeling good after you've been feeling bad. In the truck I laid out a breakfast of bread, cheese, raisins, and tomato juice.
Then to the road. I bought supplies at Siler City, where the grocery sold twenty-two kinds of chewing tobacco: Blood Hound, Brown's Mule, Red Coon, Red Horse, Red Fox, Red Juice, Black Maria, Big Man, Cannonball, Bull's Eye ("Hits the Spot"); also fifteen brands of snuff in three sizes, the largest big enough to give the whole county a snort."
Blue Highways: Part 2, Chapter 5
Siler City, North Carolina
Once on a road trip, a group of friends and I tried an experiment. We had been used to getting road food for our trips. Road food usually consisted of potato chips, sodas, cookies, salty crackers, peanuts, and lots of candy - everything from chocolate bars to Twizzlers to gum to Good N' Plenty's to Skittles to Spree to SweetTarts. While driving, we would gorge on these things. By the time we reached our destination, we felt sluggish and tired. The air in the car would be stale with the odor of sugar-induced gas. We usually weren't in much shape to enjoy the place to where we were traveling for that first day or night after we got there.
So we tried an experiment. We got healthy food for this road trip. Apples and oranges substituted for the cookies and chips. Unsalted trail mix substituted for the salty peanuts. Granola bars substituted for the candy, and fruit drinks and mineral water for the sodas. While it wasn't completely satisfying like the candy and salty snacks and sodas, we took solace in that we were trying to be healthy. When we got to our destination, we got out of the car and felt good, even energized! The car air was fresh because we had no gastro-intestinal problems. We weren't sluggish from sugar hangovers. We could actually enjoy where we had gotten to, right from the very start!
It felt so wrong that we went back to our usual road food on the way home.
The convenience stores one encounters on the road just feed this addiction to salt and sugar. You can't really find anything in them except for candy, chips and sodas. Nowadays the selections in drinks also include high energy caffeine drinks, various flavored teas with sugars and artificial sweeteners, and of course alcohol which you have to wait to consume when you get home unless you have a serious problem.
The passage above reminded me of our failed attempt to instill healthy practices while traveling. LHM lays out his breakfast, and how healthy is that? Bread, cheese, raisins and tomato juice? Where is the beef jerky at least? It's too damn healthy.
The convenience stores are also full of other vices - including cigarettes and chewing tobacco. Not being a chewer or a smoker, I don't usually pay attention to whether they stock up on the chewing tobacco or the types of cigarettes they sell, though I wrote a previous post reflecting on chewing tobacco. But you have to admire places that twenty-two kinds of anything. The fact that they stock them must mean that every kind of tobacco has its buyers. In Siler City, which is tiny, so much chewing tobacco must mean that every single man (and maybe woman and child) did some dipping in the late 70s.
So, the moral of this post, and what I take from LHM's Siler City stop, is that if you go on a road trip, eat the cheesiest, saltiest and most sugary stuff available. That's one of the guilty pleasures of being on the road. You can always go back to your angelic self when you're back home.
If you want to know more about Siler City and surroundings
Next up: Dunn, North Carolina