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Who hasn’t guiltily grabbed a long stick of jerky at 7-Eleven when on a road trip? The meat, the salt — it's sodium heaven.
But goose jerky? Kangaroo?
Driving up highway from Santa Fe to Taos, N.M., you will notice Native Americans in roadside shacks selling elk jerky like kids peddling lemonade, with signs that read, "ELK JERKY $2."
At the White House Store at Smith Mountain Lake in Huddleston, Va., local deer hunters in camouflage stand chatting by their mud-encrusted pick-ups with dead deer in the beds of the trucks. Inside, they come to purchase venison jerky, only to notice alligator there as well, an enticing alternative.
The Incans called it ch’arki and Native Americans called buffalo jerky pemmican, according to Jerky.com. Having a source of self-preserving meat that didn't have to be consumed immediately was paramount for explorers and trappers. In truth, jerky was invented for the original traveler, a standby food that would not rot over monthlong treks.
This dried meat delicacy is made relatively easily. All you need is meat, salt, spices, some marinating, a dehydrator or oven, and a dry place to cure it — removing the fat and moisture in these lean strips means you’re left with mostly protein. The worst jerky, like any food, is the one that uses the most preservatives, although we all know how good preservatives taste.
It seems like you can make jerky by salting just about any meat, but beyond your convenience store Slim Jim, the sodium-nitrite, steroids equivalent of beef jerky, where do you have to travel to find a good chunk?
In truth, when traveling through hunter country of most states is when you will find the best dried meat, usually in the local convenience stores where you see a lot of trucks with gun racks. Upstate New York near the Adirondacks, the Idaho panhandle, southern Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, and Taos, N.M., rate as the best places where you can pretty much walk into any small shop and start noshing on local jerkies.
There are many websites where you can buy it now, but that sort of takes the fun out of stopping in the middle of nowhere on your cross-country road trip, buying some snacks, and seeing a strip of meat that was probably made just down the road by a hunter who killed it himself.
When you get home, try making some of your own. The only the thing to figure out now is whether use boar, turkey, goose, kangaroo, or alligator.
For the moment, try these places then venture out from them. Otherwise, your best bet is to talk to your local hunters who usually make it and dry it themselves:
White House Store, Huddleston, Va.--With Smith Mountain Lake just a few miles away and the Peaks of Otter in the distance, this is deer country, and you see them everywhere at night. Hunters abound and they love their jerky, and because supply always honors demand, you'll never know what creative jerky you'll find here. The alligator is to be savored.
Mast Store, Asheville, N.C.--Bama Boy Beef Jerky is the star here. In downtown Asheville, you can gnaw on it while you enjoy the city center and cruise around the famous breweries like Craggie and Green Man.
Texas Slabs, Mansfield, Tx.--Probably the moistest beef jerky on the planet made by hand. Sweet and spicy is the top choice. All their meats are cured at their retail store.
The challenge is: You need to eat 3 sticks in 2 minutes! You cannot drink anything after for at least 60 seconds! WE DARE YOU!!
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The Jerky Revolution
Photo by: Lisa Shin ©Lisa Shin Photography, Inc.
Lisa Shin , Lisa Shin Photography, Inc.
Remember that beef jerky you got at the gas station during road trips? The stuff that's loaded with sodium and has what you would imagine the texture of dog treats to be? Well, it has come a long way since then, becoming a bona fide healthy snack for protein lovers. With less sodium, better flavors and almost nothing unnatural about it, artisan jerky is on the rise.
Just one ounce of the leading brand's beef jerky can have almost 800 milligrams of sodium, while new brands that concentrate on a more-natural process usually stay around 400 milligrams for the same-size serving (some as low as 300). Besides the fact that these new brands won't make you feel like you're gnawing on a salt block, they've also got an ingredient list you can fully pronounce. It's refreshing to see words like "garlic" and "sesame seeds" in place of words like "flavorings" and "monosodium glutamate."
Field Trip Jerky, for example, has a turkey jerky hitting the shelves that has only 70 calories, no fat and 12 grams of protein. And even after being flavored with black pepper, apple and brown sugar, it still comes in at less than half the sodium of the old stuff. And if you're a fan of the red-meat version, their Original, Honey Spice and Teriyaki flavors still come in the beef variety.
Iconic Iowa Road Trip: Contrasting Old and New
My dad has been an encouraging voice for me throughout the years, urging me through all of my weird and daring ideas. Even when we've butted heads, he's always insisted that I am capable of anything, armed with common sense and a “damn German” sense of perseverance. He insisted to me that his side of the family – though I never had the pleasure of meeting them – dreamed big and never gave up.
I've always been fascinated with my father's past, settling in to hear his stories over lengthy card games and crackling fires. “My mom was born in 1906, my dad in 1902,” he tells me. He shares stories of a small town in Iowa where his ancestors settled and where his boyhood was played out in a time when the world was entirely different.
He vowed that one day, for his 50th high school reunion, he'd go back.
So I made his dreams come true in an Iowa road trip that I'll never forget.
I had big hopes setting out on this trip. It was a relatively short loop, but one rich with discoveries. Guidebooks promise all sorts of history and intrigue: will you walk across the Davenport Skybridge, explore the ruins of Joliet Ironworks, find mysterious meadows at Franklin Creek? Maybe you'll discover fame and fortune where American Pickers is filmed at the birthplace of Buffalo Bill. Have some tasty treats at the Candy Kitchen in Wilton. Shivering with goosebumps, you'll hear the whispered tales of Teresa Dolezal Feldevert's mysterious black angel. Bettendorf, Wheaton, Eldon. This was our original road trip map, but we actually wound up veering from it a bit – the best trips always veer off-course – and seeing what my dad called the “more iconic” spots.
I think it was a perfect balance of personal and prototypical.
My dad and I both landed in Chicago at midnight on a Wednesday, opting to rent a car and go on an Iowa road trip as opposed to trying to route our way into a smaller airport.
Our Iowa road trip was guided by a few stops to see relatives on the way to our final destination: my dad's 50th high school reunion in Cedar Rapids. After landing, we drove through the night and catnapped roadside before pulling into Rock Island Arsenal as the sun rose. The army men at the gates were super-friendly and gave us directions after we explained that we were dazed, a little confused, and very eager to see some tanks!
We skipped the locks on the island and continued on the bridge straight over to Davenport. The view on the other side was breaktaking. If you ever find yourself on an Iowa road trip, stop to see the Mississippi river at a restaurant called Waterbar. We didn't even eat there…just parked and stared for a good long while.
Finally in Davenport, I met my dad's 90-year-old cousin Warren, who lives by himself. His immaculate home abuts acres of corn fields. When I asked who helps care for the property, he said that someone started doing yard work for him a year ago but he does all the housekeeping. He then proceeded to tell me about his girlfriend, while I silently thanked the sweet lord for good genetics.
I took Warren and dad down the street to see Warren's brother, Allen, who happily showed off his shiny Corvette. I grew up not knowing that I had family on my dad's side but now that I've met them on our Iowa road trip, I'm pretty stoked at what lays ahead. Let's just hope I have half of their spunk in 60 years!
Still tracking down some history, we met up with my great aunt and uncle's family at Gramma's Kitchen near the World's Largest Truckstop. We then meandered up to her place near Wheatland where she pulled out some original documents that helped clarify some of my roots and history. Teri and her husband have actually traveled overseas and had a reunion at the German home our family last lived in before emigrating – a place called Warmkammer that is now on my must-visit list!
The farm in Iowa that she currently operates was passed down through the family. She was kind and welcoming and showed me around as I asked a million questions. I also got to chat a bunch with her daughter, Amelia, who has kids around my childrens' ages. Along the drive out of Wheatland, I commented to my dad that the meandering hills against the bright blue sky were definitely what I was expecting from an Iowa road trip. I always value side jaunts to see more rural communities, since it gives a glimpse into how a wider group of people live.
Next up on our Iowa road trip, we wandered into Wilton where my dad boldly knocked on the locked door of the Wilton Candy Kitchen. We read online that the historic shop closed last November when owners George and Thelma Nopoulos took leave to enter a nursing home. George wound up passing away in June, and Thelma has been hard at work determining how to keep the shop going. She happened to be inside, at an after-hours accounting meeting with her team, and she graciously showed us around. She remembered my dad's family from childhood, and the two reminisced about days spent drinking fountain sodas at the counter.
What really struck me about everybody on our Iowa road trip – from my relatives to Thelma to complete strangers we encountered along the way – was their kindness and warmth. Nobody seemed in a hurry to get rid of me and get back to their own lives. Several people actually kept businesses open for us, as our odd schedule had us arriving after hours time and time again.
A man I met in Cedar Rapids told me that after the massive flood of 2008, he had to go out of town but left a note on his door inviting neighbors to use his shower and other facilities. Most of us would expect to return to a ransacked property, but he had faith. When he arrived back at home, everything was in place and a small basket was left on the porch with over $400 to cover utilities.
After dad and I said our goodbyes to Thelma, we continued our Iowa road trip by meandering across the street to the most popular bar in the county. It used to be known as the Wooden Nickel, but has since been renamed “Fro's.”
The last thing to see in Wilton was the train depot, where the dedicated historical society curates items from times past.
A quick drive through rows of cow pastures led to Moscow and Atalissa, small towns where my dad's father used to keep cabins to retreat to for solitude. Or possibly for time with a lady friend.
We saw two of the family's cabins: a larger one in an upscale waterfront area, and a smaller one in a quite, undiscovered pocket. Here along the shores in Atalissa, children ran through the gravel roads ahead of my car. Each home abutted the Cedar River near the Weise Slough in a laidback, moist atmosphere that reminded me of Louisiana's bayou.
“I better not let Nate see this place,” I mumbled aloud. “He'll never want to leave.”
My dad paid his respects at a local cemetery, and we crashed for the night at a rundown hotel near Iowa City.
Home of the University of Iowa, this place is your typical college town. Lots of quaint shops and trendy pubs. The Iowa City Capitol building is definitely worth seeing if you're on an Iowa road trip and into historical buildings. The old, ornate craftsmanship is inspiring and remarkably modern-looking.
Next on our Iowa road trip, we headed to Amana Colonies where we ogled antiques and ate cured meat.
Get the jerky. It's pricey, but worth it.
The colonies are historic, known for their communal lifestyle and the eventual creation of the Amana Corporation line of refrigerators. Today, the colonies continue to operate as both tourist attraction and homestead offering immense support for the arts. I could have easily spent two or three days just in the tourist walking section.
After Amana, our Iowa road trip finally took us up to Cedar Rapids! I met my cousin, Cheryl, who is just four years younger than my dad. She took us to a shockingly good Mexican food place near her house up by Hiawatha. There are tons of suburbs and several little towns around Cedar Rapids that are interesting to explore. If you have time, check out the main street of Marion and King Chapel over at Cornell College in Mt Vernon.
If you're really just after the food on your Iowa road trip, track down a Maid-Rite. They serve a sloppy joe dish that strikes me as sort of a deconstructed In-N-Out burger. I had to resist downing three or four of them and asking for a to-go box with several more.
Next we drove through the cobbled brick streets of historic Cedar Rapids, and even found the house where my dad grew up! A pervasive hiss-whir sound filled the air like a vacuum and I rolled down my window to listen closely, then hurriedly roll it back up as a horde of mosquitoes consumed me. “What on earth is that sound?”
My dad blinked blankly and shrugged like it was the most normal thing in the world, “Oh, that's just locusts.”
Getting away from bugs of biblical proportions, I decided we should check out “NewBo,” which my dad's generation knew simply as “Bohemy Town.” This indoor-outdoor market was named for the eclectic Bohemian wares that were traditionally sold by immigrants in the area.
After night fell again, we ventured out to the town's two clubs. It may have been an off night, but I ultimately decided I was too old for the outdoor rave scene at Cedar River Landing and too young for the dive bar at Rumors, where an odd mishmash of passing-through biker dudes and townies watched passively as a velvet-clad Elvis impersonator gyrated on-stage.
We crashed sleepily at the conference center Doubletree, satiated by a platter full of complimentary cookies. If your Iowa road trip brings you here, just be sure to ask for a room away from the train tracks.
The downtown area surrounding our hotel was a bit odd. The streets were completely dead with the exception of a couple events going on. Most big city downtown areas are filled with people hustling back-and-forth between restaurants and businesses. Cedar Rapids seemed abandoned. So if you want to be within walking distance of some action, head on over to NewBo or…well…go somewhere else. For our purposes, this spot served as a nice central point from which we drove to all the attractions.
Best of all, breakfast at the trendy 350 First offered up a stunning view of the city, including the adjacent Quaker Oats headquarters.
The Downtown Farmers' Market (not to be confused with the Noelrdige Farmers' Market) happened to take over the streets right outside our hotel on one of the days we were there, and it was fantastic. Hands-down, this was one of the most expansive and ornate farmers' markets I have ever been to.
We also took a quick jaunt over the Theatre Cedar Rapids, which is a nice setting with tons of top entertainment.
Meeting up with the reunion group for a full day of our Iowa road trip, my dad and I hopped on a bus and toured his alma mater. Washington High School is the #1 high school in Iowa and #5 in the country. It's clear that this city takes education seriously. After seeing the new upgrades and marveling at the (practically endless) plaques and awards of excellence, we continued our own education at the National Czech & Slovak Museum. This stunning, sobering monument details the history of Czechoslovakia and also shares how the museum's 1500 ton structure was physically picked up and moved away from the water after the 2008 flood ravaged the building.
Our last private tour stop on our Iowa road trip took us to Paramount Theatre. This magnificently vibrant, colorful historic building is well worth the trip.
From there, we meandered on foot to the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art. Impressive from the outside, it was a bit underwhelming once we got in. A small collection of Grant Wood art was intriguing, but most of the space was filled with local showcases and textiles.
The nearby Grant Wood Studio was more our style, and the tour guide shared hilarious anecdotes about the father of American Gothic.
Directly across the street from the studio, we enjoyed good old-fashioned Vietnamese pho at Phong Lan. We asked for strong iced coffee, and were impressed with this slow-drip contraption that appeared at our table.
Before we headed to our final reunion festivities and concluded our Iowa road trip, we wandered the grounds of the Brucemore Estate. It's awe-inspiring in the summer, and I imagine that its turrets are even more dramatic covered in snow. Just behind this property is Bever Park, an expansive facility with free-roaming deer, an ice rink, pool and a small farm. I could take up residency here, no problem!
We partied the night away with my dad's 68-year-old classmates, and then ended our Iowa road trip with a quick viewing of the Grant Wood stained glass window that stands as a tribute at the Veterans Memorial Building. It seemed a fitting conclusion to our Iowa road trip, after starting at Rock Island and spending much of our time with service members.
7 Healthy Foods to Take on Your Summer Road Trip
Don't leave home without a cooler filled with delicious healthy snacks!
For some reason COVID-19 didn't make the above list, though it has certainly changed the way we're living and traveling this summer. According to reports, road trips make up 97 percent of summer travel plans currently, and demands for RVs are surging as people are trying to get away safely. But as road trips are up, quality road fuel options are down, and the likelihood of being able to stop at restaurants is slim. So, it's important to take along plenty of smart foods that can fuel your body and feed your muscles.
First, consider getting a solid cooler. If you're going to be on the road, you'll need something that holds up on long trips and keeps cold foods cold (because food poisoning is never fun), and those Styrofoam coolers with flimsy plastic handles are not up to the job. Before our road trip this summer, we got two—the OtterBox Venture 65 Hard Cooler, for its large capacity and its ability to keep foods cold for the long haul, and the OtterBox Trooper LT 30 Soft Cooler, to keep our foods cold on the beach when we got there. As a bonus, the soft cooler doubles as a backpack, so it can be used to add solid resistance to any on-the-road bodyweight routine, such as Lean at Home in BodyFit, which is totally equipment free.
Once you have your food storage lined up, it's time to consider what to pack, and I've got you covered with seven quality fuel options that are portable and loaded with nutrition.
1. Hardboiled Eggs
Love me some hardboiled eggs. With each whole egg offering 7 grams of quality protein, plus vitamins E and D and choline, among other nutrients, these should certainly be part of the road fuel. Outside of the nutrition they provide, their convenience, taste, and low cost make them a definite go-to. Since protein is satiating, they also fill you up. With the cooler in tow, you're all set to keep them chilled and fuel those muscles during the trip.
While these don't need to hang in the cooler, they're portable, filling, and loaded with the nutrition you need to keep you going. As an added bonus, they offer 6 grams of plant-based protein per serving to help fuel your body with essential amino acids and provide healthy fat—nearly 90 percent of the fats found in pistachios are the better-for-you mono and polyunsaturated types. What's more, pistachios are a good source of fiber. Add that to the protein and fat, and you've got a trio of nutrients that may help keep you feeling fuller for longer.
One of the lowest calorie, lowest fat nuts, pistachios give you more nuts per serving than most—about 49 pistachios—so you get a solid serving compared to many other nuts. They're a healthy, crave-able smart snack that you can feel good about anytime. Wonderful Pistachios No Shells are perfect road fuel. Try the Wonderful Chili Roasted variety on your next trip.
3. Beef Jerky
Jerky is at the top of any list of road fuels. It's portable, durable, and pretty much pure protein. With the options on the market today, beef jerky offers a nice, savory flavor to mix up your travel-snack menu. What's more, a serving provides about 15 grams of complete protein, which is a great snack option to keep those muscles flooded with the amino acids they need.
Road trips aren't just about foodyou gotta stay hydrated, as well.And, well, sometimes plain old water can get boring. Often when we think we're hungry, we're actually thirsty—and when we're bored and eating, liquid may also curb that desire to eat. Including some liquid is a wise idea, and kombucha is the perfect option as it's refreshing, carbonated for a little flavor, and good for you. In our house, we're big fans of Health-Ade Kombucha, a product made in small batches in California in a variety of flavors (or plain, if that's your thing). It's better than energy drinks, soft drinks, or, well, most drinks that also contain calories. Kombucha does have a little bit of alcohol in it, and some kinds more than others, so make sure to check the alcohol level before you buy it—especially if you're driving.
While these may not have been at the top of your list, there's a good reason they're on mine. Road trips and travel can leave a lot to be desired when it comes to regularity. That's not the only reason to eat prunes, though they are a healthy snack that counts as a full serving of fruit, are shelf stable, and require no prep. A serving of 4-5 prunes packs a powerful punch of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Together, these nutrients support vital functions that aid overall health.
A serving of prunes has less than 100 calories and zero added sugar, and they're sodium, fat, and cholesterol free. Pack them with the pistachios for a tasty homemade trail mix. Gut effective and bone protective, prunes are a convenient and delicious way to add more fiber to your diet.
6. Carrots and Hummus
You want veggies that are durable and aren't going to get squished in the cooler. Carrots fit the bill, but snap peas, celery, and cauliflower all work great, too.
The hummus gives you a little extra protein and fiber so snack time at the beach can last you longer. Our personal favorite is Lantana Siracha Carrot Hummus, but choose what you prefer. Remember, you want something that can sustain you and ideally also provide quality nutrition. Considering that the primary ingredient in hummus is usually chickpeas (or some other type of beans), it's a great source of fiber and other quality nutrition. Hummus also adds a nice flavor element to the veggies and is relatively "clean" and easy to eat, even on the road.
7. Tuna or Salmon Packets and Crackers
Commercially marketed tuna and salmon packets are great because you don't need a can opener, they're nonperishable, and they're at the top of the chart with protein and important omega-3 fats. Pair them with a solid cracker—or even a piece of fruit (sliced apple is great)—for the fuel you need to spend your day having fun on the beach.
Karma Nuts, Lime Twist
Nuts can get pretty boring when you're constantly noshing. Try and spice things up with Karma Nuts. These wrapped cashews come in individual packs so you don't go overboard (and so each person in the car can have their own). Have your pick of sweet, spicy, and toasty flavors from Karma (we're partial to the Lime Twist). Cashews are great sources of magnesium, calcium, and biotin—one of the nutrients known to make hair shiny and strong. But the real winner here is that these nuts retain their natural skins—which means they have more fiber than the cashews you typically snack on.
The Definitive Guide to Jerky: It's Not Just Beef Anymore
Now, more than ever, the world needs something to be happy about, something we can come together and celebrate as a whole. That thing, as it turns out, is jerky — typically dried meat, but increasingly available in vegan and vegetarian varieties. Historically, every country and culture has its own jerky method and meat. Biltong from South Africa, Peru's dried llama and/or alpaca meat called Charqui, and Mongolia's pulverized strips of meat called Borts. If you can jerk it, it exists. So, where did this go-to road trip snack get its start?
Who Invented Jerky?
The answer takes us back to around 500 years ago, but who actually invented the method of drying meat is still up for discussion. Some say it was one of the many indigenous tribes of North America who invented jerky — or "pemmican" — while others point to the Quechua people of the South American Andes as the true originators. Regardless of its roots, the end product has more or less stayed the same for hundreds of years: spiced, dried meat that's high in protein, and can be stored for long periods of time.
"Without the luxury of refrigeration, people had to find ways of preserving meat," says Andy Muntean of C-Star Provisions. "Drying it allows it to be stored and transported easily. Even though the modes of transportation have evolved over time (from horseback to road trips), the value of the product remains." With every country comes a different type of jerky that's unique to the people who inhabit the region. The jerky most Americans know and love is what the cowboys of the mid-1800s dried and ate while moving cattle.
Don Reeves of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum explains that jerky "referred to sun-dried meat. You'd slaughter the animal – cattle, bison, deer, elk or antelope – and strip or jerk the meat." When the sun wouldn't suffice, cowboys would slow-roast the meat over a fire to achieve the smokey dry flavor. So, why did so many people turn to dried meat as opposed to well-cooked meat? Removing the moisture from meat makes it so "bacterial or fungal enzymes cannot react with the meat," which keeps the beef, turkey, pork or elk meat from spoiling, according to Jerkyholic, a website devoted to all things jerky. With the invention of preservatives like sodium nitrite (which blocks the growth of bacteria), you could very well squeeze a year out of a bag of jerky.
These days, companies are starting to move away from artificiality in lieu of a higher-quality, better-tasting, better-for-you product.
"We also don't use artificial flavors, nitrates, MSG or hormones," continues Muntean. "Not only is this the ethical thing to do, it just tastes better. Our jerky is insanely healthy for you, we don't pack it full of sodium and the only added sugar comes from organic honey. We are proud to offer a low-calorie, low-carb, low-fat, low-sugar and high-protein snack that satisfies special diets like paleo and keto."
Vegan and DIY Jerky
The beauty of food like jerky is that it's relatively easy to make. These days you don't need hours of sunlight or a cowboy campfire to achieve the same goal as they had hundreds of years ago.
All you need to do is season your meat, marinate it for 4 to 24 hours, cut it into thin strips and roast it in your oven at 175 degrees F (79 degrees C) for around four hours. Of course, you could also buy a food dehydrator and let your imagination run wild. Because these days, jerky doesn't have to be beef . or meat at all for that matter. There are plenty of vegetarian and vegan jerky options widely available for purchase: There's soy-based jerky, vegan mushroom jerky and the unusually delicious flavor of coconut jerky.
Centuries after it was first developed, people are still gobbling up jerky like they're getting paid to do it. And with good reason, too! Healthline reports that 1 ounce (28 grams) of generic beef jerky typically contains 116 calories, 9.4 grams of protein, 7.3 grams of fat, zinc, vitamin B-12, fiber, iron, potassium and more, though it is very high in sodium, typically at 22 percent of the recommended daily sodium allowance of 2,300 mg.
So, which country does jerky the best? Hard to say, but Nigeria's Kilish is often coated with a spicy peanut sauce, as well as cloves, garlic and ginger.
The Ultimate Road Trip for Oyster Lovers
In the Pacific Northwest, skip the middleman and go straight to the source.
Some of the best oysters in the world come out of the cold waters of the Pacific Northwest—no secret there. Also a well-known fact: There are many, very good restaurants throughout the region that will be happy to serve them to you, some of them celebrated far beyond the region.
Truth is, any restaurant, anywhere, can source good oysters, if so inclined—if you happen to find yourself in the Northwest, why not skip the middleman and go directly to the source? Whether you&aposre in the mood for a waterside picnic at an oyster farm or a proper night out in Seattle or Vancouver, the Northwest&aposs top suppliers can accommodate.
At this point, your options are diverse enough that anyone truly interested in the appreciation of (and consumption of) oysters might want to plan a little road trip through the region. Starting in Seattle and ending in Vancouver is a fine idea or, you could do it in reverse, whatever works for you. Along the way, you&aposll experience two of the continent&aposs most livable cities, as well as take in some incredible scenery𠅊nd make one very key stop𠅊s you drive between them. (If done all at once, the trip takes about two and a half hours, border security and traffic permitting—remember to bring your passport.) Do it in a day, a weekend, or go even slower—just make sure to eat as many oysters as you can.
Stop #1: Pike Place Market
All visits to Seattle should begin (and middle, and end) with a visit to one of the country&aposs best public markets. Right now, you&aposre specifically here for Jack&aposs Fish Spot, a long-running seafood vendor that sources Quilcene Oysters from a farm along the Hood Canal, a fjord-like arm of Puget Sound in the shadow of the mighty Olympic Mountains. Clean, clear and just a touch salty, Jack&aposs will shuck a half-dozen for a mere $8.99. (They also do a great fried oyster and chips, for $7.99.)
Stop #2 Taylor Shellfish Farms
Five generations of Taylor&aposs have been farming shellfish in Washington, now—the family tradition goes all the way back to the 1800&aposs. Today, their oysters are a Seattle staple they&aposve got their own store and cafe on the same block as Capitol Hill&aposs hip Melrose Market, as well as two terrific oyster bars (and a third coming soon). You can choose whichever location is most convenient—the Queen Anne location has a great, off-the-beaten-path vibe𠅋ut the Capitol Hill location is easy walking distance from Pike Place Market, and is the only one with a proper market on premises. Their 2-4 p.m. happy hour (Monday-Friday) offers up the oyster of the day for just $1.75 each, shucked and served with a champagne mignonette.
Stop #3 Chuckanut Drive
Any recreational drive from Seattle to Vancouver should include this twenty-mile highway that served as the original road link between Seattle and the border𠅍itch the faster, more crowded Interstate 5, sail across the fertile flats of the Skagit Valley and head along the shore and through the mountains for one of the most scenic drives on the West Coast—one that&aposs over far too soon. Luckily, there are some great reasons to take it slow, starting with the two classic roadhouses𠅌huckanut Manor and The Oyster Bar—known for their views and definitely their oysters. Better still, take the narrow side road down to the water that brings you to Taylor&aposs famous farm stores, so close to Samish Bay it&aposs practically in it—this is primarily a retail location, but they have a great, waterside picnic area where you can grill-your-own. (They&aposll provide the instruction they also sell the necessary tools and accompaniments.)
What Are Corn Nuts, and Where Did They Come From?
Some snacks are fairly universally beloved, like trail mix and cheese crackers. Even beef jerky has more fans than not. Then there are the less popular nibbles, like Combos, which inspire fervent devotion in some and equally passionate revulsion in others. Perhaps chief among these polarizing products are Corn Nuts. Besides the potentially confusing name (“Is it corn, or is it nuts?”), they’re divisive in nearly every respect.
They’re so crunchy they can legitimately endanger your enamel they are not the most attractive nosh (there’s a reason they’re a natural choice for zombie teeth in edible Halloween crafts, though this application is severely underrepresented online) and they have an infamously overpowering smell, especially when you open a bag in an enclosed car, which is where I most often encounter them, as a road trip snack. I’ve learned to like them, mostly, but many love them. Regardless of whether you occasionally crave or completely shun them, Corn Nuts have a long and fascinating history.
First of all, you only need to look at them to know that they are, in fact, corn, and not nuts.
Corn nuts (about to be covered in chocolate), via Always Order Dessert
Also, they’re technically CornNuts (one awkward word, which we shall use hereafter). Their earliest ancestor was parched corn, a Native American preparation of dried and roasted corn kernels that was both nutritionally dense and light to carry. As with pemmican, parched corn was adopted by early European colonists and settlers. It was commonly packed in wagons for the journey along the Oregon Trail, so really, it was the original road trip snack, although they often used it to make soup instead of eating it as-is. During the Civil War (1861-1865), parched corn was a staple for soldiers it could be ground into a substance called panola, which might have been seasoned with salt or sugar but was eaten dry. Whether that sounds better or worse than CornNuts is a matter of personal opinion…
Parched corn is also mentioned in the third book in the “Little House on the Prairie” series, “On the Banks of Plum Creek,” which states: “Parched corn was good. It crackled and crunched, and its taste was sweet and brown.” Although the book was based on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s actual experiences during the 1870s, it wasn’t published until 1937—but parched corn was not a thing of the past even then.
Traditional parched corn, via The Culinary Exchange
“The Final Frontiers, 1880-1930: Settling the Southern Bottomlands” describes how, during the Dust Bowl, “desperate [share] croppers were reduced to stealing corn from farmers’ cribs. Taking a few ears of corn at a time, they parched corn kernels in skillets with a little lard and salt.” And in “The Family,” a book collecting oral histories from former residents of a North Carolina orphanage, one contributor recalled hearing a couple of friends “speaking about the hard times during the Great Depression and the eating of ‘parched corn,’ which is how the corn was continued to be food after it had ripened and hardened.”
So how did this hardscrabble sustenance food—children’s book author’s endorsement notwithstanding—morph into a casual snack many still enjoy today?
In 1936, Oakland, Calif. native Albert Holloway decided to sell his own version of parched corn—the kernels re-hydrated and then fried—to local bars and taverns, since the salty, crunchy morsels paired so well with beer. He marketed his creation as Olin’s Brown Jug Toasted Corn, which grew into a successful family business. At some point, the name was changed to the much catchier, if slightly muddled, CornNuts, presumably because the corn’s crunch was on par with (and far surpassed) that of peanuts. The name was officially trademarked in 1949.
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While Holloway initially used domestic corn, an article mentioning Peru’s giant white Cusco (or Cuzco) maize prompted him to procure a shipment of it. Known as choclo in Peru, it has larger than average kernels and is starchier and nuttier than our sweet corn. Holloway worked with engineers to crossbreed the oversized Peruvian corn with a domestic variety, and after a decade of experiments, their new hybrid was perfected. It hit the shelves in 1964, by which time, Albert’s sons Maurice and Richard—who jointly took over the business in 1959—had expanded CornNuts from a local product to a nationally distributed brand.
In the early 1980s, there was a little noise about the fact that Atari’s Pac-Man looked nearly identical to the CornNuts logo that had been trademarked in 1965 (but hasn’t been used for many years). Maurice Holloway told InfoWorld magazine at the time: “We applaud Pac Man’s incredible success, but we don’t want him to eat away at our profits.” They didn’t mind if Pac-Man stayed in his lane(s) and refrained from trying to take a bite out of the snack world (although a short-lived Pac-Man cereal did debut in 1983), so it didn’t make many other headlines. In 1989, “Heathers” gave the snack a perhaps unwelcome shout-out, but otherwise, things were pretty quiet on the CornNuts front.
And then Nabisco (which is now part of Kraft Foods) purchased the family-owned company in late 1997 according to a New York Times blurb announcing it, Nabisco “said the strong Cornnuts presence in convenience stores would add to its sales” in that arena. In 2000, an AdAge piece described how Nabisco poured a lot of money into advertising CornNuts nationwide.
CornNuts print ad from 2000, via Amazon
You may recall these “extreme” ads with the not-exactly-appetizing (but some would say entirely accurate) slogan, “Corn Gone Wrong.” You may also recall a certain innuendo-driven radio jingle that I refuse to believe was actually real but many people swear they remember hearing before it was banned. During this golden age of CornNuts, the snack was even used as a promotional tie-in for “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me” (the fourth highest grossing movie in the U.S. at the time, 1999). And Nabisco debuted two new flavors, Taco and Red Hot, neither of which exist today, though we do have Nacho, BBQ, Ranch, and Chile Picante.
Speaking of Ranch and Chile Picante…this snack’s social media presence in 2018, when everyone is in on that game (from IHOP to Heinz to Reese’s and every fast food chain ever), is shockingly almost nonexistent. There’s a verified CornNuts Twitter account that’s reasonably active, but where are the splashy photos? Where are the memes?? I can see why they might shy away from their connection to “Heathers” in this day and age, but their overall transition from in-your-face advertisements, both on air and in print, to wallflowers of Wawa is a bit perplexing. It’s kind of refreshing, though, and even alluringly mysterious, how (at the time of this writing) their Facebook cover photo still touts the triumphant return of the aforementioned Ranch and Chile Picante flavors, which apparently happened back in 2013. And it seems they were once an official sponsor of UFC (The Ultimate Fighting Championship), but that ended in 2014.
The many flavors of CornNuts, via Amazon
All of this only serves to solidify my impression of CornNuts as a one-off snack sort of frozen in time, only ever grabbed from gas stations, where they may have been resting on the wire rack for decades it would probably be hard to tell, really—but, I’ve definitely been buying “artisanal” versions of CornNuts from fancy local grocery stores in the past few years on a semi-regular basis. They often call it “Inca corn” (sometimes it’s actually made from the larger choclo kernels) or just use the original “toasted corn” moniker, and pack it in plain plastic tubs or sell it from the bulk bin section, but the only additional flavorings I’ve come across are salt and pepper. Fanatics can try to make homemade corn nuts with any seasoning they desire, though they should keep their face and hands well away from the pot, as the corn can explode.
Other countries have their own CornNuts analogues, which makes sense, since corn is native to the Americas it was first cultivated in Mexico thousands of years ago and spread from there, and indigenous people throughout north, central, and south America have eaten it in fresh and preserved forms for millennia. In Peru, for instance, it’s cancha salada, which is made with a different type of corn than choclo, although choclo can also be fried. In Ecuador and other parts of South America, they call it maiz tostado. There are other versions, too. Even on the opposite side of the globe, in the Philippines, people enjoy cornick, pieces of which are usually smaller and crisper than CornNuts, but basically the same idea. Their most popular brand is Boy Bawang (or Garlic Boy).
America’s own brand of desiccated crunchy corn chow has evolved from ancient subsistence food to bar stool nibble to casual car snack, and although today CornNuts seems to bank on their reputation as an underrated, often overlooked food (by mentioning that on their Twitter page and otherwise, seemingly doing absolutely nothing to market their product—which, clearly, they don’t in fact need to do), it’s hard to imagine them ever disappearing completely, cemented as they are in the fabric of our lives, though they may yet remain effectively trapped in amber, frequently forgotten.
When you do remember them, they’ll be there. If flying autonomous vehicles eventually become a reality, people will probably still grab those shiny little bags from whatever the future equivalent of gas stations and convenience stores will be, and they’ll fill their hover cars with that familiar sweet stench as they have a snack on their way to the Venusian plains, or the mighty canyons of Mars.
Because CornNuts have always existed in some form, and likely always will.
Related Video: Road Trip Snacks That Won’t Make a Mess in Your Car
Alton Brown: 'Feasting on Asphalt,' Town by Town
Alton Brown, host of the Food Network show Good Eats, found regional specialties like "koolickles" during his road trip up the Mississippi River.
For food commentator and author Alton Brown, the best roadside food ranges from alligator tail to "koolickles" — dill pickles soaked in cherry Kool-Aid.
Brown found his eclectic picks after he spent 26 days on a motorcycle, tracing the course of the Mississippi River. Along the way, Brown and his crew visited big-city restaurants, small-town diners, barbecue joints and even an alligator farm, where he discovered Louisiana-style grilled alligator tail served with lemon and butter.
His book about the journey, Feasting on Asphalt: The River Run, is a companion to the six-part Food Network series that aired last fall.
Part cookbook, part diary and part memoir, Brown's book features 40 original road-food recipes, along with stories about the people who dish out the flavorful fare. Brown and his crew start the 1,000-mile journey in the Mississippi Delta on the Gulf of Mexico and end near the river's headwaters in Minnesota.
Liane Hansen spoke with Brown about his delicious discoveries as he motored through the country's heartland.
Koolickles - Road Inspired
Make up a jar and keep them on your counter or, better yet, in your fridge. I promise that unless you live in the Delta you'll be the first in your neighborhood to serve them. Strange though they are, these bright pink beauties are extraordinarily refreshing on a hot summer day.
1 gallon jar kosher dill pickles
2 packages unsweetened cherry Kool-Aid
Drain the liquid from the pickles into a large container. Add the Kool-Aid mix and the sugar to the liquid and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove the pickles from the jar, slice them in half lengthwise, and return them to the jar. Return the liquid to the jar of pickles. Not all of the liquid will fit, but make sure the pickles are completely covered.
Place in the refrigerator and let sit for 1 week before eating.
Yield: 1 gallon Koolickles
Nana Deane's Pecan Coconut Pie
Courtesy of Ray's Dairy Maid
2 ounces (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
3 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
3 ounces chopped pecans (about 3/4 cup)
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, eggs, butter, buttermilk, coconut, pecans, flour, vanilla, and salt. Pour into the pie crust. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the pie is golden brown and the center is barely set.
Let cool for 40 to 45 minutes before serving.
Fried Pork Tenderloin Sandwich
Based on a recipe from Kalmes Store & Restaurant St. Donatus, Iowa
1 (20- to 24-ounce) pork tenderloin, trimmed
1 tablespoon Kalmes Steak Seasoning*
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
Cut the tenderloin into 4-ounce hunks and tenderize each piece until it is 1/3 inch thick. Place the meat in a large bowl and toss with the seasoning and pepper. Add the bread crumbs and toss to combine. Place a griddle over medium-high heat and brush with a little oil. Once the griddle is hot, add the meat and cook until golden brown and cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Serve on rolls with mayonnaise, lettuce, and tomato.
*Kalmes Steak Seasoning contains salt, sugar, paprika, celery seed, onion, chili powder, curry powder, garlic, papain, MSG, and other spice oils.
Reprinted by permission from Feasting on Asphalt by Alton Brown. Published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang.