Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Guest Blog: An Introduction to Gas Station Cuisine in the Twin Cities.

Hey Friends! Today I have a special treat for you. A good friend of mine, Jon Hunt, agreed to guest post on my blog about life as a post undergrad grad student while studying at William Mitchell College of Law. We go way back to my freshman year of college and I am so glad he wrote this up for you.

I really think you will like this one... enjoy! 

“In sixty-nine I was twenty-one and I called the road my own…I don't know when that road turned into the road I'm on…Running on…running on empty… Running on…running blind. Running on…running into the sun…But I'm running behind” –Jackson Browne

Regular readers of Tierney’s blog have come to expect posts detailing all the fun and adventure of postgraduate life and the excellent dining opportunities that such a life entails. For others, this is not the case. Fortunately, whether you are a busy grad student, incredibly lazy, or both (like myself), the dining opportunities after post-college cuisine can be effectively experienced in a universal, convenient, delicious manner…namely, by eating at Super America.

The idea of gas station food was perhaps the greatest leap forward for mankind since at least the Industrial Revolution. I can’t back this up with actual facts, but I’d like to think that somewhere, a broke law student was putting eight dollars of assorted change into the gas tank of a rusty old car, while simultaneous craving a spicy chicken sandwich. He dreamed of a place where he could put gas in his car, buy antifreeze, check his oil, and eat a three course meal.

The small pile of “SuperMom’s” spicy chicken sandwich wrappers that accumulates in the back of my truck every week and the fact that I have yet to fall violently ill speaks to the quality and wholesomeness of each and every gas station culinary experience. To a beginner, however, the variety can be intimidating, so let’s look at some of SuperAmerica’s “greatest hits.” (Of course, I am leaving out their gasoline: that’s not on the menu for a reason.)

1. SuperMom’s Sandwiches
The cream of the gas station crop, the origin of SuperMom’s sandwiches are unknown to this day. I like to think that there is an actual Super Mom somewhere; who spends every waking minute preparing miniature cheeseburgers, chicken sandwiches, and even breakfast items in time to ship off to the thousands of SuperAmerica stores nationwide each and every morning. Essentially,I’d like to think these items are prepared by an attractive female Santa Claus whose workshop consists mostly of grease and processed cheese. 2 of these sandwiches will only set you back $2.50: I defy you to find more calories per dollar anywhere else!

2. Nameless Hot Dogs
Let’s say you spent every day for a week eating the SuperMom sandwiches, and decide to mix it up for a change. Short of learning to cook, your best bet is a quality, generic, “hot dog”. I use quotation marks, because unlike some of the more renowned members of the hot dog family, such as Hormel Franks, Coney Island-style, and Ballpark; these “hot dogs” differ from the original recipe. Indeed, I think they may contain bits of actual dog; or dog byproduct. The more economically minded readers will be happy to learn, however, that the price of each hot dog is uniform, regardless of toppings. Conceivably, one use enough ketchup and mustard to walk out with a profit.
3. Frozen Pizza
Some of the more ambitious post-grads may have learned, through trial and error and threat of eviction, how to use an oven. With this high degree of technical knowledge, it is possible to purchase Jack’s, Roma, Tombstone, and other pizza-like frozen dinners from the Gas Station to be prepared later. (This of course, assumes that you trust your vehicle to make it all the way home. If you are driving a typical recent grad’s car, you may want to buy something that can be eaten while you wait for a tow truck.) The downside, however, is that there is no good portion size: you must reconcile this purchase with the knowledge that you WILL EAT AN ENTIRE PIZZA BY YOURSELF. If you've read this much so far, I’m sure you can handle it.

4. Drinks
Like any fine establishment, your local SuperAmerica offers an excellent drink selection. For breakfast and lunch, I’d recommend a Monster Energy Drink or a similar product to provide the unpredictable, wild fluctuations in your heartbeat that a productive college grad requires. For dinner or a late night snack, however, your cardiovascular system may be begging you to buy anything that is not a potent stimulant. If this is the case, feel free to peruse the fine selection of beer and beer-like products. A 12 pack of Milwaukee’s Best may be fine for entertaining, but keep in mind reasonably priced 40oz products, or “Forty’s”, are available for solo dining. Just remember, make sure you get home safely before opening your Forty: there is a fine line between washing down a gas station dinner with a large bottle of three-two beer, and doing so in a parking lot.

There you have it: an introduction to the gas station cuisine of the Twin Cities. While I wholeheartedly endorse Tierney’s philosophy of good food, experiencing new things, and doing so with interesting people; I’m just in favor of doing so with the keys still in the ignition. One thing is for sure: you may eat bits of dog, learn what cholesterol tastes like, and find yourself with a 40 ounce bottle of “near beer”, but you’ll never be running on empty.