Sunday, August 02, 2009

Tastes a Little Like Car

I found an old transcript of a road trip I took with a friend. It was actually the move back to Minneapolis from Portland. I had a microphone and a mini-disk recorder (in one of my dream jobs, I was a reporter for NPR), and I spent the boring parts of the trip recording our interactions. Mostly we chatted about nothing. My evil cat was ill, so she made the first part of our journey memorably stinky. We had a gift for bringing out the humor in each other, and so we drove across Washington swapping the role of straight-man more times than I can count.

Partway through the journey, we decided to cook a meal by wrapping it in tinfoil, strapping it to some hot part of the moving van's exhaust system, and driving until it was done. My friend had been experimenting with this technique, made famous by the cookbook "Manifold Destiny". Here's what he said about his attempts to cook on his own small car:
I've tried cooking [garlic cloves] on the engine block which was the best deal for me, and that ended up getting it just a little bit warm, but not really cooked at all, and then the other two or three cloves that I've tried have ... either fallen off my car or they've been totally raw, and so I've eaten some raw garlic - really kind of bummed my coworkers out.
So, understandably, we were worried about raw food as a result of this experiment. We started with just one potato, figuring that if a potato came out raw, at least it wouldn't give us Salmonella. It was also a cold, windy day in early May, which brought some complaints from my friend as he crawled under the truck and wired a tinfoil packet of oil, garlic, and potatoes onto the exhaust pipe. Not wanting to eat carbon monoxide, I insisted on four layers of foil.

Here's what happened when we pulled the truck off the highway forty minutes later, and tried to talk into the microphone while struggling with wind and four layers of hot foil while crouched under a moving van in a post office parking lot in the middle of Podunk, Montana.
A: We have dinner. Well, we have something that resembles hot. J is unwrapping our dinner.
J: I still think it's bold to call it dinner.
A: Well, it was definitely just one potato. Whether it's cooked or not, it was still only one potato.
J: We're through the first layer. Looking pretty good. Oh, yeah. This looks good.
A: Smells better and better. It seems to be cooked in just that one spot.
J: Yeah. I wonder why that is. Maybe that's where the oil leaked out. But yeah, you're kind of right. Huh, that's interesting. All right. Here's the first food. It kind of looks cooked. Hey, want some potato? (chews) That's done.
A: We're geniuses!
J: I mean it tastes a little bit like ... car
A: ...carbon
J: Oh, my God, it is burnt. Look at this. It's totally burnt to a crisp. I mean some of these art OK, but most of it is just cooked. Wow. It was like it was on fire in there.
After burning our potato, we did make a second attempt. We wound up successfully cooking a complete chicken, broccoli, and potato meal, and eating it while crouched on my old furniture in the back of the van while the evil cat had the smelly cab to herself. The lengths I'll go to to avoid McDonald's...


carrie said...

I just read that it is actually the potatoes in potato salad, not the mayo, that account for most cases of picnic food poisoning. So I'm glad you survived that one ok.

Alex said...

Really?! That changes everything. I'm never, ever eating potato salad again. OK, actually, I hate potato salad. Mayo gets such a bad rap. I love mayo.

Zola Jones by Jason Loper said...

Eventually an entire meal? You are now my hero. I've always wanted to cook on a car!

Alex said...

Oh. I'm happy to be your hero, but it wasn't delicious, though. It was a full meal and it was cooked, but it was not delicious. There was room for growth. And the moving van was the key.

Nice bags.

Jill said...

Wow, you are cheap.

Alex said...

I am cheap, but I think the amount we spent on tinfoil and wire (not to mention chicken, broccoli, garlic and potatoes) would have easily bought us a meal at McD's. I did it for science.

OneN said...

We'll have to try that on our next adventure with the kids...we can call it "Alex's Axel Meal". Can't be any worse than anything we make over the campfire.