My secret love of . . . gas station food

April 23, 2016

13  comments

Secret love of gas station food, by Leslie Anne TarabellaForgive me, for I have sinned against the handbook of fancy Southern ladylike behavior. I can’t help myself, but I love sneaking off and eating . . . gas station food.

 

I’m not referring to the new trend in gas stations where they’ve installed real restaurants with professional chefs. Such places have sprung up in Texas and reportedly have lines out the door waiting on gourmet meals that rival five star restaurants.

 

But what I crave — only every now and then, I promise, is the salty, crispy, greasy decadence only found under the heat lamp at Paw-Paw’s Gas-N-Go.

Gas station food

I’m honestly not nearly as persnickety as my friends think, but why bother them with my secret of driving down to Magnolia Springs to a secluded station where on Fridays I can get a tank of gas, fried catfish and wash it down with a cold Yoo-Hoo? In-between jaunts to scoop up Styrofoam cups full of addictive “redneck crack” (boiled peanuts), I offer penance for my sins by eating healthy. I really and truly drink smoothies made of beets, pineapple and spinach, so indulging every now and then on a taquito that’s been basking beneath the glow of an orange light isn’t so bad, is it?

 

Human nature makes us all thrill seekers on one level or the other and since I’ll never fling myself out of an airplane, risking my life on a sausage that’s been spinning on metal rollers gives me just the sense of boldness I need. There’s also the added peril of running into a fellow member of the Committee for the Preservation of Loveliness, which would be utterly horrifying. If any of themcaught me hiding behind the hot nacho display, dabbing chemically manufactured cheese sauce from the corner of my mouth, I’d never live it down. They would be forced to discuss me and take action at the next meeting.

Gas station hot dogs, Leslie Anne Tarabella

Since everyone has to have standards of some sort, even I’ve learned to draw the line at the big jar of pickled eggs next to the cash register. First of all, the only time I tried one, it turned my mouth inside out and sucked the breath out of me. Next of all, I’m suspicious of just how long they’ve been floating around in that brine. The day I heard Andy Griffith died, I had just pulled into the station, and when I relayed the news to the girl who was filling the jar, she went into some sort of shock and plopped the eggs down in there all at once, causing a few to get dinged-up, and to this very day, I can recognize them as the same eggs from all those years ago because I noticed one had a mark on it that looked like Barney Fife. Spooky coincidence if you ask me.

 

The other problem about eating gas station food, is the high turn-over rate of the employees, who can be very temperamental. Just when you think you’ve found a good gas station, the cook will up and leave and the entire groove will be thrown off. A few months ago, I stopped at a place on my “favorites” list, somewhere near Prattville, and thought I was getting my beloved chicken fingers, but when I took the first bite, I knew something was amiss. Come to find out, the long-time cook had quit that Tuesday because the owner decided to spiff things up and add a little cup of edamame to the menu, and the cook said there was no way she was working under such new-aged conditions. By Saturday, she had found a better job cooking down at the Flora-Bama where she was also crowned Miss February Beach Babe. It worked out well for her, but I was left with dry, bland chicken that I tossed out the window to be discovered later by some unfortunate raccoons.

 

What I’m trying to tell you, is if you run into me down at the Fuel-A-Rama and I don’t speak, just know it’s because I’m ashamed and probably hiding a bag of fried macaroni and cheese bites. Peace be with me and Lord have mercy on my stomach.

 

This story first appeared on al.com and in the Press-Register, Birmingham News and Huntsville Times.

 

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  1. Ms. Leslie Anne:
    After seeing you looking so beautiful in your Christmas gown, do you know how hard it is for me to believe what you just confessed???
    Being a full figured gal, it has finally dawned on me to earnestly get some of this excess off, as the knees are already groaning, one has been replaced, and the other lined up! So, my last yearly, my Doc was delighted, I shed a few! Being a Yankee, I have embraced each and every Southern delicious treat, even grits. Any-way, I know the exact spot in Magnolia Springs, went inside one day, and there it was, temptations of every sort! The tater logs, get me every time! Enjoy, and give in every now and then, and the spinach smoothies, will redeem us! Still loving your articles!

    1. The older I get, the fewer “treats” I can manage! It’s not fair how when we finally discover delicious things we love, we’re too “advanced” to have them all the time! I didn’t appreciate the days when I was able to drink a strawberry milkshake every day. Good for you for keeping it under control!

  2. This is hilarious! Can’t say that I’ve eaten a lot of gas station food, BUT! Have you eaten the fried chicken from Dodge’s in Foley? OMGoodness! It starts calling my name when I turn onto 59. That said, I am waaay overdue a trip to Foley and I hope Dodge’s hasn’t gone and hired one of those fancy chefs.

    1. Emily, do I need to move you to my “prissy friend list?” Come on, confess . . . haven’t you had one tiny little fried chicken liver on some backwoods country road?

  3. ha! I smile every time I pass that Piggie BBQ station in Magnolia Springs! We all have our secret little vices, it’s called being human I think…I never have trusted anyone who seems “perfect!”

    1. In that case I’m completely trustworthy!

      Was hoping someone knew where that sign was. It has faded a bit since I first took the photo, but the food is still good.

  4. I knew you were my kind of girl at heart LA!! Lol! But….you totally left out my fav…the FRIED pork skins and cracklings!! See, my mouth is watering already. Chase all this down with a Dr. Pep or sweet tea…that’s all she wrote! Now, MY confession is…I don’t have a healthy side. When someone says, “I need a grease fix”….. I am sitting there mumbling under my breath, “I am a walking southern grease fix!” (Shame on me…..I need to eat more “healthily”….is that even a word?)….oh we’ll, I think about that tomorrow!

    1. Dear Scarlett O’Hara, you gave yourself away with the, “I’ll think about it tomorrow” attitude! I do believe we all have a wicked side, and you will most DEFINITELY be discussed at the next meeting of the Committee for the Preservation of Loveliness. The added bonus of you making up words (that I totally understand) gets you more southern points.

  5. Great story! I literally laughed out loud as I read! 🙂 There is a gas station a couple of blocks from where I work… they sell large (huge) fountain drinks for 69 cents. The girls and I take turns making diet coke runs for the office! Right beside the drink machine sits the warmer for the hot dogs and sausages. Cheap and tasty! I love them! I pretend right along with the other girls they’re just nasty… like totally! ha! What would they think if they knew I secretly craved them? 😉 ~Rhonda

  6. Leslie Anne- I definitely do not belong on your “prissy friend list”– Though I am late to read this entertaining article, I want to share my tip with someone who appreciates the finest of gas station fare—
    TIP: Drive the scenic route, Natchez Trace, to the lovely southern town of Oxford, Mississippi–
    Arrive hungry and stop at the Chevron Station near Ole Miss campus— Order up two of the delicious “chicken on a stick”– for a meal to die for–!! This item is boneless white chicken, fried golden and juicy–attached to a bamboo like handle– Nothing tastier, trust me!! (This is why one is not enough) — YUM!!

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