Eating and driving is almost never as clean or easy as you’d like; most of the common foods you’re likely to drive and eat are at best awkward and at worst a filthy disaster. So instead of beating ourselves up about it, why don’t we find a way to make it better? I gave it a shot, and now someone needs to make it happen.
Sure, there’s some people who swear they’ll never eat in their car, and neither will you, you filthy bastard. For the rest of us, though, sooner or later there’s going to be a road trip or a lack of time or whatever, and we’ll find ourselves eating and driving.
Burgers and sandwiches can be mostly okay, but the ever present danger of sandwich slippage—that is, when the compressive force acting on the sandwich (including burgers) is overwhelmed by the lateral motion of the internal sandwich elements, often aided by friction-reducing condiments – makes even these common foodstuffs a potential lapful of ingredients.
Burritos can be fine, until they decide to eject their searing hot contents into your crotch from the other end of their body-tube. Tacos are a disaster of brittleness and rapid structural integrity loss. And almost everything leaves too many wrappers or other trash, your hands greasy or sticky, and you an unsatisfied, stained mess.
There’s got to be a better way.
I think the solution here is that a foodstuff needs to be developed with the car interior in mind, and with the realistic physical abilities of a driver engaged in the act of driving—even driving a stick shift.
Such a foodstuff needs to be durable enough to survive rough handling without compromising its integrity. It needs to be able to be consumed cleanly, and with minimal or no liquid spillage. It needs to be easy to store, transport, and hold with one hand, even if that hand is also holding a steering wheel or operating a gearshift.
And, of course, it needs to be delicious.
Here’s what I’m proposing: first, let’s talk overall scale and shape. Whatever this food is, it needs to be scaled both for a human hand and a car interior’s storage areas. It should combine multiple types of food into a single housing, allowing for a one-vessel meal to be consumed—no swapping of food types or delivery methods.
That’s why I think the ultimate driving food should be shaped and scaled exactly like a standard 12 oz. beverage can. Car cupholders have been designed with these cans in mind, so they have a place to sit, comfortably and with very easy access, in almost every car on the road.
This cylindrical shape is easy to hold as well, and there’s many existing products already available designed to store and transport objects of that size and shape.
The cylinder should be made of something edible; the housing of this food is an integral component of the meal itself, minimizing waste, plus there’s no wrappers to move or try and fold away to keep out of your mouth. The cylinder needs to be tough, and forgiving of being dropped on a potentially gross car mat or carpet. Ideally, it should wipe clean with a napkin.
That’s why I’ve chosen bagel dough as the material for the primary structure of the ultimate driving food. Bagel dough is boiled, a process that makes bagel dough dense, chewy, and rugged when cooked. The outer surface of a bagel is smooth and free of crumbs.
You can hold a bagel without needing to wash your hands afterwards, and a bagel could be dropped and easily wiped clean.
Plus, bagels are tough as hell. I’ve seen a bagel dropped out of a car and rolled down a street, suffering only what could be described as minor cosmetic damage. You could fling a bagel at full force against a stone wall and it would bounce right off, with no loss of flavor. And it’s chewy and delicious!
I’m thinking bagel dough would be used to form a cylinder with multiple chambers inside, separated by walls of bagel dough. I think a common default setup would be a three or four-chambered system: one full-3/4-length chamber for the main, or protein course, two chambers next to it, co-axial, that had some sort of ‘side’ courses in them, and then a chamber in the lower portion with some sort of ‘desert’ course.
These “courses” could be, really, pretty much anything that met some key criteria: the food in the chambers has to be something that can be eaten without fear of bones or shells or whatever, it needs to keep the liquidity/viscosity to fairly low levels, and it needs to be able to be packed into the chambers.
So, for example, picture one chamber filled with Carolina-style pork BBQ, with enough sauce to keep it moist but not too much to be runny. The other side’s two chambers could have, say, baked beans (again, not too liquidy) and mac and cheese. For dessert, maybe there’s some kind of peach cobbler at the bottom?
This isn’t some bullshit fucking Hot Pocket here: Hot Pockets violate all the rules. Interior materials too viscous, and often scalding hot, an outer casing prone to rupture and fissures... they’re a joke. A sick goddamn joke. This is completely different.
The point is, you can pack a huge variety of stuff in such a vessel. Hummus and olives, chili and corn, molé chicken and Spanish rice, gumbo, couscous, whatever. Hot, cold, it really doesn’t matter, as long as the basic rules are followed.
To eat these cylinders of satisfaction, you just hold it and bite. You can eat from one side, then the other, however you want. If you want to pause, and you haven’t done anything stupid like chewing random holes all in it, you can just set it on its base in any of the 40 cupholders your car probably has, and pick it back up when you’re ready.
If you drop it, damage should be quite minimal, especially if an intact outer bagel-skin section hits the floor first. If everything is cooked and constructed like I’m hoping, I think you could even stomp on one without it shooting a wet splorch all over the place.
I’m imagining that these could be made and sold a variety of ways: individually-wrapped and sold mass-produced ones, able to be microwaved or eaten cold, ones sold in large packs, and ones made by local bakeries and restaurants, sold unpackaged and ready-to-eat.
These things will revolutionize car-eating, you’ll see. Now I just need a name for them. Fillinders? Canoods? Editubes? Toods, maybe, like ‘tube’ and ‘food?’ Or, similarly, Fubes? Foobs?
I’ll keep thinking about a name, but I’m open to suggestions. Also, I’m planning on a follow-up article where I somehow convince a real chef to make one of these to actually try. If you’re a chef, and you’re interested, please let me know.
Together, we can change the world of car-eating. FOREVER.