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Car-Battery Cooking Is Actually A Bad Idea — Here Are Some Better Ones


Last weekend, we offered you some really bad advice, and we're sorry about that. It came from a musician who does a lot of driving, and he had a tip for making food on the road. Jalan Crossland suggested making a cake by using a small tin, kind of like an Altoids container, and then wiring it to a car battery. Crossland now tells us he was just joking because - guess what? - that is actually a really terrible idea. Connecting anything other than battery cables to vehicle battery terminals is dangerous. They can cause a fire and potentially damage the vehicle or injure the driver and passengers.

So instead of cooking in your car or on your car, we have a better idea. Cook food in your house, get it in a takeout restaurant, bring it on the road or pick it up on the drive. It'll probably taste better anyway. But what should you eat in the car? Is there such a thing as the perfect road trip food? For that, we turn to Dan Pashman. He's the host of The Sporkful podcast. He's got some suggestions. Hey, Dan.


MARTIN: OK, when you're about to set on a big old road trip, what are the criteria you use to evaluate good road trip food?

PASHMAN: Yeah, I think there's a few things you want to look for. First, you want something you can eat with your hands with minimal mess.


PASHMAN: This is not fork and knife time, OK, in the car, right?

MARTIN: (Laughter) No sporks.

PASHMAN: That's right. Even the mighty spork has its limits.


PASHMAN: The other thing you want to think about is durability. You're going to make this food either the night before you're leaving or the morning of. It's probably going to sit in its wrapper for a number of hours, maybe overnight. You don't want something that's got a lot of...

MARTIN: Sauces. Sauces are bad.

PASHMAN: ...Like, you make a sandwich - right. Right, if you put a lot of mayo on your sandwich and then it sits, the bread - you know, for hours - the bread could turn soggy. So you need something that's going to be durable.

MARTIN: All right. So like what?

PASHMAN: Well, to me, the ultimate road trip food is peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

MARTIN: Interesting. I thought you would say something far more exotic, but you're going just, like, basic, utilitarian PB&J.

PASHMAN: But, look, the thing about the PB&J is it's got a little sweetness, so, like, you know, you can eat it in the morning if you want something - like, something sweet in the morning. It's got peanut butter, so it has protein. But if you want something more exotic, I recommend peanut butter and gochujang. It's a Korean hot sauce or chili paste. It's kind of been billed as the Korean sriracha, but that's, you know, kind of just what they say to make it familiar to white people. It's its own thing and wonderful. It's a little sweeter than sriracha and thicker, but it goes amazingly, amazingly well with peanut butter.

MARTIN: I can see that. Like, a spicy peanut sauce kind of thing.

PASHMAN: That's right. That's exactly what it tastes like. But it's thick, so it doesn't ooze out of your sandwich. It holds up in the sandwich.

MARTIN: Love it. All right, second most important question. We've now gone over the ideal road trip foods. But what - talk to me about technique. I know it's something you've thought about.


MARTIN: How do you eat food in the car effectively and safely?

PASHMAN: Well, it depends on your position in the car. If you're a kid in the back seat, then you make a giant mess because that's your - it's your job to ruin the trip for your parents.


PASHMAN: But if you're one of the two people in the front, there's an interesting social dynamic, I think, that exists there 'cause the driver is in charge of transporting people safely, so the passenger undertakes an onus to look out for the driver.

MARTIN: Their nutritional health. Yeah, it should be part of their responsibility in the road trip.

PASHMAN: Right, 'cause you want that driver to be alert...


PASHMAN: ...And in good spirits so that they can get you where you're going.

MARTIN: You're saying that person has to feed the driver.

PASHMAN: Feed the driver or at least, like, you know - or so for instance, in my family, my wife is the driver. I am the passenger. I'm in charge of snacks and navigation, OK? So that means that part of my job - as I see it - in the car is to tell my wife how she might want to eat her sandwich in order to get the most deliciousness, and sometimes that's perceived as helpful (laughter).

MARTIN: Any other car eating tactical tips?

PASHMAN: Well, let's say you pull over and you buy food at a restaurant on the side of the road or a fast food place. I struggle with, like, how do you dip the fries into the ketchup while driving, you know, 'cause you want to dip on a per-bite basis. You don't want to just cover your fries with ketchup 'cause that's gross and they'll turn soggy. Take the paper wrapper from the burger or sandwich or whatever it is and press it into your cup holder. And you can now squirt ketchup directly into your cup holder or fill it with fries, whatever you want, and now you have a handy-dandy dipping station. You could use one cup holder for the fries and one cup holder for the dip...

MARTIN: Genius.

PASHMAN: ...And now it's easy access for the driver without having to take their eyes off the road much.

MARTIN: I love it.

PASHMAN: You know, you've got to think - you know, the interior of a car these days is a bit of a blank canvas. And there are so many different sort of flat surfaces and curved surfaces that you can retrofit to your needs if you just kind of think outside the box - or the car, as the case may be.

MARTIN: That's Dan Pashman. He's the host of The Sporkful podcast from WNYC studios. Hey, Dan, thanks so much.

PASHMAN: Thanks, Rachel. Good luck on your next drive.

MARTIN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.