There’s nothing like a road trip through the great state of Wyoming to make me think about guilty pleasures. Not to pick on Wyoming — actually one of my favorite states; there’s something truly soul-stirring about a place where you can drive for hours through vast emptiness with the Wind River mountains in the distance — but, Jackson’s high-end-cowboy-slash-pricey-ski-town restaurants aside, Wyoming is not exactly known for its culinary scene. Aside from Obo’s Market in Pinedale, which offers a fairly wide variety of medium-healthy deli-type food, our options consisted mainly of gas stations and the dodgy-looking establishments that line the intersection of highway 191 and I-80 in Rock Springs.
So, when your choices are all kinda bad, I guess I think you should go with the best, right? Keeping in mind that this is NOT an everyday occurrence, I decided to get into the true spirit of a road trip and eat a sampling of the really good bad things I am ashamed to say I love. Various roadside stops yielded everything from Coconut M&M’s to chicken enchiladas and of course David’s Pumpkin Seeds, which have always been my road trip secret weapon.
Whether it’s the Lays potato chips or other junk food you grew up eating or the Dr. Peppers you drank at junior high camp-outs, there’s something about guilty food pleasures that can make one (i.e. me) feel young and slightly reckless. That said, I do think a big part of the pleasure I get from eating these illicit (by which I mean highly processed, artificially flavored, and/or full of sugar, chemicals, and bad fats) items comes from the fact that I don’t do it very often. As Michael Pollan says in his book Food Rules, “treat treats as treats.” If I ate Nutter Butters every day, I might not think they were so FANTASTIC. And my kids might not get quite such a charge from Nacho Cheese Doritos if they were allowed to have them for lunch at school (okay, maybe they would).
So, here my personal choices for when I want to eat bad:
- David’s Pumpkin Seeds (the ultimate salty road trip snack)
- Nutter Butters (on this trip I discovered Nutter Butter bites, which you can eat like popcorn, oh dear)
- Smartfood (My husband loves to point out that it’s a total misnomer and really should be called Dumbfood; whatever, it’s delish.)
- Coca-Cola (not diet and preferably from Mexico, where it’s still made with old fashioned sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup)
- Cool Ranch Doritos (here’s a funny tidbit: in Iceland they’re called “Cool American” — how awesome is that?)
- Good Humor Ice Cream Sandwiches (any brand will do I guess)
- Oreos (still looking for the best trans-fat free alt-Oreo; haven’t found it yet, but you can bet I will blog about it when I do!)
- Taco Bell crunchy tacos (they are SO bad but oh-so good)
- And of course candy (my personal favorites are Almond Joy, Swedish Fish, and Bit-o-Honey).
Just so you guys aren’t too horrified by this post, I want you to know that when we got home (at 8 p.m. after driving since 7 a.m.), I promptly went to Whole Foods and stocked the house with abundant, healthy foods and reminded the family that we’re going sugar- and junk free for the foreseeable future. My kids were so sick of Twizzlers and beef jerky that they happily dove into my impromptu, no-cook supper of Sonoran-style (i.e. with avocado) Gazpacho, green salad, and whole wheat tortillas.
Okay, so I came clean. Now, what bad foods (if you can call them that) do you secretly crave?