An Epicurean’s Guide to Saving Dragstrip Cuisine


Jeff Burk Photo

've been noticing an alarming trend in the menu offerings at the dragstrip. The only big show dragstrip that I regularly patronize is Pomona, so it may be that it’s just an L.A. thing, but beware! Like a health-conscious kudzu, what starts here in California will inevitably make its way east.

There is an insidious plot at hand to eliminate what we, as Americans, have rightfully earned on our plates. Forget what the food guide pyramid says. The only four food groups that I want to eat at the track are sugar, starch, salt and grease and preferably all together in one food item. If you don’t believe that Kettle Korn is nature’s perfect food, then you Philistines can go watch Wimbledon and eat strawberries. And I don‘t mean the strawberry jam on top of a funnel cake, I mean real strawberries. Raw! Uncooked! With the stems still on them!

Cotton candy, deep-fried Snickers and anything else that can be eaten on-a-stick - these make up the cultural patchwork of our gastronomic heritage. However, at the track, a place where we should find refuge from Dr. Atkins and relief from the South Beach Diet, these foods are systematically and ruthlessly being replaced by paper mache “food” designed to make us “healthy”.

“Why? Why?” You may ask, “Aren’t cheesesteak and brats sufficient sustenance to get us to from the beer garden to the grandstand?” Yes! Yes, they are! However, I suspect that the food shift is merely a symptom of a larger conspiracy to blind people to the fact that drag racing is the Johnny Knoxville of sports. The belief being, if we lull them with low-fat, reduced-carb crepes, perhaps they will begin to believe that this really is Formula One they are watching. Or perhaps the tracks may just be looking at the bottom line, or maybe our bottom line, figuring that if we’re all skinnier, they can fit more bodies in the stands.
Why haven’t the dragstrip journalists picked up on this disturbing trend and raised the hue and cry about the decimation of our legacy? They have been duped into believing that there is no problem. After all, the NHRA has been serving them the same box lunch of a dry turkey sandwich and mushy apple for years. Perhaps that’s why no one has taken up the battle.

This is a cultural war, people. It’s not just a matter of mere sensory delight, although, you will be hard-pressed to find anything more delectable than the white flour, powdered sugar and yummy artery-clogging grease of an elephant ear. Dragstrip food is essential to our racing experience. The frosty chill of soft serve in a waffle cone cools us in the noonday heat of qualifying while the sugar simultaneously heightens our excitement and/or ADHD. The yellow-colored water topped with a piquant dollop of foam that we like to call “beer” allows us to get inebriated and make expensive losing bets with our neighbors. And, of course, the insistent rubberiness of the tri-tip sandwich keeps us from falling asleep during Pro Stock.

The steady decline in dragstrip food can be mapped. First, there were baked potatoes slowly replacing the fries, then corn on the cob and then wine appeared at the beer stand. Okay, it was wine from a box, but it was still wine nonetheless, the beverage choice of the French, fer chrissake! It was only a matter of time before a Panda Express stand appeared at the track. Yes, they really have a Panda Express stand here at Pomona, and not only that, they are serving a steamed veggie bowl over rice. Vegetables! Steamed! At the racetrack! Any “vegetable” that is not white, starchy, battered and deep fried in beef fat makes me wary. Can you picture John Force noshing on a broccoli stalk? No doubt the next time I’m at the track, I’ll open my fortune cookie and a find a message from Mao Tse-tung exhorting me to overthrow the imperialism of McDonald’s.

If we don’t stop this war on chili cheese fries, I’m afraid that one of the most distinctive parts of our dragstrip culture will go the way of Top Gas, dry hops and three-point roll cages. I think that the president could make some sort of constitutional amendment banning any green foodstuffs at the track (with a clause that allows for lime Sno-cones), but you might run into the states rights folks and by the time it got passed by Congress, we’d probably be relegated to eating raw cabbage. Okay, maybe raw cabbage on a stick.

It’s gone past the point where we could roll back track fare to a time when Velveeta-drenched nachos were considered healthy. However, we may be able to save our history in some sort of modified form. Take a look at Hawaii, for example. The ancient Hawaiian cuisine was rescued through the re-creation of the luau. No one actually eats poi (ancient Hawaiian wallpaper paste) except tourists visiting Hawaii. Perhaps we could take a tip and create parties which we simulate the dragstrip food stands of yore. We could have a ceremony where instead of raising the Kailua pig from it’s smoky pit we could beat drums as the corn dog is reverently lifted from its oily vat and the tourists “ooh!” and “ahh!”

Am I the only one that sees the inevitable coming? If we, the drag racing public don’t say “no!“ to bok choy now, we’ll be forced to eat brown rice and drink soy milk shakes later. The dragstrip is supposed to be a place of indulgence, not a place to get healthy. If that’s the case, then why stop at food? Why not install treadmills in the tower suites? They can serve alfalfa sprouts at the track all they want, but as for me, they will have to pry the deep-fried Oreo (on-a-stick) from my cold, dead hand.

Previous Story
Chicks 'n' Slicks with Pammy Utterback — 8/9/04
A Heart-to-Heart with the NHRA


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