Guide to Saving Dragstrip Cuisine
Jeff Burk Photo
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
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!”
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.
A Heart-to-Heart with the NHRA