Many things have changed over the years for drivers. The ability to eat out of our trucks has progressed significantly since the 1970s when I first got my “Class 1” license. Back then, if you wanted to save time and/or money, you carried a cooler, got a bag of ice, some cold-cuts, a condiment or two, and a loaf of bread. Then, you would have cold sandwiches, maybe cold sodas, add some chips and, viola – a “meal” on the go! Not very glamorous or healthy, but quick and easy, for sure. It was also available whenever it was needed, which was priceless.
We, collectively, came up with solutions for warm food too, as cold sandwiches got really old, really fast. One of our favorites was to put things on the manifold while running down the road or while idling, but that had its own problems and didn’t always work out too well! Manufacturers started coming out with 12-volt refrigerators in the early 80s. I remember getting our first 6-pack-sized one around 1984, and life was changed forever. Now, we could carry drinks, as well as a small amount of food that needed refrigeration, and not have to worry about messing around with ice. It was amazing. Not long after that, small appliances began to appear that were also 12-volt – things like a hot pot for boiling water, frying pans, slow cookers, etc.
Today, all of these modern conveniences and more are available for trucks, including 110 models (with a standard house plug), that can be powered by inverters or APUs. Cooking in the truck has grown into an art form for many drivers, both while running down the road and when stopped. It has become a true way of life for many, and we would like to share some of their stories, as well as their recipes, with our readers. This month we are featuring Emily Allen and Mike Wolford of Dedicated Systems out of Green Bay, WI. Their “Drive & Dine” cafe comes in the form of a 2017 Freightliner Cascadia Evolution. Both Emily and Mike had nice things to say about the owner of their company, Mike Hintz Sr., who really cares about his drivers.
Emily and Mike met in high school, almost 30 years ago, in Michigan. They were friends but never more than that. Two years ago, Mike went back home for a visit and they reconnected. Shortly thereafter, they began a relationship. Not long after that, Mike started asking Emily to take a vacation and join him on the truck for a week. Eventually, she agreed – and never looked back. Emily joined Mike on the truck full-time in March of 2016 and is in the process of getting her CDL. Once she has it, they will be a driving team.
When asked how she got started cooking in the truck, Emily told me that Mike had always done some cooking on his own and that they had talked about it prior to the move. He told her about some Facebook pages (Big Truck Cooking and Big Trucks Cooking) so she joined a couple of them, made some friends and got inspired.
The day he picked her up in Michigan, Mike took Emily to Walmart and told her to get anything she wanted for her truck kitchen – and she did! She now has a fully set-up kitchen, including appliances, refrigerator/freezer, spices, utensils, inverter, everything one would need to store, prepare, cook, serve and clean up in the truck. They also have a small propane grill strapped to the deck plate, which they use often. Emily is pretty new to our industry but I, for one, am pleased to welcome her.
For this recipe, Emily’s Steak Fajitas, we are going to be using the Hot Logic mini (which can be purchased online), because this model can be used with a small 300-watt inverter or in the 12V configuration, so more drivers will be able to use it as a way to get started on this cooking adventure. You will need: steak, green, yellow and red peppers, onions, a package of fajita seasoning, tortillas (Emily uses flour), grated cheddar cheese, salsa and/or taco sauce. For those in a time crunch or who don’t have an entire kitchen set up yet, you can usually find pre-marinated fajitas in the Meat Department at most grocery stores that are already sliced and include the peppers and onions.
If you are doing it all yourself, you need to slice up the meat, peppers and onions, put them into a large ziplock bag, add the fajita seasoning, and marinade according to directions. You can do this an hour or two before cooking or, even better, the night before, leaving them to marinade in your refrigerator, until you are ready to dump them into the Hot Logic. The appealing thing about this particular appliance is the fact that it will cook your food, no matter what it is, until it’s done, then keep it warm until you are ready to eat it. Emily says (like almost everyone who uses it), “It’s just like magic!” This appliance can be used with a glass casserole dish with a cover or with the aluminum throw-away types, whichever you prefer. Put the dish into the Hot Logic, zip it up, plug it in, and let it do its thing! Your truck will soon be filled with those homemade smells of good, healthy cooking, while trucking along down the road. Amazing!
When dinner time rolls around, get out the tortillas, pop them into the microwave for 30 seconds (if you don’t have one in your truck you can either use the one inside the truck stop or remove the dish from the cooker and warm them inside it for a short time), scoop the mixture into the tortillas, add cheese and salsa or taco sauce, and serve up. As Emily says, “Easy peasy!” After eating, get out the anti-bacterial wipes and clean-up is a breeze, as well. Simple, healthy, delicious and budget-friendly – sounds like a winning combination, to me. Enjoy!