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March 1-7, 2006

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Car Snacks

According to a researcher at the Culinary Institute of America, 19 percent of all meals and snacks are eaten in the car

By Novella Carpenter


I AM SHAMEFULLY late to report on a concept "car" unveiled in Los Angeles at the January car show there. But, as Willie Nelson says, the early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese. While you think on that, let me just say: GMC PAD. It's a giant blobject with eight wheels that looks like an RV designed by Gaudi. Inside there's an ultramodern living room, food-prep kitchen and even a spa.

Of course, there are appliances. We've got an espresso machine, XM satellite radio, plasma screens with DirecTV and WiFi. The engine is a diesel-electric hybrid system with solar panels to run all that gadgetry inside.

"An urban loft with mobility," the ad copy reads. "It's a home ownership concept that enables cultural and geographic freedom for the modern city dweller." What the people who designed this vehicle—GM West Coast Advanced Design Studio—don't realize is that this is a vehicle that people who live in highly congested areas would like drive to work. Roadwork up ahead with a two-hour delay? No problem, I'll go back to my space-age kitchen and make a coffee. Early to a business lunch? Why not park and take a nap in total luxury—and iron your pants while you're at it. Double manslaughter on I-5? I guess I'll watch a movie while I wait.

These days, we spend a lot of time in our cars. Take a trip to L.A. some time and add up the number of hours you spend in a vehicle—it's really astonishing. Because we squander so much time behind the wheel, it follows that we end up doing other things besides driving, like putting on makeup, talking on the cell phone, reading the paper and clipping our toenails (what—you don't?).

But overwhelmingly, we eat. According to a researcher at the Culinary Institute of America, 19 percent of all meals and snacks are eaten in the car. A huge market has sprung up around this trend. Check the "bar" aisle at Safeway. There are a million kinds of nutrition bars on the market now, promising ease, vitamins, and best of all, no car accidents.

I took a stroll down the supermarket aisle the other night, and I have a menu of items that are designed for eating directly in the driver's seat.

Go-Gurt. Oh God. Made by those faux-Euro kids at Yoplait, Go-gurt is basically yogurt in a funnel of plastic. "The first-ever yogurt in a tube!" Yoplait yells. Problem is, there isn't much nutritional value in the yogurt because the stuff is mostly sugar. With flavors like Cotton Candy and Berry Bubblegum Bash you have to wonder.

Crunch Pak apples. The subject of a recent article in The New York Times, Crunch Pak aims to take away the bad part of the apple—the core—and keep the good stuff by slicing up the fruit, dredging the stuff in citric acid and packaging the slices in plastic. For those of you who scoff—consider "baby" carrots and bagged salad greens.

Cereal bars with real milk inside. Yes, kids, now there's a Trix cereal bar. Why eat granola when you can have sugar cereal melded together into a rectangle? Plus, the whole thing has a layer of "real milk" running through it so you don't miss the calcium.

None of these foods seem healthy, so I went to the hippie co-op store to see what I could find. More convenience. But at least these snacks have some redeeming qualities.

Kettle chips. How could I advocate for potato chips? Easy. This Oregon-based company runs all its trucks on biodiesel made from the very oil the chips are fried in. Plus, the Salt and Vinegar flavor is a perfect symphony of sweet, sour and salty. Perfect for a drive down the coast.

Nutiva Hempseed organic bar. "All organic, rich in Omega-3+ protein" the bar shouted at me, and I bought into it. Yum! Eat while driving through Humboldt, if you know what I mean.

Vegan Supersour Gummi Bears. I have a thing for gummi bears and these are made with a simple concoction of dehydrated cane juice, corn malt syrup and fruit and vegetable juice concentrates. Yummy goodness for the drive-in.


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Novella Carpenter is a women not only obsessed with cars, but with protecting the environment. Her weekly column balances these two polar-opposite loves while providing handy tips and car-related news items.