The greatest display of jerky I even did see was at a truckstop somewhere around Fort Stockton, TX.
I remember this because MJ and I both commented at the time that this was indeed the greatest display of jerky we had ever seen. We were on the road from San Diego to New Orleans, and as Texas just happens to be between the two we spent a few days exploring the Lone Star state.
Now please, before you go marking me as some East Coast ninny who wouldn't understand Texas even if I switched brains with a longhorn, know that I've got family in Houston and friends in the state's capitol.
Ok. Now you can go on marking me as an East Coast ninny.
It's the truth: I don't freaking understand Texas.
My first impression of Texas came driving south from Alamogordo, NM. We had visited near the Trinity test site and were on our way to El Paso. From the first city to the next, we followed one straight two-lane highway. Every now and then a car would pass us doing 120mph. F-16s were actually more common traveling companions. On either side of the road every three miles or so stood a sign reading: 'Do not leave vehicle. Beware live munitions'.
So it was a surprise to us as we entered the great state of Texas that, despite the fact that there was no sudden increase in the amount of traffic we'd encountered in the desert, we were now driving on an eight-lane highway.
Must get busy out there in the middle of nowhere during rush hour. (Ok. Ok. Sorry. That was ninny-ish of me to say.)
Anyhow, we ended up blowing through El Paso and figured we could hit San Antonio by nightfall.
I think there must be some sort of space-time problem going on out there in West Texas. Because, I swear, it took us four hours to travel 50 miles at 110mph.
We ended up in Fort Stockton.
A couple of interesting things along the road to Fort Stockton and just beyond. We were lucky enough to find a restaurant dedicated (in a cultish way) to the NFL announcer John Madden. Kinda freaky. We also saw the world's largest wood carving of a woodpecker. Impressive.
When we pulled into town, we found the local convenience store to ask if there was a safe place to camp for the night. Lady behind the counter was as kind as could be. She closed up shop, led us to her trailer park, and gave us a free pad. With all due sincerity, it's folks like these who make America great.
We awoke the next morning having survived a blistering windstorm that literally would have blown us away in the night had we not secured our tent with metal spikes. We had the rain-cover over the tent and in the middle of the night, a particularly evil-looking, but somehow pathetically adorable cat wandered between it and our hemisphere. All night it just stood there, hiding out from the wind, watching us.
The next morning we took off towards San Antonio. And out there along that highway, we found the jerky.
Now, it should be stated that neither MJ nor I eat beef jerky. I haven't had a taste of cow since I was a teenager. But something about that Texas truckstop brought out the appreciation I have within me for people who love their local cuisine.
For here before us stood a nine-foot tall bulletproof cabinet of the finest and most varietal beef jerkies known to humankind. It was truly a sight to behold and an image I will never forget.
MJ used the bathroom. I got a cup of coffee and a pack of Swedish Fish.
Yeah, I'm a ninny.
Now, you think that would be the end of the story. And on any reasonable blog, it would be. But this is no reasonable blog. And so, I submit to you:
I spent years in the wilderness wondering what I had missed in not purchasing any of the finest and most varietal beef jerkies West Texas had to offer. I questioned my beliefs. Shook a feeble fist everytime I passed a poster of Gandhi.
But then. One day. Someone by the name of Stonewall entered my life and saved my jerky-soul.
Stonewall is the producer of "the incredible, animal free, all natural, jerky substitute"!
Yes! Because if there is one thing a vegetarian needs: it's a jerky substitute.
In fact, the stuff is made out of defatted soy flour, yeast, wheat, and spices.
And it's a damn fine jerky.
I eat it every chance I get. And that's why now, next time I'm in West Texas, I'll be able to go up to the counter and say, "Gimme some Stonewall's".
To which they'll likely reply, "Bug off, you East Coast ninny".