Get It While It’s Hot: Gas Station, Roadside, and Convenience Cuisine in the US South

deadline for submissions: 
December 16, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Shelley Ingram

Convenience stores and gas stations that serve food exist nationwide, yet the full meal options available to patrons in the US South appears to be something of an anomaly. The menus at these southern roadside establishments look like they could be found at any restaurant, offering items from fried chicken and potato logs to collard greens and cornbread to sausage biscuits and roast beef po-boys. But unlike traditional or fast food restaurants, gas stations and other roadside food providers are sustained by the traveler. For the traveler, roadside or gas station food allows a brief respite and the comfort of hot food while away from home. But for locals, such food places are an important and relatively stable part of their culinary landscape, particularly in rural communities that are car-dependent. While the first drive-through fast food restaurant in Vancleave, MS, didn’t open until 2022, for example, the gas station had been feeding local families for well over 30 years. Conventional thinking may identify such meals as not being “good to eat,” to use Marvin Harris’ phrase, but these options cannot be dismissed as simply “low-quality gas station fare,” as they are often prepared with care and offer tasty alternatives to homogenized snack foods. Embedded in such notions of what is “good” or “bad” to eat, then, are the stigmas attached to easily accessible and cheap foods, often dismissed because of people’s assumption about things like social class, education, and “bad taste.” 

 

We invite personal, ethnographic, and scholarly essays for an edited collection that considers the import of convenience cuisine in the US South. When we refer to convenience cuisine, we do not mean your traditional gas station microwavable fare, nor are we referring to the fast food franchises that are frequently attached to travel stops and gas stations. Instead, we are referring to establishments that offer diverse food options to its patrons, especially that of a hot plated meal. This collection proposes an interrogation of the historical and social utility of such convenience cuisine found in the roadside stands and gas stations of the region. Although Victor Green’s Negro Motorist Green Book was not restricted to the south, Black travelers utilized the guide to identify safe, and convenient, eating spaces. It is this spirit of resourcefulness, industriousness, and community-based resilience that this collection honors. 

 

Sample essay topics include but are not limited to: 

  • Utility and/or history of roadside food stands and gas station food

  • Social and community-building function of food trucks, gas station foods, and roadside vendors

  • Personal narratives related to convenience cuisine

  • Connections between convenience cuisine and health

  • Ethnographic profile of specific food providers

  • Role of socioeconomic class, race and ethnicity, and/or gender in shaping convenience cuisine

  • Rural vs. urban culinary landscapes

  • Physical and social mobility

  • Carnivalesque eating and the roadtrip 

  • Food shame and pride 

  • Food and community memory

 

Please submit abstracts of 300-500 words and a short bio to the editorial group by December, 16, 2022 using the following form: Get It While It's Hot abstract submission

 

Contributors will be notified of acceptance by January 31, 2023. Full essays of 4500-8000 words will be due June 30, 2023. 

 

For questions, please email all editors: 

Constance Bailey is an Assistant Professor of English at Georgia State University 

cbailey71@gsu.edu

 

Shelley Ingram is an Associate Professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette

shelley.ingram@louisiana.edu

 

Casey Kayser is an Associate Professor at the University of Arkansas. 

ckayser@uark.edu