By Charlie Morasch, contributing writer
Lynn Paul looks forward to her evening meal time on the road as much as when she’s home.
When she’s 20 miles from her destination, Lynn often stops, walks into her sleeper and pours some refrigerated leftovers into her slow cooker.
By the time she’s parked, her truck is full of the smell of home-cooked buffalo chili or split bean soup.
“I rarely eat anything I didn’t make when I go out,” said Lynn, an OOIDA member and 15-year trucking veteran who has equipped her 2012 Freightliner Cascadia with a large inverter that can accommodate a number of household cooking appliances. “If you want to eat real food, that’s what you have to do.”
Once known primarily as a working homemaker’s best friend, slow cookers and other small appliances are increasingly used by truck drivers who have capable electricity and who want to control every ingredient they eat.
In an unscientific web poll survey on landlinemag.com, 54 percent of respondents said they cooked in their truck. Of the respondents who didn’t, about 15 percent said they would cook in their trucks if they could.
Lynn said she once used low-power slow cookers sold at truck stops but found they cooked too slowly and weren’t durable.
Instead, Lynn now uses an Aroma brand cooker that can heat up a meal in 15 to 20 minutes.
Lynn said she began avoiding restaurants a few years ago when she developed internal pain that doctors blamed on her gall bladder. After she cut most gluten products from her diet, the problem was solved.
“My doctors didn’t believe it,” Lynn said, “but once I stopped eating gluten the pain just went away.”
Lynn and her husband, Daniel Paul, occasionally find their West Coast routes meet together, allowing them to park their his-and-her Cascadias nearby to share a meal and company.
“He still eats a lot of frozen stuff,” Lynn said of her husband.
Methods for cooking soups, chili and other meals came up during a discussion on cooking on the road at Land Line Magazine’s page on Facebook.com.
Land Line reader Christopher Potvin told a group of commenters he frequently slow cooks in his truck.
Potvin said he uses spices to mix up the flavor of his meals.
“You can eat the same thing five days in a row and have it taste different each day,” Potvin wrote. “My biggest challenge was keeping fresh fruits and veggies in the truck.”
Fresh fruits and vegetables are one thing OOIDA Members Christa and Patrick Fedarko don’t lack.
Ever since Christa learned she suffered from food allergies, the couple has made nearly every meal they eat in their truck. Controlling every ingredient allows the Fedarkos to avoid the danger of Christa having an allergic reaction.
“My husband is the true cook,” Christa said, with a laugh. “We’ve been out for like the last eight months, and we have yet to eat at a truck stop.”
To eat healthy foods, Christa said the couple avoids buying groceries at truck stops and uses a slow cooker with a strap-down lid. Most of their meals are gluten and dairy free.
“They charge outrageous prices at the truck stops and you don’t know how fresh it is,” Fedarko said. “The crock pot is great because if you’re doing your hours-of-service reset, you can make things and freeze them.”
Instead, the couple frequently finds grocers close to their routes and buys foods that work with their in-cab kitchen.
For egg omelets, the Fedarkos prefer buying cartons of Egg Beaters rather than egg cartons. Egg substitutes are low in fat and pour easily into their plastic microwaveable omelet maker.
“Instead of having eggs to have to crack and dump in there, we pour the Egg Beaters and throw in peppers, onions and cheese,” Christa said. “It takes three minutes and it’s better than omelets at most restaurants.
“We’ve once waited at a shipper and cooked an omelet while we waited,” she said.
The Fedarkos, who met while working as police officers in Atlanta, decided to downsize their suburban lifestyle a few years ago to live and work on the road. Their more self-reliant meals actually fit right in with their new life.
The only thing the couple upsized were the appliances on their 2007 Freightliner Columbia straight truck, which features a powerful inverter and an APU. Inside, the couple has an RV-sized refrigerator, freezer and convection oven in their sleeper.
“We were looking at our lives, looking at how much we were spending our lives chasing dollars to pay for things like getting a better car,” Christa said. “The whole time you’re worried about, ‘what if someone breaks in and takes our stuff?’”
Of course, the Fedarkos’ truck has its creature comforts.
Besides the refrigerator and freezer, the expediter truck features a sink, recliner and flat-screen television – all enjoyed while the couple munches on fresh fruit and vegetables.
“We don’t plan on going home until Christmas time,” Christa said. “Why go home when we have everything we need right here?” LL