Foods & Culinary

A safe place to restock

Scanning the aisles of small, locally run petrol stations in the south is like stepping back in time. Few other places stock Necco Wafers, Mary Janes, Bit-O-Honeys, and old-school Chick-O-Sticks alongside foods like pickled eggs, pickled sausages, stomachs, grilled dishes, and pound cakes. At the Dodge’s Southern StyleAt a gas station between Ravenel and Johns Island, South Carolina, you’ll find fried chicken, cookies, fried pies, and country ham on the menu alongside a variety of nabs (crackers with peanut butter or cheese) and all the fries you can imagine. At the Spinx, a chain of gas stations with locations in the south, they have rice and beans, mac and cheese conveniently contained in an easy-to-carry bowl, or loaded cookie sandwiches with all the fixins to take with you and take out on the street.

In the south, you can eat your fill on Sundays while filling up your tank. Yet unchangeable as the gas station appears to be, that convenience – especially the accessibility of this type of convenience – has evolved. What seems so conventional to us today, being able to stop at almost every gas station and have a good, inexpensive meal, is rooted in the survival and entrepreneurship of blacks. And of course, the great foods you’ll find at southern gas stations have their roots in African American culture.

On the first pages of your book Build houses out of chicken legs, Psyche A. Williams-Forson writes that in the decades after emancipation and before most people could afford a car, Black women brought food from their homesThese include cookies, hot coffee, fried chicken, and boiled eggs to be sold to weary travelers at train stops. These entrepreneurs walked on the platforms outside each car, and travelers of all backgrounds opened their windows for a bite of home-cooked food; They became known as “waiter porters” because many had to travel long distances between their kitchen and the stations where their customers were waiting.

In the south, these travelers were not free to advertise somewhere for food and accommodation. in the Travel blackAuthor Mia Bay notes that a black traveler named Joseph K. Bowler told a reporter that he had never traveled south without a “Jim Crow travel kit,” which included food and a small hob to cook on. There was no question of using the dining car on the train. Bowler remarked, “The dining car is a closed society for our people.” The travel kit would become commonplace for black travelers on and off trains, especially in the south. In the same interview, Bowler said that Chicago Defender“White people below the Mason Dixon line claim that we are animals, practically camels, and that we can go several days without food or water.”

With industrialization in the early 20th century, the wagons became more modern, and with the addition of air conditioning and dining cars, the need for waiter carriers ended. But they were an early example of how black women gained economic security through the New Era, and they literally provided a lifeline for both grocery sellers and black men traveling to job opportunities during that time.

For the blacks, any type of trip through the south was an uncertain prospect. The airlines used special codes to keep blacks off flights or to give white passengers their seats. Planes stopping in the south would allow white passengers to get off the plane to eat in airport restaurants, while Bay said “blacks were told to stay on the plane and have lunch boxes.” Not even popular black public figures were exempt from being racially attacked while traveling. Fly from California to Florida one summer, famous baseball player Jackie Robinson and his wife brought a large supply of groceries (including sandwiches) that his mother had made for her trip. Robinson may have been embarrassed that his mother had packed his lunch, but the food came in handy when Robinson and his wife entered Jim Crow South. They were removed from their New Orleans and Pensacola flights to make room for white passengers and were not allowed to eat at any of the roadside restaurants or gas stations they encountered.

A black man and a black woman are talking on a bench that is separated from other whites by a barrier.

A bus station in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1956 remains segregated despite a Supreme Court ruling prohibiting segregation of city buses.

Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images

Even after the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964 and “Whites Only” signs disappeared from public places, the glaring racism of Jim Crow South persisted, especially in restaurants, hotels, airports, bus and gas stations. While blacks could easily travel in their own car, the journeys were often exceptionally long as the most direct route was not always the safest. Stopping in the wrong city at any time of the day could quickly end a family vacation as black travelers are driven out of town or worse. And the places where blacks were safe to grab a quick bite or even use the toilet were few and far between. Thus, many families continued the tradition of packaging foods that traveled well-baked goods, foods that were preserved using methods such as pickling or hardening, and foods like those that the waiters once sold, such as chicken and cookies. It was important that these foods could be kept at room temperature for hours because while some families were able to pack a cool box to the brim before storing it in easily accessible and affordable cold storage, most blacks packed foods in brown bags and Shoebox have something to eat on their travels.

The groceries packed in these makeshift lunch boxes are the same foods you find at southern gas stations today: fried chicken and pork chops, well-eaten hot or cold, hard-boiled and pickled eggs, and slices of sweet potato pie that don’t need forks . Many black families used the funds they had saved by selling their groceries as waiters to open their own lodges, inns, gas stations, and small restaurants for black travelers who lived or moved on the newly created roads and railways that served the South to south connected the rest of the country during the great migration.

During the civil rights era and beyond, black-owned gas stations also served as restaurants – one-stop shops for black customers who often came across restaurants that served them but prohibited them Use of the toilets, and gas stations where they cannot refuel. To the owners of these street shops, serving food was just as important as providing gas. That was the food Main breadwinner for black-owned gas stations across the country and especially those in The Negro Motorist Green Book, Victor Hugo Green published List of Safe Places for Black Travelers in the United States. By providing food that was as easy to transport and profitable as it was in the days of the train carriage, gas stations could serve travelers who were already used to seasoning chicken and cookies with tea towels and peeling others who had started to travel more .

Two years after the Civil Rights Act The Negro Motorist Green Book Its publication ceased, and as time went on, blacks were less exposed to the overt racism they once dealt with while traveling. It is not to say that these acts do not still occur; Over the years we have seen many examples of black men, women and children being mistreated (arrested, beaten and even killed) because of the color of their skin, especially at Hotels, Restaurants, Gas stations and Convenience stores. But as states stopped discriminatory practices and the national highway system grew, black communities and economic opportunity expanded, and ownership of black gas stations and roadside restaurants declined. Currently there is only 29 gas stations in black ownership across the country compared to the dozen operating in the Green book in its prime.

But the remaining black gas stations are reclaim the narrative of the food they once served to build businesses and Communityto keep the roadside one-stop shop – and the spirit of black entrepreneurship – alive.

Rural areas, where most people rely heavily on car travel, still cover the south, so it only makes sense that the tradition of gas stations serving multiple purposes including serving food, cashing in Checks and sales of housewares, in the US area, will continue. Often times like these rooms 61 One stop in Fayette, Mississippi and Roy’s bars in Lexington, South Carolinaalso become places of community where family and friends can see each other as they eat something or fill their tanks.

Roy’s Grille on Main Street in the small town of Lexington, just outside of Columbia state, serves southern food and convenient meals like barbecues and burgers at an Exxon station. Owner Chris Williams stocks some of the groceries found at many southern gas stations, but when it opened in 2014, he wanted to bring other less typical dishes like ribeye steaks to the proverbial table as well. However, he quickly found out that his gas station users were looking for familiar foods that were cheap and fairly easy to eat. “People are reluctant to come to a gas station and buy fine dining,” says Williams. “They were used to things like Stomachs, bologna sandwiches and chicken it’s been sitting around for two hours. ”

Even so, Williams added twists to his menu on these well-known dishes: he made his food from scratch, adding shrimp and grits, grill and bacon made right outside the door – things that aren’t so good for on the go, but comfort is welcome when a traveler has time to sit and eat. “A lot of people who hear from us say, ‘A gas station, get out of here. I’m not going to eat there, ”says Williams. “I knew this would be people’s reaction, but I wasn’t worried because I knew we had a good product.”

Roy’s Grill is also part of a longer story. Esso stations (the predecessor of ExxonMobil) were once known one of the few national gas stations This kept black people busy and allowed them to stop, shop, and dine during the Jim Crow era. This continues with Williams’ business, a testament to the longstanding tradition of the southern gas stations, their communities and hungry travelers alike, of food and tranquility.

Amethyst Ganaway is a cook and writer from North Charleston, South Carolina. Naya Cheyenne is a Miami-based multimedia illustrator and designer from Brooklyn.
Fact verification by Andrea López-Cruzado


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