- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 12, 2005

If you can barely find the gas pedal because it’s smothered in hamburger wrappers, you’re a member of the road-food society.

Trend watchers note that an increasing number of people are driving with one hand on the wheel and the other on a meal.

Food companies are introducing self-heating cans so drivers can have hot soup or coffee without pulling into a convenience food stop.

So, obviously, you’re not alone if you eat behind the wheel. About half of American drivers do at some time, according to statistics from the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration.

The drive-and-dine trend isn’t risk-free, however. Eating while driving is a distraction. It’s also inconvenient and not particularly pleasant. Having a bite with a truck bearing down on you can be stressful, not to mention dangerous.



Instead of eating in the car, combine your excursion with a picnic. Pack a delicious lunch in a vacuum container.

When you and your dining partner are ready for a meal, pull into a rest station or some scenic spot for a more leisurely repast.

As an amusing aside, Hagerty Classic Insurance, a Traverse City, Mich., company that insures collectible automobiles, compiled a list of the 10 most dangerous foods to eat while driving.

Chocolate. Eat the luscious treat, and your hands are coated. Your first instinct will be to lick or wipe your fingers clean, which probably means not steering.

Soft drinks. These can be dangerous when spilled if your inclination is to mop yourself dry.

Jelly- and/or cream-filled doughnuts. An oozing mess is disconcerting and demands immediate cleanup.

Fried chicken. Try to handle the wheel when your hands are greasy. Also, the people at Hagerty say, grease on the wheel is difficult to remove.

Any barbecued food. The message from Hagerty is: “If it can drip, don’t eat it while you drive.”

Juicy hamburgers. Moist is good, unless it creates a dribbling trail.

Chili dogs. This is two-handed food. It’s almost impossible to maneuver chili-topped food into your mouth using one hand.

Tacos. You know how a taco crumbles into your lap while you’re eating at home. Imagine picking up shredded lettuce and cheese while you’re driving.

Hot soup. This dish really requires hand-to-mouth concentration.

Coffee. This is the No. 1 offender, according to Hagerty. You can easily scald yourself or spill hot coffee in your lap, making your drive quite uncomfortable.

The following salad of filet mignon, figs and sugar snap peas is a savory dish you’ll never find in a typical highway fast-food stop.

Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy it.

Beef salad to go

2 tablespoons chopped dried figs

½ tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil

1½ cups sugar snap peas

Salt

1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper

1 8-ounce piece filet mignon, cut 1½ inches thick

1½ tablespoons canola oil

1 cup radicchio, torn in bite-size pieces

Combine figs and vinegar in a small bowl. Set aside for 10 minutes or up to one hour.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in skillet. Add sugar snap peas; saute over high heat for 3 minutes or until peas are crisp-tender, shaking the skillet frequently. Season to taste with salt. Pour peas into a salad bowl. Reserve.

Spread ground pepper over a plate. Press filet mignon into pepper to coat both sides.

Reheat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. If necessary, add remaining tablespoon oil so there’s a film of oil in the skillet. Add filet mignon. Brown for 2 minutes per side. Reduce heat to medium, and cook another 3 to 5 minutes per side to medium doneness. If desired, filet mignon also can be cooked on the grill. Remove meat from skillet and set aside 5 minutes to firm up.

To assemble salad, add figs and soaking vinegar to peas. Slice filet mignon 1/4 inch thick and add to peas. Stir in canola oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Just before packing, add radicchio and toss to mix. Makes 2 servings.

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