I was on the road and couldn’t make it to the Jack Kerouac exhibit in Austin, Texas, in the summer of 2008. A month earlier, I had seen the show advertised with a lengthy, winding banner stretching along a stone wall on the edge of the University of Texas campus. The banner resembled the continuous teletype-paper manuscript of Kerouac’s novel On the Road – all 120-feet of it. Well, except for the part his friend’s dog ate.
Written by the Father of the Beat Generation, the semi-autobiographical novel covers the bohemian travels of Sal Paradise (Kerouac), the story’s narrator, and his friend Dean Moriarty, a rambling free spirit, as they crisscross America four times from 1947 to 1950.
The traveling Kerouac would have loved Guy Fieri’s TV series Diners, Drive Inns and Dives. Those were the kind of places he and his characters frequented on the road from California to New York. Though Kerouac repeatedly mentions a fondness for ice cream and pie, he includes plenty of other food references . . .
“Just show me the bluefish spangle on a seafood menu and I’d eat it; let me smell the drawn butter and lobster claws. There were places where they specialized in thick red roast beef au jus, or roast chicken basted in wine. There were places where hamburgs sizzled on grills and the coffee was only a nickel. And oh, that pan-fried chow mein flavored air that blew into my room from Chinatown, vying with the spaghetti sauces of North Beach, the soft-shell crab of Fisherman’s Wharf—nay, the ribs of Fillmore turning on spits! Throw in the Market Street chili beans, redhot, and french-fried potatoes of the Embarcadero wino night, and steamed clams from Sausalito across the bay, and that’s my ah-dream of San Francisco.” On the Road (1957)
This excerpt convinces me Kerouac liked the mild, sweet taste of lobster and crab. So for Jack Kerouac, I recommend a big bowl of shrimp and blue crab gumbo from Guy Fieri’s recipe on Food Network.
By the way, I couldn’t make it to the Kerouac show in Austin that summer because I was moving to Florida, the state where Kerouac was living when On the Road was published and where the road ended for him at age 47. It’s nice to know that Florida remembers him with The Kerouac Project and Writer’s Residency in Orlando.