Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Vending Machine + Microwave = Fun

A few weeks ago, I stopped at the North Carolina Welcome Center (I-95 near South of the Border), and spotted this:


Basically, you make your purchase, and it drops your food item of choice into a microwave, and then spits it out. It's a vending machine! It's a microwave! It's both!

I would have loved to have tested it out; alas, my stomach was still working on a tasty Maurice's BBQ sandwich that I ate less than two hours prior, and so, I wasn't hungry. But now that I know this is here, I can plan ahead, and not eat an unnecessarily large lunch next time I'm heading up this way.

I'm a fan of the Hot Pocket brand (well, Lean Pockets, really), so that was an obvious choice for me. Hot pockets were sold in the vending machine microwave combo thingy for $2. Other available hot food items included hot dogs ($2.50) and hamburgers ($3), which begs a couple of questions...
1) Does it seem backwards to anyone else that the hot dogs were more expensive than the Hot Pockets?
2) You can buy a hamburger for $1 at McDonald's, and a hot dog at a gas station like Sheetz for even less than that, usually. And those burgers and dogs are certainly going to be of higher quality than what you're going to get out of this thing. So what's the point? Ready-to-eat Hot Pockets, on the other hand, are much harder to find on the road.

Normally when I cook a Hot/Lean Pocket at home (or at work), I microwave it for about two minutes. How long did this thing take to warm up my meal? Try 70 seconds! Must be a good microwave. Still, though, 70 seconds is a long time to be standing in front of a vending machine, waiting.


One thing I was curious about was the "crisp sleeve", or whatever they call it. Hot/Lean Pockets you buy in the store come with a paper sleeve that you slip the sandwich into prior to cooking, and that's supposed to help make it crispy. Well, the vending machine Hot Pocket didn't have one, and so, it was kind of soggy.


But still, it was good, and - this is important - sufficiently warm throughout. So...pass!

Nevertheless, I probably won't be making any more appointments with the North Carolina Welcome Center vending machine microwave combo thingy any time soon. Vending machines are fine for drinks and snacks, but if you want a real lunch, you're either going to pack it yourself, or stop at an actual restaurant, not get it from a vending machine. Next time I make the Jacksonville drive, it's back to Maurice's BBQ for me (I-95 Exit 98 in South Carolina). But I am curious to see how many more of these vending machine microwave combo thingys we're going to see at an interstate rest area near you.

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