Sadly, Manifold Destiny: The One, the only Guide to Cooking on Your Car Engine is no longer in print. Written by travel writer Bill Scheller and his friend Chris Maynard, this slim volume of automotive cuisine is deliberately tongue-in-cheek and totally unique. What other cookery book offers cooking times in miles rather than minutes?
“It’s irreverent but serious too because the recipes do work,” said Bill, a self-employed writer for the past 30 years who lives in Vermont. “Chris, a photographer, is a friend and we spent time in the kitchen together and we both had dim memories of stories about food being cooked on engines.”
Apparently the technique had been perfected by hungry and innovative drivers in the days before thousands of fast food joints dotted America’s highways.
“In 1984, we tried and tested some smoked meat which we heated up by driving around 50 to 60 miles and then had a picnic on the side of the road,” said Bill. “Then in 1988 we took part in a car rally called the One Lap of America, which was basically non-stop driving for a week where there would be little time to stop and feed ourselves. Chris suggested taking a hamper of entrees to cook along the way.
“We worked the engine cooking into an article about the rally that we wrote for Robb Report magazine. The Detroit Free Press picked up the story and included some recipes, and then People Magazine saw it and ran something. Then Villard, part of Random House, contacted us and asked if we’d like to do a cookbook.
“The book is tongue-in-cheek. We tried to lampoon the state of American dining at the time so that meant poking fun at nouvelle cuisine.”
Hyundai Halibut with Fennel (Distance 55-85 miles), Cruise-Control Pork Tenderloin (Distance: 250 miles), and Poached Fish Pontiac (Distance: 40 miles) are prime examples of what can be cooked by simply putting the pedal to the metal.
The authors offer suggestions on ideal cars for certain recipes and advise on locations around the engine for placing the raw ingredients. A key element of the book is its guide to foil wrapping your meal ready to be cooked.
The most frequently asked question that Bill has encountered over the years is ‘Don’t the meals taste of gasoline and oil?’
“There’s actually more chance of your car engine smelling of food than the other way around,” said Bill, who went on to explain what any car engine can be used for impromptu highway cooking. “We urge people to experiment with their car engine – sometimes the hottest places in the engine can be very hard to affix something to.”
Chris and Bill’s spirit of lampooning fashionable trends reappeared in 1992 when he authored The Bad for You Cookbook. “Once again, the idea was to make fun of the trend for ultra-lite food at the start of the 1990s,” he said.
Other books by Bill Scheller: