The Oxford Paradox: Gas Station Gastronomy

Journalism 102- 2015 Fall Semester

Forget about fine china and crystal glassware and instead think of plastic bags and Styrofoam cups, and allow your taste buds to marvel at some of the best cooking below the Mason-Dixon line. Here, you can dine on the chicken salad, butter biscuits, and some of the best friend chicken outside of five-star restaurant.

Nestled in between expanses of cotton fields and towering pine trees in north Mississippi lays Oxford. A town that, like Brigadoon, seems to have come from beyond the clouds and settled here between Interstates 6 and 7, and embodies the culture of a simple southern town.

Friendliness is the motto and hospitality the attitude of this little haven. In this paradoxical town, football meets William Faulkner and southern idealism melds seamlessly with big-city expectations. Among the world-renowned restaurants and nationally recognized chefs lies a culinary secret known only to the locals. This underground gastronomic sensation is found in the least likely of places. Indeed, some of the most mouth-watering finds in this town are not at the nationally acclaimed restaurants on the famous town square but rather, just a block or so away, at the local gas stations. In fact, at each filling station you find, you are almost guaranteed to find more than just fuel for you car.

“They come here all the time, they love it. They eat it everyday, three times a day some of them” one gas station proprietor commented when asked about her regular customers.

“I think it’s the hospitality, really more than anything. I mean it’s good food too but everybody knows everybody here,” said Brittany, a worker from the North Lamar Chevron.

Just about every filling station within the city limits boasts its own famous recipes that keep the locals clamoring for more, but there is one corner store cuisine that towers over the competition. The Chevron Station on South Lamar is the hero of gas station gastronomy. Here, and only here, can locals and visitors find “chicken on a stick” the late night snack whose fame precedes its tastiness. Bon Appétit magazine features the Chevron Food Mart on its “Oxford, Mississippi Travel Guide” stating:

“Okay, so this one comes out of left field. But the Chevron, on University and South Lamar, is the place for late-night socializing…and improbably good snacks. The quite literally named chicken-on-a-stick is oddly delicious, especially if it’s 1:00 a.m. and it has been a night of multiple Sazeracs.”

And this one adds to the list of notable acclamations that this tiny food store kitchen has received. Chicken-on-a-stick is a staple to this college town. It is a primary late night destination for students, alumni, and tourists alike.

“Since she’s lived right here off the square,” Ole Miss senior Michael Ferrell said, referring to his girlfriend, “I come to the Chevron almost every night after leaving the bars”.

Rebecca Johnson, Ole Miss freshman and new employee at the Chevron, adds her thoughts of the phenomena, “I don’t know a lot about it since I’m not from here, but I know it’s known for chicken-on-a-stick, it’s very popular especially after midnight.”

“I think it’s the breading, which I cannot talk about because it’s a secret,” Johnson added when asked about what makes the Chevron fried chicken so tantalizing, before admitting that not even the employees are let in on the secret.

Travel down to the corner of South Lamar and University Avenue Thursday through Saturday night and you are guaranteed to find a line of hungry customers waiting to get their hands on the famous snack.

But the eatery isn’t exclusively for post-party snacking, businessmen and administrators have been known to frequent the establishment with clients during business hours.

“We cater from the Chevron every time we host a party,” a local townswoman and business owner said. “We always want to give our guests the best and chicken-on-a-stick is our favorite Oxford meal”.

Although the secret recipe is known to few, the taste is illustrious in its own right and has served the people of Oxford for years as a town favorite. In a town like Oxford where paradoxes reign and preconceptions are often misconceptions, an enigma like this is not uncommon. Perhaps it’s the unpredictability of this snack that allows it to be so extraordinary. Whatever the case,  this meal is guaranteed to excite senses and defy expectations.

 

 

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