Why Every Sip Of A Speedway ‘Slurpee’ Brings Me Back Home

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Photo by Brandon R

I only visit home, Cleveland, Ohio, twice a year. There is always a quick visit in the blazing summer where I would long for a family cookout­ — even though my longing usually turns into the laborious task of being the grill master every Independence Day. The other, usually takes its time during Christmas, stuck inside with diet ginger ale and meager leftovers, anticipating the return trip to Philly to start the New Year. My last visit was during Fourth of July weekend and it was a typical visit comprised of family, friends, laughter, sadness, nostalgia, and Speedway Slurpees.

My friends and I had decided to take an impromptu trip to Columbus to visit a friend. As you drive, you can count on endless acres of desolate cornfields, a scatter of Motel 6’s, and gas stations. My friend needed to make a pit stop to relieve one’s bladder and of course, our gas station of choice was none other than Speedway. Yes, we intended to use the restrooms, but our true intention was to excuse ourselves to a Speedway Slurpee. Speedway Slurpees hold a dear place in my heart. Copyrighted as a “Speedy Freeze,” this subzero, neon beverage can be contained in three sizes: 22 oz., 32oz., and 44 oz. They are unconventional sizes and it baffles me how oddly specific they are. In essence, it does not really matter. The real question is how many flavors can you fit in one cup. When you have amounted to young adult status with a more developed palate, you begin to be strategic and choose flavors that compliments each other. My go-to will forever be blue-raspberry and Mountain Dew. You may catch me trying a new flavor. I hear the mango is delightful.

Before you are ready for purchase, you fasten the dome lid and continue to pour it in the cup to reach its maximum capacity. Your first sip is the best and it debunks any notion of a nutritional conscience. Temperature? Chilling to the bone. Flavor? You can taste each color with such vitality. High fructose corn syrup? Absolutely.

I grew up drinking them and I will continue to drink them. I remember taking trips to Speedway after school, making it my quintessential fourth meal of the day. When I was able to drive, a gas fill-up was a second thought. Whom am I kidding, my gas tank stayed on a quarter tank throughout high school. Late night walks from my college dorm to Speedway was a way of passage to the freshman fifteen. I have cried and laughed over them. It was my crutch, my fix, and my therapy. A speedway Slurpee has nostalgia written all over it. One must not dismiss the influence of food in its relation to emotional prowess. Food is a memento to your childhood, culture, and identity and embraced with exceptional vigor. It may not be as culturally relevant as an Indian chai or a Malaysian teh Tarik, but it is every bit Ohioan.

When I moved to Philly, I quickly realized that any speedway in the city were simply window-service gas stations with no hope of any slurpee going down my throat. To say I was devastated is an understatement. Sure there is the competitor, the 7-Eleven Slurpee, but it is just not the same. On the bright side, I can always count on the Speedway Slurpee to bring me back to the place that gave birth to me. A Speedway Slurpee is home and every sip brings me closer to it.

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I am a food/nutrition educator by day and a writer, activist, traveler, creator, and diner by night (weekends too).

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