Entertaining and mouthwatering accounts of road food, genre Americana. The Sterns criss-cross America, eating at obscure cafes, lobster shacks, Pennsylvania Dutch places, rodeos, delis, taco joints, and barbecue pits hidden deep within the southern woods. This isn't great food writing, but it's good food writing. (Maybe later I'll do a post rounding up some great food writing.)

Roadfood is more of a guide book and Two for the Road is more of a narrative, but both books have elements of each, though surprisingly little content overlap. If I had to pick one, I’d go with Roadfood.

The Sterns spend most of their time in the south and east coast, followed by the Midwest. The great plains are lightly covered, and the west is only touched upon. Their entries for California, while completely valid and worthy, would not be on my top fifty list. They’d probably appear on my top 100. For instance, La Super Rica, a very good Mexican street food place in Santa Barbara. It does the best queso fundido (a clay pot of oily molten cheese studded with hunks of chorizo, to be scooped up with warm tortillas) I've ever found, but I wouldn't drive for an hour and a half just for that. They also mention Cassell's, a burger joint in Koreatown. Again, quite good and I like the mustard-spiked potato salad, but if I've hauled ass all the way to Koreatown, I'm having Korean food.

The Sterns are almost exclusively interested in Americana: soul food, jello salads, barbecue, burgers, milk shakes, sandwiches, Tex-Mex, and so forth. When they touch upon Chinese food, for instance, it’s explicitly the old-fashioned sort of Americanized Chinese you’d have to specifically look for to find in some cities nowadays. I’m fine with this focus – they don’t pretend to be comprehensive – but be aware that if you want to find suggestions for pho, idli sambar, or kimchi fried rice, these are not the books to consult.

Roadfood: The Coast-to-Coast Guide to 700 of the Best Barbecue Joints, Lobster Shacks, Ice Cream Parlors, Highway Diners, and Much, Much More

Two for the Road: Our Love Affair With American Food

Please comment with a luscious or revolting description of some old-fashioned food and/or local specialty you love or hate, perhaps, if you're feeling generous, with a recipe. It doesn't have to be Americana - by local, I mean local to you, whether you're in New Mexico or New Delhi.
rydra_wong: Fingers holding down a piece of meat (heart) as it's cut with a knife, on a bright red surface. (food -- a slice of heart)

From: [personal profile] rydra_wong

Please comment with a luscious or revolting description of some old-fashioned food and/or local specialty you love or hate, perhaps, if you're feeling generous, with a recipe.

I am all about offal lately, and bone marrow was prized by the Victorians, so: roast bone marrow!


Ignore the parts about salad, and especially the parts about capers (I do not hold with capers); the point is to have a narrow silver spoon with which to break through the soft crust of the marrow, to excavate the crevices of the bones and dig out jelly-soft morsels of marrow, which you pile up on thin, crisp brown toast and eat with a sprinkle of coarse salt (a lot of this dish is about texture).

The marrow is rich and fatty, simultaneously meaty and soft to the point of melting (it was regarded as ideal nourishment for invalids); you can't eat it without ending up with grease smeared across your face. A heavy white linen napkin seems appropriate.

It is not a starter.
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Default)

From: [personal profile] oyceter

OMG I really love roasted bone marrow! I think I had it in a restaurant once on a piece of bread with fava beans.
rydra_wong: Lee Miller photo showing two women wearing metal fire masks in England during WWII. (Default)

From: [personal profile] rydra_wong

Having eaten it in restaurants, and made osso bucco at home, I'm now thinking I have to try cooking the roast bone marrow at home. I may have to talk to a butcher at the farmers' market about acquiring the bones ...
londonkds: (smiley)

From: [personal profile] londonkds

The traditional food that most WASP Londoners love and seems to horrify everyone else is a traditional bread pudding. (Do not confuse this with "bread and butter pudding", which is much more a pampered upper class thing.)

There are many variations on the recipes, but the basic plan is:

Take the bread that is now too stale to eat but has not gone mouldy. Reduce to crumbs (nowadays using an electric blender, I suspect they used a pestle and mortar in the old days). Mix in enough milk so that after it has been left for twenty minutes the mixture forms a paste (if there is still liquid milk around add more breadcrumbs, if there are lots of dry breadcrumbs add more milk). Then mix in assorted dried fruit, spices and suet. Bake until brown on top and the consistency of hard but moist cheese.

Non Londoners claim that the experience is like eating a paving slab. Londoners think they're stupid.
starlurker: (pansit bihon)

From: [personal profile] starlurker

The Canadian in me would curdle in protest if I didn't bring up poutine, which I must say, really is served best in Quebec, where they have an appreciation for the curds that are served on top of the fries and gravy. The Filipino in me would rebel if I didn't bring up fishballs, puffy, deep-fried pulverized fish with a variety of spicy/sweet/sour sauces served by street vendors in Manila. Both lovely and delicious in their own ways.
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Default)

From: [personal profile] oyceter

Old-fashioned street food! There are now kind of touristy places in Taiwan that emulate old-fashioned street markets, hahahaha.

My favs are dragon whisker candy (some sort of hard candy that gets pulled and pulled and pulled until it is feathery and then they wrap peanut powder or black sesame powder inside) and this malt sugar lollipop thing that sometimes you can tell the vendor to make into whatever shape you want (I get rats). They kind of look like this sometimes, only people on the street make it by pouring the syrup onto a giant griddle instead of making the shape in a mold. Like so! And the candied fruit on a stick! Sigh. I am so sad because they are getting harder and harder to find and I love them so, especially when they have been just made so that the strawberries are soft and hot from being dipped in that malt.

From: [identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com

I hate mayonnaise in all its forms and appearances- fresh mayo, store mayo, Miracle Whip: it's all disgusting. It doesn't matter on what- sandwiches, egg salad, potato salad- I hate it. It is Satan's pus. And since I am currently in the U.K., I'm seeing it everywhere. I even witnessed someone use it as a dip for french fries last night! *shudder*

But mainly I wanted to comment to say that I would love a post on great food writing!

From: [identity profile] wordkink.livejournal.com

Yes! I'm totally with you! Mayo is both disgusting and evil. We've figured out how to substitute other things for almost every recipe that calls for the evil sauce. My mom loves it, but my father instilled his life long distrust of the stuff in my sister and me. Clearly it was a stroke of parenting genius.

From: [identity profile] readsalot.livejournal.com

Yes! Both of you are clearly way more related to me than anyone in my biological family. I mostly pretend that it doesn't exist, and either substitute other things when a recipe calls for it, or find other recipes.

From: [identity profile] wordkink.livejournal.com

It's always good to hear from another hater :D

I think possibly my greatest recipe challenge was artichoke dip. Seriously! Why in god's name would you want to put mayo in a recipe you're supposed to -bake-. *shudder* So many kinds of wrong as to require to rewrite several kinds of other recipes to create an acceptable one. And mind you, my mayo-free recipe is far superior too, which makes pretty unbearably smug.

From: [identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com

Ew! There's mayo in artichoke dip? I hope this was just this one recipe, and not a common thing.

And yes, I too always replace mayo in recipes, and find my life to be much the better for it. XD

From: [identity profile] londonkds.livejournal.com

The dip for French fries use is a Belgian thing. If it revolts you, don't go there.
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Default)

From: [personal profile] oyceter

I loooooove Belgian fries in the mayo-based dips!

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

I looooove mayo. ;)

See some comments below and on DW for local mayo-heavy specialties. ;)

From: [identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com

You strange people, having different tastes than me! I will never understand it. ;)

From: [identity profile] pseudo_tsuga.livejournal.com

Same here. I remember when I visited New Zealand they put a huge dallop of mayo on my potato fries.
seajules: (just a little food-obsessed)

From: [personal profile] seajules

Apparently my fondness for mayo is proof of my French-Canadian and Belgian heritage. Then again, I'm from the state where fry sauce (ketchup+mayo) was created, so.

From: [identity profile] angevin2.livejournal.com

I will have to write about the horror that is St. Louis-style "pizza" when I am feeling less nauseated. It is vile.

From: [identity profile] asakiyume.livejournal.com

I don't even know what's really good and genuine and old-fashioned around here; it's probably something like Indian pudding or oatmeal or something.

A thing I like, though, that a friend of mine who's half Japanese first made for me, is mochi that's fried in oil, sugar, and soy sauce and then wrapped in nori to make a hot, salty, sweet treat. Yum!

From: [identity profile] tool-of-satan.livejournal.com

Hmm. I don't think I eat anything that would count as a local (Boston) specialty, not being into lobster or baked beans or cod (I suppose I'd eat Boston cream pie if I could still eat chocolate).

However, when I lived in the Chicago area there were definitely local specialties that I ate. Hot dogs, for one, but I don't know that I have much to say about them. Deep-dish pizza, for another. Deep-dish pizza can be good, but even when I was living there I thought it was really Too Much - it's like eating a giant SUV.

However, I really liked Italian beef sandwiches, which are ubiquitous there. The beef is thinly-sliced and marinated (in what, I don't know exactly). It's put on crusty Italian bread. You can just eat it like that if you want ("dry"), but the proper way to order it is "hot and wet", which means that hot giardiniera is piled on it and the whole thing is dipped in the beef's natural juices. (You can order it with sweet giardiniera if you must, and also with cheese.)

If you are wearing a long-sleeved top you will need to roll up your sleeves before eating, as the juice will inevitably run down your arms.

From: [identity profile] loligo.livejournal.com

Hmm, down here at the southern end of Illinois, Italian beef is always shredded (like the texture of pulled pork), not sliced. But oh, is it tasty, and I'm not even much of a meat-eater.

Also down here, St. Louis style pizza is very popular, and I have to concur with Angevin2 -- it is not worthy of the name "pizza".

From: [identity profile] tool-of-satan.livejournal.com

It's possible you can get it shredded in Chicagoland, too - I didn't eat it at too many different places.

I'm now kind of curious about St. Louis pizza. (I've only been there once and didn't eat any.) Is it as bad as Cincinnati chili?

From: [identity profile] loligo.livejournal.com

My chief complaint is the crust: it's a thin, hard, dense unleavened crust. Some people call it "cracker-like", but that does a disservice to crackers. Speaking of regional specialties, there's a little pizza joint in Grand Haven, MI, that claims to be the first pizzeria in Michigan, and they *do* have a cracker-like crust -- unleavened, but crisp, light, and pleasantly oily.

There are other St. Louis hallmarks: the pizza is usually cut into small squares, and I'm told that many places use a processed cheese blend called Provel. As far as I can tell, the places in my town that do St. Louis style use real mozzerella, though, so I can't comment on the Provel.

And you know what? I actually like Cincinnati chili. It just needs to be called something else so that people don't order it and expect to get, y'know, CHILI. Because it sure isn't chili.

From: [identity profile] tool-of-satan.livejournal.com

A lot of Boston pizza places cut the pizzas into small squares, too, for reasons which escape me. I like my pizza in triangular wedges like God intended.

And you know what? I actually like Cincinnati chili. It just needs to be called something else so that people don't order it and expect to get, y'know, CHILI. Because it sure isn't chili.

Well, yeah. It's spaghetti sauce. As spaghetti sauce it's perfectly fine, although not something I would go out of my way to eat.

From: [identity profile] tool-of-satan.livejournal.com

Nope. Well, I suppose you COULD order it that way, but the basic way of ordering Cincinnati "chili" is on top of spaghetti, which is called a "two-way." A "three-way" (keep your mind out of the gutter) has cheese, and chopped onions and such can be added.

It's not exactly traditional bolognese sauce as it tends to have spices like cinnamon in it. What it really is, is a Greek meat and tomato sauce - I suspect it was originally used for pastitsio (sp?) or something.

From: [identity profile] akamarykate.livejournal.com

We have several local foods/combos that I didn't realize were local until I moved out of Nebraska for a time:

~ Chili and cinnamon rolls--this is a combo that became popular on school lunch menus for the fall/winter, sometime in the 50s or 60s. Most people don't dunk the rolls in the chili--they're more intended as a desert--but I still get weird looks when I mention this combo to people who aren't from this part of the plains.

~ Runzas--there's a whole chain of fast food restaurants devoted to this (supposedly Czech) concoction: Ground beef, cabbage, and onions, cooked and seasoned, then wrapped in bread dough and baked (sometimes with cheese). Structurally, it's like a Cornish pasty or a hot pocket.

~ Cheese Frenchees--allegedly developed at King's Drive-In restaurants in the 50s. It's a sandwich of cheese and mayonnaise on white bread, cut into quarters, dipped in an egg batter, and fried. It's exactly as artery-clogging as it sounds.

Along these lines, there's a local restaurant (Petrow's) here in Omaha that's been here for something like 100 years, still run by the same family, very much a diner. My dad worked there when he was a kid, and took us there every once in a while. My memory of eating there as a kid is the time the waitress stood over me and made me eat all the peas on my plate--there was an ocean of peas and they were canned and to this day I detest canned peas--before she would give me the pudding that came with my meal. I never go to Petrow's now. I'd rather make my own (fresh) peas and pudding than risk going through that again, and the way Petrow's is, it's likely that woman's still working there 30 years later.

From: [identity profile] wordkink.livejournal.com

You can't be from San Diego and not mention carne asada fries. Man, they are possibly the greatest food ever invented.

For those not lucky enough to live in SoCal, these are mexican french fries (thick cut, and fresh), smothered in carne asada, guacamole, sour cream, shredded cheese and, if you want it, lots of salsa. As far as my wife and I are concerned the best fries in SD come from Sun Taco in La Mesa. It's just a taco stand, but everything is made fresh and the old lady who usually works the drive-through window has a tiny purple heart tattooed on her chin. Also, they have amazing fresh salsa.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

Mmm, that sounds delicious.

By the way, my local taco place closed (WOES), so I tried a nearby Oaxacan market. But when I looked at the blackboard where they had written their specialties, I was completely intimidated by not knowing what any of them were - literally, no idea. I thought of ordering randomly, but since it was also a market I wasn't sure if I'd end up with a wrapped pound of tongue or something, so I sadly slunk away, wishing you were there.

(The only thing I memorized was tasajo, which the internet is telling me is cured beef and is actually Cuban. Huh.)

From: [identity profile] wordkink.livejournal.com

Next time you're down here we're taking you to our taco place. It's absolutely the best Mexican food around and you'll love it.

Seriously? Man, I'd love to find a Oaxacan market! When can we have a play date? :D And tasajo is, in Oaxacan terms, kind of like carne asada but cut much, much thinner and not cured or marinated in any way except for maybe a little oil and garlic when you actually cook it up. If you ever order restaurant carne asada and get like a steak? That's pretty close but thicker. So I guess the next time we hang out I should make you some of that too. Oh, and rice! Yeah, there's a lot of good Oaxacan food that I need to make you.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

Play date: ANY TIME.

Oh, that sounds delicious. And if I did end up with a raw pound, I could cook it myself.
seajules: (just a little food-obsessed)

From: [personal profile] seajules

Carne asada fries! And FISH TACOS! ::sobs::

I have no idea what local specialties exist around these parts, and of course indulging in the local food scene is hard when you also have to be GF and mostly soy-free. Driving around, we see shockingly few Cuban and Caribbean places, and a whole lot of chains (but also a ton of Japanese restaurants of various stripes, which is happiness-making and possibly related to the number of retired WWII vets and their families in the area). That said, the seafood we've gotten has been uniformly tasty, and there's a local Asian market we plan to check out.

From: [identity profile] readsalot.livejournal.com

It's been a long time since I went there, but when I was in college groups of us used to go to the North End (of Boston, which is the Italian part of town) to a 24-hour bakery called Bova's, which has unique chocolate chip cookies. They're hemispheres, and sort of cakey, and really good. The bread from that bakery is also good, and they have apple dumplings that consist of a whole apple wrapped in pastry. I've never tried those, but they did look intriguing.

And I must repeat: 24-hour bakery!

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