The Good Ol’ U.S. of “Hey, That’s Delicious!”

10 April 2009

Patton sez: "You're going to back to the kitchen, boy.  You may get burned, you may cut yourself, but you're going back to the fighting.  Either that, or I'll stand you up in front of a firing squad."  Jeez, all the guy did was make a tofu salad.

Patton wants to puke his fucking guts out whenever you eat tofu.

Now, I want you to remember that no poor bastard ever made a dish great by “putting love in it.”  He made the dish great by putting bacon in it.  Men, all this stuff you’ve heard about America not having its own cuisine, not having good food, is a load of horse dung.  Americans traditionally love good food.  All REAL Americans love the sting of a hot pan.  We have the finest food and culinary techniques, the most passion, and the best chefs in the world.  You know, by God, I actually pity those poor bastards that have to eat foreign food every day.  By God, I do.  We don’t just cook animals in this country, we cut out their living guts and and use them to grease our cast iron skillets.  Now there’s another thing I want you to remember.  I don’t want to hear any messages that we’re cooking things like crepes or paella.  Let the socialists do that.  We’re making steak and potatoes and we’re not interested in fusion cuisine.  Our food’s going to grab the diner by the nose, then when he takes his first bite, it’s going to kick him in the ass.  It’s going to kick the hell out him, and when he’s done with that, we may even cook him a goose.  There’s one thing American chefs will be able to say when they get back home.  And they may thank God for it.  Thirty years from now when you’re sitting around your fireside with your grandson on your knee and he asks what kind of food you cooked, you won’t have to say “Well, I cooked pasta at the Olive Garden.”  Alright now, you sons of bitches, you know how I feel.  Oh, and I’ll be proud to lead you wonderful people on the line – anytime, anywhere.  As long as you’re not making sushi.  That’s all.

I don’t know about you, but I’m fucking fired up.  I’m ready to run head-first through a brick wall and cook the shit out of something.  Something with meat and carbs and butter.  Something that my grandma would have referred to as “stick to your ribs.”  Now that I think about it, I’m ready to eat some fucking ribs.  America may not have the culinary cache of France, Spain, or Italy, but those places don’t have In-and-Out Burger, so it’s a bit of a wash.  Defining “American cuisine” is kind of tough, considering it has been shaped, much like the country herself, through immigration and its attendant assimilation of cultures, most of which revolve around stealing jobs and my wallet.  So who’s to say what’s truly American?  Me, that’s who.  I’ve lived in this country for nigh on 28 years, and I think I know a thing or two about stuff we’re good at cooking.  So join me, won’t you, as we take a tour of culinary patriotism.  This shit may not be what Escoffier cooked up, or what Epicurean had in mind, or even what the guy who invented rice might deem as worthy but, dammit, this here’s America, and if there’s one thing we do well, it’s rock ‘n roll.  We also do food pretty good, which, I guess, is where I meant to go with the last part of that sentence.

Cheeseburgers

Padma obviously hasn't had much practice eating cheeseburgers.  Said another way, "Eating Cheeseburgers: Ur Doin It Rong."

I honestly don't know which one I'd rather have in my mouth.

One could make the argument that hamburgers were really a product of Hamburg, Germany, but there’s no place in Deutchland called “Cheeseburg,” so we’ll focus on that incarnation of the inveterate classic (never thought to put cheese on it, did ya, Jerry!).  Perhaps the quintessential American food, cheeseburgers are as liable to be found in upscale restaurants as they are in greasy spoons.  Gussied up or dressed down, cheeseburgers offer a delicious meal, and also a way to make bad feelings go away by eating three of them in one sitting.  Holy shit, do I want a cheeseburger right now.  There are myriad ways to make a cheeseburger, but I would like to impart you with a few general rules: (1) after putting the patty on the grill, don’t press down on it; (2) for God’s sake, don’t over-cook the fucking thing; (3) melt the cheese on the meat while it’s still on the grill; and (4) while the bun is important, don’t let it play the leading role – and for Christ’s sake, don’t use one with a thick crust.  There are a lot of people who don’t like mayonnaise on their burgers, but they also rooted against the U.S. hockey team in 1980, so fuck them.

If you don’t really feel like cooking one yourself, I’m pretty sure that if you look hard enough, you may be able to find an establishment which serves them up at an affordable price.  The aforementioned In-and-Out seems to be the consensus winner of the “best burger” award, and I can’t really disagree with that sentiment.  I would like to say, however, that the best single cheeseburger I’ve ever had was at Fatburger, and that, even though I’ve had it only once, The Baconator from Wendy’s continues to haunt my dreams, in a seemingly relentless attempt to make me fat.  You should take my recommendations with a huge grain of salt though, because I’ve literally never had a cheeseburger that I didn’t like.  They’re kind of like boobs, that way.

Macaroni and Cheese

If this really is a "macaroni," I'm instantly suspicious about this Yankee Doodle chap, and the things he's sticking in his cap.

If this really is a "macaroni," I'm instantly suspicious about this Yankee Doodle chap, and the things he's sticking in his cap. And other places.

This dish couldn’t be more American if it was made from pieces of the constitution and tiny Abraham Lincolns.  Growing up, Mac & Cheese Night all over this great land wasn’t just an evening when mommies couldn’t handle it anymore and wanted something simple for dinner so she could enjoy her six glasses of Chardonnay.  It was also a night when kids would rediscover their ability to projectile vomit streams of neon yellow sick after eating three pounds of cheese-covered noodles.  I think I just heard heard a bald eagle cry from excessive pride.  There are lots of ways to make this wonderful dish, and many restaurants pride themselves on rich, decadent interpretations of the classic.  My Persian friend, Ali, and I are in agreement, however, in our assessment that the best mac and cheese remains the tried and true blue box version from Kraft.  Sure, we may have had a dalliance with the “shells” variety, which favored a packet of creamy cheese product over the cheese cocaine packaged in the original.  But we always returned.  The only other interpretation I’ve found that comes close to matching the original in downright deliciousness is the dish I made with Gruyere cheese and black truffles.  I made it a year and half ago, and I’m still full.  In closing, I’d like to do something that I often feature on this blog: make sweeping, ill-informed generalizations about people, based solely on their very subjective, and often widely held, opinions.  Having said that, the people that bake their macaroni and cheese with breadcrumbs on top called me the other day and told me that, while watching The Neverending Story, they cheered when Artax died in the Swamp of Despair.  What a bunch of assholes.

Chicken-Fried Steak

Nice steak.  Call me when you've breaded it, fried it, and smothered it with gravy.  You can go ahead and replace them flowers with biscuits, while you're at it.

Nice steak. Call me when you've breaded it, fried it, and smothered it in gravy. You can go ahead and replace them flowers with biscuits, while you're at it.

Guy No. 1: “So, we’re going to get a steak, right?  Then we’re going to bread it and deep fry it!”
Guy No. 2: “That sound’s a little rich, doesn’t it?”
Guy No. 1: “I haven’t even told you about the gravy, yet!”
Guy No. 2: “You have really pretty eyes.”

I remember the first time I ever had chicken fried steak.  It was on vacation, sometime around 1988, and I was wearing an Indiana Jones hat without the slightest hint of irony or embarrassment.  Needless to say, the dish was so good that I demanded that all of our meals be eaten at that same restaurant so I could re-live the delicious dish over and over again.  I also liked that the cute waitress called me “darlin’.”  Now, all these years later, I make chicken fried steak about once a month, and that cute waitress and I are married.  Just kidding, she probably died of a meth overdose.  Anyway, while the breading and the tenderizing of the steak are, of course, important, the accompanying white gravy, to me, always serves as the highlight of the meal.  The key is to make a roux with the steak fry drippings, then adding the cream and lots of salt and pepper.  Some effeminate people who like Sex and the City think you should only use white pepper, but, as I previously implied with those homophobic stereotypes, those people are probably homosexuals.  Also, if you think this dish comes dangerously close to being German weiner schnitzel, I want to garrote you with an American flag.

Meatloaf

Obviously, I was thinking about posting a picture of "Bat Out of Hell" singer, Meat Loaf, here.  Instead, here's Lucy Pinder, for no reason at all.

Obviously, I was thinking about posting a picture of "Bat Out of Hell" singer, Meat Loaf, in this space. Instead, here's Lucy Pinder, for no reason at all.

Here, again, we see an American classic which has been embraced by every strata of our socio-economic make-up.  From upscale eateries, to me having to scrape together a meal after spending the last of my paycheck on scotch, meatloaf is truly a dish that all Americans love.  Except for vegetarians, I guess, but they aren’t really Americans.  Now that I think about it, I’ve never seen a vegetarian at the same time, or in the same place, as a minion of Satan.  Coincidence?  Probably.  Anywho, it’s a loaf of fucking meat, which should tell every real MMA-loving, red-blooded American all they need to know.  The only thing better than meatloaf smothered in ketchup is a meatloaf sandwich in my tummy.

So, as you can see, the American culinary landscape is as varied and sundry as her populace.  You know, if her populace was made up of different kinds of meat.  Because the indiginous cuisine of the United States is so vast, I was forced to leave off any number of other meals, from hotdogs to barbecue to frito pie, which have also served to make this the Greatest Country Ever (especially since we got that whole race relations thing figured out.)  So go grab some lunch, and remember that our forefathers brought forth onto this continent the dream of a more perfect union, a union which most likely pairs beef and bacon together in a lesson in harmony we can all take to heart.

These colors don't run.  Unless there's a spider around, in which case, get the fuck out of our way!

These colors don't run. Unless there's a spider around, in which case, get the fuck out of our way!

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