Ten Iconic Foods To Eat In The United States

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Ten Iconic Foods To Eat In The United States

“Nobody seems more obsessed by diet than our anti-materialistic, otherworldly, New Age spiritual types. But if the material world is merely illusion, an honest guru should be as content with a  Budweiser and bratwurst as with raw carrot juice, tofu and seaweed slime.” Edward Abbey  

Nearly every major state in the US has their great culinary specialties. I don’t plan my trips around a specific food item but I definitely include it in my itinerary. Here is a list of some must eat foods in America. They are in no particular order. I have tried some and I will try the others when I get there. 

 Lobster Roll, Maine

Half the fun of eating a lobster roll in Maine is the bun filed with butter or mayo and lobster, the other half is eating it somewhere that you can smell the sea. My first Maine “lobstah” roll was in Portland’s Old Port district, where cobblestone streets are lined with 19th-century brick buildings housing restaurants and boutiques. The restaurant was a hip spin on a seafood shack, with indoor picnic tables. You can get a lobster roll in Maine in both Mcdonalds and  7-11. I eat lobster for breakfast, lunch and dinner in Maine and it is always great. 

Beignet, New Orleans, Louisiana

Beignets are pillows of fried dough covered in a mound of powdered sugar. Don’t breathe in when you take your first bite or the sugar goes into your lungs making you cough. Cafe Du Monde is the iconic beignet establishment serving them since 1862,  Exploring the city, you are never far from a hot beignet if the low blood sugar feeling strikes. 

 Copper River Salmon, Washington

Copper River salmon is prized for its bright color and fatty meat and is said to be the best salmon in the world, Sockeye and King filets sell out quickly. It is available fresh from mid May to the end of September and comes from Alaska. If you are lucky enough to be in Seattle in the summer, you can eat it in many restaurants.  It is the best salmon you will ever eat. The fishmongers at Pike’s Place market in Seattle throw the fish around, which started as a way to save time and ended up as a tourist attraction. 

 

Key Lime Pie, Florida

The Florida Keys are iconic for many reasons. Hemingway fished there, the Beach Boys wrote songs there and it is still the best place in the world for Key Lime Pie. Key limes are smaller than the traditional limes sold in grocery stores. The fruit is yellow and usually just fall off the trees when they are ripe.  Add  sugar, carnation milk and aa graham cracker crust and you have the traditional pie.   Just about every restaurant in Key West serves one. 

Deep Dish Pizza, Chicago, Illinois

At three times the height of a New York style pie, Chicago’s deep dish pizza can be intimidating for those who are accustomed to thin-crust pizza. The crust is lighter than it looks followed by a cheese layer and topped with a chunky tomato sauce. Any toppings are contained within. I am a pizza fan and I did love this pizza when I lived in Chicago. 

King Crab, Alaska

 Alaska is America’s “Last frontier” known for its bitter winters and natural beauty. Seafood is a specialty in Alaska but Alaskan King Crab is the most sought after meal. I like it the old school way – boiled with a side of drawn butter and maybe  a few lemon wedges. Many of Anchorage’s best restaurants serve it this way. 

Hoagie, Philadelphia

The Bf is from “Philly” and he says the food doesn’t get more iconic than a hoagie. It was declared the official sandwich of Philadelphia in 1992. The hoagie is a built-to-order sandwich on a long Italian roll, typically filled with deli meat and cheese, garnished with fresh lettuce, tomatoes and onions, and finished with a drizzle of oregano-vinegar dressing. it is never heated or toasted.

Barbecue, Texas

I feel like I’m going to be intimidated the first time I walk into a Texas barbecue joint.  First of ail it will be my first time Texas and it’s food you have to eat with your hands. I also feel that people who eat Texas barbecue are able to consume a lot of meat. I’m definitely going to look for a place with a line of people around it and the aroma of wood smoked meat. I will have to ask them what to order and definitely try the sides which could be fried okra or salad with ranch styles dressing. Hopefully I will be on line next to someone who has eaten there before.

Crabcakes, Maryland

Baltimore and the surrounding Chesapeake Bay area are known for serving exemplary crab cakes. The ideal crab cake according to those who know, should have no visible evidence of breading, not be perfectly formed and contain as much pure sweat crabmeat as possible. Asking for the best restaurant for crab cakes in Baltimore is like asking New Yorkers for the best pizza, you are bound to get a lot of passionate recommendations. 

 Fry Bread, Wyoming

Fry bread is the history of the Native American population.The United States forced Indians living in Arizona to make the 300-mile journey known as the “Long Walk” and relocate to New Mexico, onto land that couldn’t easily support their traditional staples of vegetables and beans. To prevent them from  starving, the government gave them canned goods as well as white flour, processed sugar and lard—the makings of fry bread. Fry bread ( like Jewish matzoh) is the food of survival. Eating fry bread would mean that I was in Wyoming for the first time and learning about Native American culture.

Stay safe,

JAZ 

Books In The Time Of Corona

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Books In The Time Of Corona

“That’s the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.”  Jhumpa Lahiri in The Namesake

I think you are either a person who reads or a person who doesn’t. If you read, you are going to want to do it more. If you don’t, I’m not going to be able to convince you to put down the remote. I decided to use some of this time we have been given to read great books that I had missed. Here are ten of them.

Nostromo Joseph Conrad

At the beginning of the quarantine, I took on the daunting task of reading Nostromo. I was greatly intimidated by the very long prologue to one of Joseph Conrad’s greatest and most complex novels. Once I started, it became a compelling adventure story with profound psychological insights and political implications. Nostromo tells the tumultuous history of the fictional South American country of Costaguana. Written at the time of the development of the Panama Canal, Nostromo is set in the imaginary province of Sulaco, which secedes from the federation of Costaguana in order to protect its natural resource, the silver mine. The parallels with the ‘revolution’ in Panama by the United States in 1903 are striking; just as Panama seceded from Columbia to satisfy the material interests of the canal builders, so the secession of Sulaco serves the material interests of ‘the Gould company. Conrad creates the “perfectly incorruptible”” Nostromo who we don’t get to know until the second half of the novel. He is an Italian immigrant and a heroic symbol within the community. Nostromo, is the only man who can save the silver in the San Tomé mine and secure the independence of the province of Sulaco. The question is whether his morals and integrity are as unassailable as his reputation. Will he stand firmly in his ideals once the fate lies in his hands?

Angle of Repose Walter Stegner

Angle of Repose is a classic of American Literature. Lyman Ward is a recently divorced, wheelchair-bound retired history professor (aged 58) struggling to find his way through the turns life has taken. Determined to write a biography of his beloved and famous artist/author grandmother, he moves into his grandparent’s long-empty home in Grass Valley, California in 1970. Most of the book is about Susan Ward an accomplished writer and illustrator, who found herself an accidental pioneer of the western United States during the 1870s and 1880s.The character development in Angle of Repose is exceptional. Wallace Stegner shows great incite about two groups of people that can be hard to understand – the physically disabled and strong, complex women, of the Victorian era. His words do justice to the great beauty of the American West. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1972 and no wonder because the prose is beautiful.

The Movie Goer Walker Percy

The Movie Goer written in 1961 is about John/Jack/ Binx Bolling, a Louisianan who drifts along. He is in a line of work that he finds interesting, but he has no real purpose in life. Like Tom Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie, he finds meaning in movies. Little things he sees remind him of different films or actors—and the films are always more interesting than his routine life. He is single and about to turn thirty. Most of the story is about John drifting through Mardi Gras and his life in New Orleans. It is a nice little tour of New Orleans neighborhoods and some of the nearby coastal bayous and by the end of the book John has matured. It is a coming of age story. You can’t help but draw comparisons to Holden Caulfield with his eye for identifying self deceit and insincerity (though in a much more Southern genteel way).The book remains current because of the alienation and despair that persist in both good and bad times and the power of language and humor to give them meaning.

Americanah Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

On a simple level, Americanah is a love story set in Africa, Europe and America. As you turn the pages, you quickly realize that Adichie uses the novel format as a social commentary about race. Protagonist Ifemelu ironically discovers that she is black as she leaves a politically tormented Nigeria for the United States. There are shrewd observations about repatriation, sizing up and distancing between African blacks and African Americans, the value of dark skin in Caucasian societies, the arrogance of white savior mentality and the fascinating world of African hair. The novel is filled with insightful blog posts by Ifemelu as she experiences America.

The Overstory Richard Powers

The Overstory is a huge novel about trees, cleverly structured around roots, trunk, branches and seeds. Richard Power’s ability to make us see something we take for granted is really special. Blending fiction, historical writing, scientific description and literary prose, he writes a story of climate catastrophe and hope. The plot of The Overstory focuses on people’s various intergenerational connections with trees. It is a human story in the context of environmental loss from climate change. The lonely broken people of Power’s story seek other people to save the trees and ultimately our world. This is a reminder that it is everyone’s problem. It was the winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

A Gentleman In Moscow Amor Towles

At the age of 33, Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to house arrest for life in the elegant Hotel Metropol in Moscow’s Theatre Square. Instead of his familiar suite, his new abode is now a tiny room in the attic.The book covers Russia’s turbulent years from the 1920s to the 1950s. Rostov witnesses the momentous changes in Russia, not Tolstoy-style through the debate of powerful men and the clash on the battlefields, but in the detail of everyday life in the hotel as he quietly observes the changing guests and procedures. We are left to imagine the mentality of the new regime’s leaders and life outside the hotel. I love the character of Alexander Rostov with his old school manners, adaptability, kindness and quiet dignity.The writing is elegant, effortless, beautiful and funny. I really enjoyed this book.

A Long Petal In The Sea Isabel Allende

I am a huge fan of the author and so I was glad to pick up her latest book. The story starts in the midst of the Spanish Civil War. The first part of the book is captivating, and emotional as the reader is introduced to the various characters. After joining half a million refugees walking from Spain to France, the leading characters Victor and Rosa are accepted on the rescue ship M/S Winnipeg chartered by the famous Chilean Nobel-prize winning poet and politician Pablo Neruda bound for Chile. (fact) They have the same problems fleeing refuges have today and they are among the few lucky ones that make it to Chile. They begin a new life and later they are swept up in the Pinochet reign of terror. Victor and Rosa escape to Venezuela who welcomes all refugees fleeing from Chile. They return to Chile and again start a new life as Pinochet dies and Chile slowly returns to democracy. As the book headed towards a heartfelt and compelling conclusion, I found myself reading slower, not wanting to leave the book, its story and characters.This is a stunning historical literary novel and one I cannot recommend highly enough.

The Orphan Master’s Son Adam Johnson

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2013, ‘The Orphan Master’s Son’ tells the story of Pak Jun Do’s journey from life in a North Korean state orphanage to professional kidnapper to a career in Pyongyang at the heart of Kim Jong ll’s regime.  It is an intriguing and sprawling story which explores several aspects of life in one of the most secretive countries in the world. Since there is no way of knowing how authentic it is, the line between fiction and nonfiction is blurred. I found it a carefully crafted, elegantly written, fascinating book to read.

The Assistant  Bernard Malamud

The Assistant was written in 1957 and won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. It is about a Jewish grocery store owner in Brooklyn in the 1950’s and the Italian assistant who works for him. The story is a tragedy about the Jewish immigrant experience in America at that time. It is also about Frank Alpine, a man trying hard to change himself. It’s a fight that each of us might be familiar with. We know what to do to be good yet we often lose ourselves to temptation, to take a shortcut to to have it easy. Malamud can write. The simplicity of the prose and dialogue and the depth and complexity of the plot make the Assistant a special book.

To Kill A Mockingbird Harper Lee.

Atticus Finch is my number two literary crush and so I reread To Kill A Mockingbird every once in a while.(Howard Roark is my number 1). The book offers so much more than the picture of a small Southern town in the depression era filed with prejudice, injustice and the bond of love between family members and neighbors. So many issues that Scout points out, in the book, are still very real problems today. Lee’s characters define themselves every time they open their mouths and so they stay in your mind long after you finish the book. Atticus is the epitome of the literary hero, quietly dignified, moral, and unpretentious, standing alone, if need be, to do what is right. When you reread the book, you see that Scout, Jem, Boo, Tom, Calpurnia, the judge, the doctor and the neighbors who take care of each other, bring something to the human, heroic response to the world. Because we as a culture have gotten so good at rationalizing our bad behavior, we often forget “to do what’s right”. That’s why so many years after this book takes place, our world is still broken, so I thought it was time to read it again.

Stay safe,

JAZ