Either you love urban street festivals or you don’t. They’re not for everyone. We’re street festival veterans and you can put our names down among the lovers. In our New York days in the ’70s, we’d never miss the annual Feast of San Gennaro in Little Italy, or the Ninth Avenue International Food Festival. It usually takes years of festival-going to learn each festival’s strengths and weaknesses. Continue reading
Let us tell you a little story: years ago, while we were waiting for a flight out of Austin, TX, we stopped into the airport Dickey’s Barbecue Pit (yes, we know, what can we say?) for something to eat. As we were waiting for our food, a businessman-looking fellow walked up:
African-American kid taking orders: Can I help you?
Businessman (with that unmistakably cheerful uffda accent, pointing at a smoked sausage): Let me have one of those red weenies on a stick!
Kid (looking confused): Excuse me?
Businessman: Put one of those red weenies on a stick for me, willya?
Kid sheepishly looks left, right, behind him, then turns back to his customer with a helpless look on his face: I don’t understand what you’re saying. Continue reading
It’s funny to consider the luxury foods of your childhood. Of course, that all depends on the era, and the part of the country, in which your childhood falls. For us, that would be the proverbial ’60s in the Northeast. What were the luxuries to us? Port-wine stained cheese spread in ceramic crocks, from WisPride and Kaukauna Klub; little metal-lidded glasses of refrigerated Sau-Sea baby shrimp cocktail in sauce; Rice-A-Roni wild rice pilaf. Continue reading
What’s America’s least-favorite vegetable? It’s hard to pick just one but certainly in the running are turnips, okra, Brussels sprouts, and rutabaga. We’d have included beets on that list until the last few years, which have seen an explosion of interest in the vegetable – beet salads with chevre and walnuts are on every other upscale menu today. Continue reading
Is the whoopie pie an Amish original or did New England bakers first devise the sweet snack? That debate will never end but, either way, it seems to have made its first appearance in the 1920s. What is a whoopie pie? Classically, it’s two chocolate cake discs about the size and shape of the top half of a hamburger bun sandwiching a sweet, creamy white filling. These days you can find whoopie pies in dozens of cake and filling flavor permutations — gingerbread? blueberry? candy cane? — and sometimes they’re even gussied up with real, dairy-based fillings. Call us Luddites but we cling to the original chocolate version the way our fingers cling to the whoopie’s sticky chocolate cake. Continue reading
Purple hull peas, black-eyed peas, crowder peas — they’re all types of cow peas, also known as southern peas. The pea pod of purple hull peas is, guess what, purple. All of these peas are thought to have arrived in America with African slaves. Although Africans liked to eat the peas, white Americans used them as a forage crop, hence the name cow peas. Eventually, the entire American south was won over by the taste of these cow peas. Emerson (population 368), Arkansas’ PurpleHull Pea Festival & World Championship Rotary Tiller Race is an homage to this signature food of the South. Continue reading
Ellsworth is the Cheese Curd Capital of Wisconsin, so it’s only natural that they would be the home of the annual Cheese Curd Festival. It happens this year on Friday and Saturday, June 24th and 25th, at Ellsworth’s East End Park. What are cheese curds? When rennet is added to milk to make cheese, the milk separates into curds and whey. The whey is drained off, leaving curds, which are pressed into blocks or wheels to start the cheddar cheese process. If you don’t press them into cheddar, you’ve got bite-size nuggets of fresh cheese without any of the bite of aged cheese, boasting fresh dairy flavors and salt, mostly. Their most famous characteristic? They squeak between the teeth when you eat ’em! Continue reading
Fermented cabbage. Fragrant. Sour. Buckets and buckets of sauerkraut. All you want, all weekend, free. What more inducement do you need to visit the small town of Henderson, Minnesota during the weekend of June 24th through 26, when they hold their annual Henderson Sauerkraut Days? Be sure not to overdo it on the kraut if you’re planning on competing in the sauerkraut eating contest. You want plenty of appetite available for the competition. You’ll be consuming two pounds of the stuff as fast as possible. Winners typically complete the challenge in a matter of four minutes or less, often after squeezing as much brine as possible from the shredded cabbage (they’ll give you 30 seconds to “prepare” your two pounds of kraut). Continue reading
It was the late 1800s when a French soldier named Peter Pieri fell in love with a sweet onion on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica. He brought seeds of the onion to Walla Walla, WA where local farmers developed it into the sweet and juicy crop the region is now famous for. Late spring each year, Walla Walla celebrates the unusually mild Allium with the Walla Walla Sweet Onion Festival, the 32nd edition of which will take place next weekend, June 18th and 19th, 2016. Continue reading
New York has its Dr. Brown’s and pastrami, Philadelphia enjoys a hoagie with a wishniak, and the south? Well, you haven’t really experienced southern living until you’ve savored an RC and a Moon Pie, that sugary pick-me-up of cola, marshmallow, and graham crackers. RC Cola was born in Georgia, and Moon Pies come from Tennessee, so it’s only natural that this southern duo would be honored with an annual celebration in Bell Buckle, TN. The 22nd edition of the RC & Moon Pie Festival will be Saturday, June 18th. Continue reading
The year was 1907. The town? Wilmington, Ohio. The place? Hazard’s Restaurant. Owner Ernest Hazard wanted to attract Wilmington College students to his eatery by creating a new, irresistible dish. He held a contest among his employees, a contest which Ernest himself won by laying a split banana in a long dish, laying in three scoops of ice cream, topping the scoops with chocolate sauce, strawberry jam, and crushed pineapple, and crowning the dish with whipped cream, nuts, and cherries. Looking for a name, he asked his cousin Clifton for help. Clifton came up with banana split, and an American tradition was born. Continue reading
The most important questions we imagine most of you would ask are, what? And why? What: Pork rinds are fried pieces of pig skin. The skin, which starts out tough and inedible, puffs up in the fryer, resulting in a delicious, and light-textured, snack food. Are they same thing as cracklins? No, not exactly. Pork rinds are skin-only; cracklins have a portion of the fat attached to the skin. They are great eating, as well. You’ll find both at the Pork Rind Heritage Festival in the small Ohio town of Harrod. Why? The largest producer of pork rinds in the country, Rudolph Foods, is based in Lima, a few miles to the west of Harrod. Continue reading
When W.K. Kellogg, with his brother John, invented corn flakes at the beginning of the 20th century to serve as part of the diet at their Seventh-day Adventist health resort in Battle Creek, MI, little did anyone think at the time that Battle Creek would one day, as a result of their efforts, become synonymous with breakfast cereal and Saturday morning cartoons. Today, not only is Kellogg’s based in Battle Creek, but Post cereals as well (C.W. Post was inspired by his stay at the Kellogg’s sanitarium). You can help celebrate that heritage by attending the Battle Creek Cereal Festival this Friday and Saturday. Continue reading
There are food festivals and then there are FOOD festivals. What we mean is, the celebrated food at many festivals often makes something of an honorary appearance, while the entertainment and carnival atmosphere become the primary attractions. And then there’s the Virginia Pork Festival in Emporia, where the focus is on pork, pork, and more pork! The 2016 edition, which takes place this Wednesday, June 8th, from 4 until 8 p.m., will mark the 43rd annual celebration of the Virginia pork industry. Continue reading
Don’t get us wrong, we love strawberry festivals and watermelon festivals but, let’s face it, those agricultural products grow all over America. The artichoke, however, is something special — almost all the artichokes grown in the U.S. come from California. The California town of Castroville is known as The Artichoke Center of the World. So when we hear that Castroville is holding an artichoke festival, well, we want to put down our strawberries and watermelons and head straight there! This weekend is the big event: the Castroville Artichoke Food & Wine Festival. Continue reading
A pink tomato festival. With no prior knowledge of the event we would have assumed that this is a celebration of a locally grown tomato that ripens to a pink (rather than deep red) color (there ARE such tomatoes). But no… what they are celebrating, here in Bradley County, Arkansas, is a variety of tomato that ships well if picked when the tomato tops just barely turn pink (ripening further after picking). That pink tomato is now the official state fruit and vegetable of Arkansas. Continue reading
The white bass (or sand bass) is the state fish of Oklahoma, and spring is the time for local anglers to catch ‘em. Madill, Oklahoma celebrates with the annual National Sand Bass Festival (“Madill’s Jumpin’ Little Summer Fest”), held this year (2016) from June 6th through the 11th. This 42nd festival, which was first held in 1963 (they sat it out from 1976 through 1987), will mostly take place downtown on the square. Continue reading
How do you know horseradish? Probably in more ways than first occurs to you: Bloody Marys, seafood cocktail sauce, horseradish sauce for roast beef sandwiches (or even Arby’s Horsey Sauce?), maybe the beet-dyed grated root that helps you force down a piece of gefilte fish once a year. Most American sushi lovers have also eaten plenty of the stuff because, except at the most high-end sushi parlors, the wasabi is made from horseradish rather than the far more rare and dear real wasabi. Why not expand your horseradish horizons this year by attending the International Horseradish Festival in Collinsville, IL? Continue reading
Pig liver, pig “head parts,” and cornmeal: cook them together into a thick porridge, season it just right, pour it into a loaf pan, and chill until the whole thing solidifies into a loaf. We assume Carolinians wanted to keep the dish to themselves when they called it livermush, a name which somehow manages to out-unappetize its Pennsylvania cousin scrapple. Don’t, however, be led astray by names — when livermush is sliced and fried, and served alongside eggs, or placed in a sandwich, as they do at the annual Liver Mush Festival in Marion, NC, you’ve got yourself a unique and flavorful taste of Americana (provided you appreciate the taste of liver). Continue reading
Soft-shell crabs were invented in Crisfield MD. Well, OK, they were invented by the crabs themselves but the harvesting and marketing of them as a food item began in the Chesapeake town. It’s a very delicate process because, if left in the water, a crab’s new shell begins to harden about two hours after shedding its old one. Frozen and cleaned soft-shells are, of course, available year-round but live ones, which are definitely superior, can be obtained only from late spring into early fall. As you might imagine, getting them from the water to the cook alive, and before a new shell has formed, is no small endeavor. Yet the process goes on because the creatures are so darned delicious (and strikingly easy to eat compared to their well-armored brethren). Continue reading