“Why can’t you just come up with some unique hot dog toppings and call it your own like a NORMAL regional culinary trend?”
~Overworked AFFotD Taste-Testers
We have spent our last two articles discussing America’s dark, sordid food mistakes. We can’t be great at everything 100% of the time, so it’s understandable that, in the course of perfecting hot dogs and Philly cheesesteaks that we’ve had a few instances of bull testicles becoming popular in some region for some reason. All we can do is acknowledge our mistakes and move on.
So onward we will move, as we go into our final installment of…
America’s Worst Regional Culinary Dishes (Part 3)
Wild Rice Burger (Minnesota)
Okay, we get it, Minnesota, you grow a lot of wild rice. It’s your official state grain and everything, that’s all well and neat. But if you’re going to take a bunch of fucking shards of rice (admittedly we have not spent much time around rice so our terminology might not be accurate) and mash them together to replace an honest to God hamburger patty, you’re going to have to deal with us saying that you’re making bad hippie food. You can use wild rice for a lot of things, why did you have to settle on a hamburger?
The actual flavor here probably isn’t going to be that offensive. It’s rice, cooked with some random other vegetables. It’s not going to taste great but it won’t make you gag. It just will leave a hollow spot in your very core, the spot that was anticipating your intake of the soul of cow that, instead, was replaced by a bunch of starchy bullshit. You should feel ashamed, Minnesota.
Red-Eye Gravy (The South)
How can gravy be something bad, you might be wondering. And that’s a fair question. Gravy is typically delicious and gloriously unhealthy. When we cook meat, fat tries to escape like the coward it is in the form of grease, and gravy is our way of saying, “No you don’t, back on the meat you go.” It’s wonderful. Which is why red-eye gravy, known also as bird-eye gravy, bottom sop, red ham gravy, or, fittingly, poor man’s gravy is so depressing. It takes pork drippings in any form you can get it (if you’re lucky, that’ll be bacon, but it can also be sausage, country ham, or just a pork chop) and mixes in flour. That in itself is fine. But the problem comes from the fact that the traditional recipe calls for you to add coffee to the gravy. As in, black coffee. For your gravy.
That’s just awful. Even worse is the origin of the name—if you thought coffee gravy sounded unappetizing, the fact that it’s named red-eye gravy because the coffee and grease eventually separate, and the subsequent coffee-covered-in-grease layering kind of looks like a red human eyeball. Which…what? That means that someone sat down and said, “You know, if I take this pork grease and add some coffee to it, it looks like a human eye, assuming that the human eye was made out of blood. Instead of taking that as a sign that I am dealing with dark powers that I cannot understand, I will relish the fact that I’m pouring a bloodshot eye onto my fucking biscuits.” Like a goddamn lunatic.
Beaver Tail Soup (Arkansas, Alaska, Likely Elsewhere)
This is probably the most obscure dish we have in this whole series, as it’s not a really widely recognized regional “treat.” We found a discussion of it being a local delicacy in a small town in Arkansas, and some woman in Alaska insisted that she loves it, but it’s not like you’re gonna see this on a menu anywhere.
Fucking good. Because beaver tail is apparently just miserable. It’s pretty much just fat and cartilage. You can do whatever you want with a soup or a stew, but if you’re just gnawing on beaver fat, you’re going to have a pretty gross time. Even when you try to make beaver tale look edible by grilling it with a nice coating of oil and spices, you’re left with this curled gnarled husk of wrongness. It’s bad. There’s a reason why people who live in areas with, you know, indoor plumbing don’t eat beaver.
Burgoo, when served at a restaurant in Kentucky, is a perfectly fine meat and vegetable stew. But it warrants inclusion here because of its alternative name—roadkill soup. And, with the original, and some current, recipes of burgoo, the name is entirely accurate. It’s used using whatever fucking meat and vegetables you can find, stewed until it’s thick enough that a spoon can stand up in it. This means that it’s going to be a chunky, meaty glop that typically contained venison…if you’re lucky. If you’re not lucky, you’ll probably get squirrel, opossum, raccoon, and game birds. If you look up the Wikipedia page on roadkill cuisine, Burgoo is mentioned as Kentucky’s contribution to the genre, adding that it “is declining in popularity, perhaps due to health warnings.”
So yeah. Totally good call here, Kentucky. Your quest to make a stew out of whatever animals you happen to find basically is a tricky way to force feed people squirrels and meat so suspect it’s actively a health hazard. Nice work.
Alaska doesn’t do dessert like the rest of America. You look at that picture and you think maybe it’s ice cream with fresh berries. That sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? It does! Unfortunately, that is not what you see in the picture. You see akutaq, known as Eskimo ice cream, Native ice cream, or Alaskan ice cream. Again, you’re letting the appearance and the words “ice cream” fool you. That is not what this is. Akutaq is whipped fat and berries. Oh, and there’s crumbled fish in there too. Traditionally, it would use seal fat, but now it uses Crisco more often than not, as if that makes it even a tiny bit better.
So if you want to make this at home, you are a fucking maniac and the government shouldn’t let you drive legally. But you can also do that by boiling up some whitefish, leaving it in the water until it cools, and crumbling that into a big old bowl of Crisco. You can add some vegetable oil and whip it up before dumping in a shitload of sugar and some berries. This is similar to pemmican in that its origin came from it being kind of necessary to survive living in the arctic with the only available meat being seals and hardy berries. But in a modern society where Twinkies exist, there’s no reason people should eat this. It is weird and gross. Take your fatty berries and go home, Alaska. You’re drunk.
But with that, we finally can breathe a sigh of relief, as we’ve freed ourselves from the oppressive bonds of having to write about America’s worst food. We can get back to our regular programming of getting drunk and talking about what kind of food we like when we get drunk. Up next probably waffles or Taco Bell or something. We can look forward to that.