I mentioned a while back that I one thing I do when I move somewhere is understand the local food. It actually goes a little deeper than that. I don’t feel like I understand the place until I understand the food. There are a lot of homogenous, chain generic food reheaters out there, but you only have to look a little bit to find something that’s the product of the place where you are.
I don’t know what it is about the chili dogs in Detroit, but they’re awesome. I also love the chili dogs at the Varsity in Atlanta and Athens, but they’re different. I don’t know how. I won’t pick one over the other, but they’re different. Two friends have recommended Nu-Way Weiners in Macon and now I cannot rest until I have tried them.
You can get a cheesesteak anywhere nowadays, but it’s only someone from Philly who understands how important the bread is. The Chicago Italian Beef is, in principle, not that different from the cheesesteak, but it’s entirely different and equally amazing. Go to Canada and the northern border states and you’ll find loose meat sandwiches. Once again it’s something similar, but uniquely wonderful.
There is one key food group, though, that stands above all others. Barbecue. You will never annoy me more than when you try to engage me in a conversation about what region’s barbecue is “the best.” There’s no such thing. Barbecue is so elemental. Meat. Heat. Smoke. What wood? What grows where you are? Rub? What spices are popular where you are? Sauce? What’s that word mean around where you’re from? I was weaned on KC Style, but grew up on Texas Style. I will admit to sniffing at the vinegary Eastern barbecue until I finally had a chance to have something better than mediocre. It was a revelation. I am a recent convert to Tri-Tip. Cuban pork. Argentinian beef. And let’s talk about the variety of barbecued ribs you find across Asian cuisines. It just goes on and on
In my world, barbecue is the perfect food. It is the stuff of life.