William The Coroner’s Forensic Files

Saturday, 5, December, 2009

Canonical Food

Filed under: Food and Drink — williamthecoroner @ 14:41

Inspired by This Post at the Atomic Nerds, I felt I should weigh in on the matter. It IS interesting that there are foods in America that are sects of a larger religion. They mention several, Chili, Hot Dogs, Cornbread, Biscuits, Barbecue, Burgers. They forgot, or are unaware of the Pittsburgh/Cleveland variants of these, and they missed two things, the Lobster Roll and the Italian.

As a Mainer-in-Exile I prefer the New England hot dog. Bright red, with grilled onions, served in an open-topped bun. The open SIDE buns are the worst sort of heresy. They are hard to get in Cleveland. One deals. Cleveland dogs are beef, and brown (Stadium) mustard rules. Kraut, onions, relish, we’re eclectic, but there must be Stadium mustard.

A sub-dog in Cleveland is the Polish Boy, a polish sausage-onna-bun with slaw and french fries. (A Pittsburgh influence). My Pittsburgh relatives taught me, (and other Clevelanders) to put fries on things. Sandwiches, salads, burgers. I think it started at Primanti’s in the Strip.

Cornbread in Cleveland comes out of a box by Jiffy, . Usually served with pea soup “Pea soup and Johnnycake, makes a Frenchman’s belly ache,” and butter. Some adventurous folks use jam on it.

Biscuits? Yeah, they also come from Jiffy, for a Clevelander. Though I liked using Bakewell Cream, when was in Maine. I haven’t seen a box of Bakewell Cream mix in years.(1) Now, of course, I’m a better baker, and I make beaten biscuits. However, it is true that biscuits and cornbread are not sweetened before baking. Honey, jam, apple butter, etc are applied after. Sweetening these doughs, the biscuits particularly, turns them into shortcake, or cobbler topping, not a biscuit.

Barbecue. Cleveland barbecue varies. You can get West Indian jerked meats, Korean barbecue, whole wings from Red Walters with a thin layer of hot sauce or honking great ribs cooked in a 55 gallon drum. Usually a thick, sweetish, tomato based sauce is used, but the kind depends on the origin of the chef.

Burgers. Burgers are ground meat shaped into a patty and grilled. They can be beef, ostrich, bison, chicken, (though they look funny), lamb, turkey, whatever. Toppings are varied. Cheese is recommended, if not encouraged. Indeed, I know several Clevelanders who gave up on Orthodox Judaism over cheeseburgers.  Fresh onion is good, grilled onions flavoured with paprika are popular.  The best burgers in town are the Academy burgers from the Academy Tavern or the Steakburgers from Beardens.  Beardens makes a peanut-butter burger, for reasons that I do not understand.  Down south, in Wooster, burgers are dry, and topped with cole slaw and cashews.  Again, for reasons that I do not understand.

Lobster Rolls, now, are a Maine thing.  The ones sold in McDonald’s are an abomination.  The lobster roll is a open TOPPED hot dog bun grilled in butter, a piece of lettuce, and filled with lobster meat and butter. If you don’t like lobster, use crabmeat, haddock, scallops, fried clams, whatever. It does NOT have mayonnaise.  See Brook Donjy’s New England Cookbook for a fuller description.

1.  Huh.  The New England Cupboard sells Bakewell Cream mix.  Whodathunk?



  1. I was born in central Massachusetts. Once a year I order Kayem hot dogs and those Portuguese rolls to be shipped to my folks so they can have some real food in Colorado. Last year we had more rolls than dogs, so we bought some lobster and made rolls that made my sister’s father-in-law (also a Mainer-in-exile) tear up in joy.

    King Arthur Flour’s online store carries Bakewell Cream and a bunch of other New England staples, including Marshmallow Fluff. Lately I buy less New England and more hard-to-find baking supplies from them, though. If I buy a whole case of whatever, my local grocery store will order products they don’t carry locally for me. (Hence why I have plastic tubs of Fluff stowed away around the house.)

    Comment by Melissa (oddharmonic) — Saturday, 5, December, 2009 @ 16:11 | Reply

  2. Lobster rolls should also, never ever, have Russian dressing on them. (Or was it French dressing?) I’ve never been sadder about wasting food — but quite, quite inedible.

    Comment by rj — Saturday, 5, December, 2009 @ 16:35 | Reply

  3. William William William. I will bow to your superior knowledge regarding fish in a bun (McDonald’s sells this too??!!) The red hot dogs are intriguing because I thought that a southern oddity. Why must they be red? Nothing in nature is that shade of red. Are they hot and spicy as well up north?
    But I cannot abide the heresy of unsweetened cornbread. Which by the way is a batter not a dough and most certainly is not associated with the word “jiffy” which is very iffy as belonging to the bread category.
    There are two kinds of biscuits; baking powder and yeast. I shudder to think that you might actually used an electrified device to make your “beaten biscuits? I hope I simply misunderstood and that you also aren’t one of those who cut your biscuits as we know that they are meant to be pulled.
    As to the barbecue issue. I am in North Carolina. ’nuff said?
    bless your heart

    Comment by Chicory — Sunday, 6, December, 2009 @ 14:30 | Reply

    • Chicory

      For beaten biscuits, I use an ash axe handle. Biscuits are also neither pulled nor cut, they are dropped.

      And I may be a Yankee, but I do know when a Southerner says “Bless your heart” what they are really saying.

      By the way SouthenXposer.what? Blogspot, WordPress?

      Comment by williamthecoroner — Sunday, 6, December, 2009 @ 17:07

  4. An interesting set of comments on food Sir! Since I’ve managed to miss both Cleveland, and very few stops in Maine, that was an educations! Thanks!

    Comment by Old NFO — Sunday, 6, December, 2009 @ 17:40 | Reply

  5. This Mainer-in-exile could live a satisfactory life without ever eating another red hot dog. Thanks for the reminder to pick up some Bakewell cream when I’m home for Christmas this year. As for the no mayo in the lobster roll……..I’m pretty sure that Dana’s Grill in Bangor (THE place for lobster roll in the area IIRC) used mayo (or there was at least SOMETHING creamy mixed in).

    Comment by Michelle — Wednesday, 9, December, 2009 @ 20:43 | Reply

  6. Mmmm, lobstah rolls.

    And you are a heathen for using that Jiffy Cornbread mess. You can mix up real cornbread near as fast, and it tastes way better.

    Oh, and REAL cornbread is always cooked in a cast-iron skillet that has been heated in the oven, then butter or dripping or oil added to make it non-stick, THEN the batter. Gets a nice crust on it that way.

    Dang, now I’m hungry.

    Comment by Heather — Thursday, 10, December, 2009 @ 22:26 | Reply

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