Thursday, December 3, 2015

East Coast Eating

 I don't think I have what it takes to be called a foodie. I definitely like eating great food, but I'm hard wired to be anti-fuss when it comes to actually preparing it. I will never be the person who grows my own heirloom kale or drives all over town in search of the perfect white truffle oil. That just requires more stamina than the Good Lord gave me. But if that's your super power and you enjoy those kinds of tasks? You should invite me over for dinner- as in yesterday.  Anyone who puts that much attention to detail into their food is a rock star and deserves the acclaim that I can provide.
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Having lived in the "South- ish" most of my life, I have to admit to a certain kind of food snobbery. Despite a reputation for being the melting pot of the United States, I've never thought of the East Coast as having a distinctive food type. You know what I'm tippy toeing around here. You say grits, people think of the southern states. You say masa, people think southwestern. Heck, even small children know that salmon means Pacific Coast. But what food is quintessential East Coast? With the exception of Rhode Island and it's lobster roll, I had no clue what food people liked to eat in this neck of the woods. But now, after 6 months on the ground in Jersey, I'm beginning to figure it all out.  Here's the skinny on what I think is uniquely East Coast and great to eat. 
As is almost always the case where I'm concerned, let's start with the bread. This, my dear friends, is all you need to know when it comes to anything sandwich related -Maier's Italian bread. The first time I saw this mammoth display of carbohydrates in ShopRite, I remember thinking to myself, "Why are there so many loaves of bread? And why is all the bread Italian? I mean, at $4.00 a loaf, who in the world is buying all this bread???You wanna know who ended up buying all that bread? Me, that's who. It is, without a doubt, the best sandwich bread I've ever eaten and now it's the only type I buy - it's that good. It's my hope that they're stocking it in a store near you. You gotta try this stuff.
Speaking of sandwiches, this is a picture of the deli department at my grocery store. The day I took this picture, there were 7 employees whose only task was to slice meat for the people in line. This is serious business with serious rules. First things first- do not call anything you might buy from this counter deli meat- the correct term to use is cold cuts. Second, do not make the mistake of telling anyone in line with you that, in the past, you only bought sliced turkey from Oscar Meyer. You might as well be telling them you put Big Red in your baby's bottle instead of formula. To their credit, I've learned why they love cold cuts so much out here- they taste amazing. For my crew, our favorite is Boar's Head Genoa Salami, thin sliced. I'm not exaggerating when I say we've eaten over 20 pounds of this stuff since moving here. Oscar Meyer and I have officially broken up.
Then we have these babies. My neighbor, Cath, was telling me about how my favorite farm stand, Russo's, grows a small specialty crop in November of something called white sweet potatoes. She was saying how much of a local treat it was for Thanksgiving, so I went to go check it out. Here they are, in all their glory. They look like orange sweet potatoes on the outside, but they're snow white on the inside. You cook them up exactly the same, but I found these to be better tasting. They're less sweet, but in a good way. White sweet potatoes, you're a keeper.

Fun fact- they do not carry dill relish in any grocery store in Shamong, New Jersey. I have no idea why not. I've looked high and low, with the tenacity of a blood hound -it is not to be found. I've been able to find sweet relish (gag!) in abundance. I've found that weird hot dog relish. (Why would anyone want a premix of mustard and dill relish anyway?? That's just wrong, people.). And then there's this stuff- sweet india relish. I had never in my life heard of this type of relish, but it's pretty popular around here. There were no less than 4 different brands of this stuff on the shelf, so people must love it. Although it'll never take the place of my beloved dill relish, I have to admit, it's not so bad. I would describe it as a 75% dill, 25% sweet relish combo. It's a bit like Wickles Pickles, but without the heat. Definitely worth the try.
So now you know some of the scoop about what's good to eat out here. But if I had to narrow it down to one specific type of food, I guess I would have say the East Coast is all about the sandwich. If you ever find yourself hungry east of the Mason-Dixon line, it should be the very first thing you order. Believe me when I tell you, it may change your life. Just do yourself a favor and don't order it with kale.




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