Food as a marker

Writing about a culture or place or people you know very little about is full of tricks and traps. Often, it’s little things which even those who live there just don’t get. My son — who moved from South Africa to the UK was pointing the different attitude to different foods in the various countries.

Tinned fruit was a common element of desserts in South Africa. Indeed, tinned foods are quite commonly used. Tinned fish, on the other hand was definitely a very class linked thing. Using tinned fish was definitely a class-marker. If you were well-off, you would buy fresh fish (or if you were a fisherman), frozen fish was the norm, and tins of tuna or salmon or pilchards… you were poor. In the UK, it seems tinned fruit wears a similar marker, and yet tinned tuna is socially not a marker…

Or to give another example: in London, ordering wallaby marks the consumer being written about as willing to try the exotic, and well-to-do — whereas where I come from it marks you as ‘poor’ and ‘lower-class’ (we eat a lot of it. I shoot, so it costs a few cents a pound – and it is very good. I’m damned if I’ll let snobbery decide on my tastes.). I know people who will not touch it, because that’s what poor people eat, and it is important to them to be seen not to be that poor. The problem with these ‘subtle’ markers is they’re quite hard to pick up, even if you get a local to read it.

I gather that you have similar issues in diets even between states and towns in the US (beans in chili I gather is a death-trap). So: how about sharing a few ‘cues’ about social status from food that you have found. I gather green jello is something all Americans eat (GD&R).

88 comments

  1. Moved to northern Alabama in 84 from northwestern Illinois. Wanted to learn about our new home. One historical story that always stuck with me was that during the great depression the bottom dropped out of the cotton market. Wealthy cotton plantation owners took to plowing up their lawns to plant more cotton because they could still get some money even at the reduced price. You see gentry of their stature simply did not grow their own food, that was what the poor share croppers did. You sold your cotton crop and bought food with the profits. Representative of a certain mind set indeed.

  2. Also in North Alabama, and other parts of the South, they put Cole slaw in the bun with the pulled pork.
    Then you get regional barbecue styles. North Carolina BBQ is seasoned, then “mopped,” with a vinegar-based sauce, which is also served on the side. I suspect the variations are starting to blend, but sweet/tomato based sauces get associated with Texas, South Carolina allegedly goes with mustard based sauce and so on.
    Also, there’s a lot of individual variation. My husband was told to develop his own seasoning blend when he considered entering competition. It’s very good, too. (He does not compete, he just feeds us and the volunteer teams). And then there are the anomalies. Some of the best BBQ I’ve had in my life came from a little joint in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, run by a black couple. One of them was from Chicago and the other from Detroit.

  3. SPAM is the one that comes immediately to mind. Know quite a few that would never touch it, because “that’s what poor people eat”.

    1. I think my aversion to it mostly lingers from a college roommate who would fry some up with kimchee…

      The smell was…indescribable, really. (It probably was actually quite tasty, but the SMELL. Also the fact that the kimchee occasionally tried to attack other things in the fridge… 😀 )

    2. Yes, SPAM gets a bad wrap around here, though I personally like it once in awhile. Same with Vienna Sausages. According to my old college advisor who did his archeaology work the South Pacific, SPAM is very common in places that US soldiers visited in WWII, but not so much in places they didn’t. That and cold, canned Spaghettioes

      1. The challenge with Vienna Sausage is most people in the US have only experienced it canned.

        Now, I really like the canned Vienna sausage, but the fresh cooked Vienna sausage in a bun? Nirvana.

      1. I had a co-worker who came from Maui. He considered SPAM one of the four major food groups. Beer was one of the others, perhaps rice and Portoghee sausage (his wording) the others.

        I’d eat it while car camping (usually breakfast before hitting the trail), but not elsewhere once I grew up. And yeah, we were somewhat poor for a while.

        1. Korean “army stew” (budae jjigae) includes all the mid-century American food groups of processed food, and also tastes fantastic. Spam. Vienna sausage. Wieners. Baked beans. Dried noodles. Everything. And large amounts of Korean seasonings.

          Koreans seem to regard it as “the taste of how we were saved from starvation” instead of “the thing we had to eat for months and months and are sick of.” This may show the resourcefulness of Korean cooking, because every batch of budae jjigae is different.

  4. Of course, right as I hit post, I remembered corned beef. Never understood the aversion to both, they taste fantastic.

      1. I remember hearing that many of the traditional Irish foods (in the US) was considered “Poor Folks Food” by the American-Irish.

        I could have heard wrong or the source was wrong.

        1. You would think I would know, since I have Irish descent on Mom’s side, but they were also the southern share cropper side, so any critter that can be caught was considered food. Except probably snakes.

        2. It’s a cheap cut, though. OTOH, it’s still beef. . .

          Now, Italian-American cuisine is a fusion; when the Italians immigrated, they did not bring a unified cuisine with them. Spaghetti and meatballs became the iconic dish because it combined two luxuries: pasta and meat.

            1. I can’t say it well, but my aunt’s mom had a great love-song to food that boiled down to “GROUP food” in a place is “the stuff that folks from that place make, with the supplies here.”

              It’s a natural expansion of regional availability; EVERYBODY cooks with what they have on hand, the “italian” or “thai” modifier tells you what their food-assumptions are.

              Say, ginger.

              Is it for baking sweets? Or is it a savory addition to meat?

              (it is GOOD when used like garlic. And with garlic. And garlic is my favorite vegetable. 😀 )

              1. When it comes to restaurants, it’s also “what will the locals eat?”.

                So even if a Chinese restaurant is owned by a 1st generation immigrant, if the restaurant is in an area without a lot of Chinese immigrants, most of the dishes will be adjusted for American tastes. Same goes for a Spanish restaurant (only time I ate in a Spanish restaurant in America, well, let’s say not all of the menu items were authentic Spanish dishes).

                1. :snickers: There’s also he question of WHICH “locals.”

                  Mexico is not unified for flavors or even techniques; the best Japanese food I ever had in the US was at a place that had several nasty reviews claiming it was inauthentic.

                  …it was dang near carbon copy of what I’d eaten in Japan, but it wasn’t expensive place in Tokyo food, it was Sasebo version of Denny’s. 😀

                  1. Sasebo may have a Denny’s come to think of it. Goes and checks. No it doesn’t. For some reason Denny’s are in Kansai and Nagoya and not anywhere else. It may have had one before though because I think I remember going to a Denny’s in Tokyo in the early 1990s (but I was drunk at the time and may be confusing things), so it could be that Denny’s shut the restaurants that weren’t making money

                    Japanese food in Japan is interesting because Japanese people recognize excellence even when it comes to cheap food. So there are TV programs where the talent tries dive “Machi-chukai” – basically Japanesified Chinese food – restaurants and others where people compare bowls of ramen from different places and so on.

                    And like Italy, there are tons of regional specialities

              2. Everything not a dessert should be cooked with garlic and plenty of it, in my book 😀

                Interestingly: I live in nowhere Wyoming, where the ‘dining out’ options are very very limited and typically limited to “cafe “homestyle” food frequently not of great quality” HOWEVER…probably one of the most successful restaurants in our region–enough that they have three locations, no less! (One in Cheyenne, one Laramie, and the original restaurant here in Rawlins, of all places)–is a Thai place. Actually founded and run by a Thai woman who immigrated (why to Rawlins, I have no idea, though. People who are native to Wyoming try to avoid living in Rawlins–albeit not as much as they try to avoid Rock Springs). It survived the pandemic lunacy very well, and continues to be busy every time I have gone there. And sure, I suspect it’s still not “proper Thai” food–but because she (and her family, who I think are still mostly running the place(s)) do indeed use stuff they can get in this area relatively cheaply and still have it be good, “Thai” to the locals, and not run up their prices a lot.

                1. Getting original ingredients is always an issue, for example, I doubt you can find Sichuan peppercorns in most of the US – and it’s not easy to replace (they’re numbing not hot).

                  Some items are impossible to make out of area, like San Francisco sourdough. Heck, even Philly cheese steaks taste better in Philly – you can’t get the Kaiser rolls in California, for example. Then there are little things, like that Spanish butchers cut a cow differently than in the US (no US-style steak cuts).

                  How food moves around, is adopted, is changed (new varieties), and changes the local cuisine is a fun and fascinating topic. Think of the impact that New World foods had on Old World (and Oriental) cuisine.

                  1. Apparently a lot of Thai ladies who run restaurants will grow some of the ingredients, like lemongrass.

                    There’s also substitutions, like Vietnamese ladies using collard greens in place of bok choy.

                    Sichuan peppercorns come in big giant cans. The Chinese place where I used to live had owners who came from the province where they have Mala beef, and it made a big difference when they got their can of Sichuan peppercorns in.

        3. :waves hand:

          From me, at least part of the time!

          Each generation had a new baseline of poor people food– the Irish have a relationship with Beef that I strongly approve of as a beef-ranch raised kid.

          So, when they came to America, if you were successful, you ate beef. It might be five pounds of cabbage to a handful of corned beef, but by gum you WERE EATING BEEF!

          Then when they had kids, beef and cabbage was poor people food; you didn’t eat that! You have meat, and lots of it, even if it was spam and chicken.

          (This is actually very tied to time, SPAM was largely post WWII and I think to a little before WWII, and for chicken to be cheap rather than the one big weekly extravagance you need fridges.)

          My dad has only recently got over his hatred of rice and casseroles, because that’s what his mom made when things were tight. (with four boys, none of whom had a metabolism that wouldn’t knock a house over, I can only imagine what their high school years were like– I wouldn’t be shocked if she did fifty pounds of rice a week)

          It’s less clean come my generation, there’s ramen and cheap pizza and spaghetti for the “poor people food,” the only one I really hate is garbanzo beans or hominy, which we ate when prices on…everything…. got bad.

  5. Prior to WWII lobster was “poor folk food” in the US. During WWII beef. pork, and eventually chicken (which also was not considered “meat” – except on Sundays and if you were invalid) was rationed. Lobster was not. Fancy restaurants, especially in major cities like New York and San Francisco, began serving lobster because it was available. And lobster, properly prepared is delicious.

    GIs, many of whom had never been in the Big City or if they were city boys were too poor (during the pre-war Depression era) to afford to eat in fancy big city restaurants, were through big cities on their way overseas. They had money in their pockets and an uncertain future ahead of them. Many of them decided to invest that money in impressing a girl by sharing a good meal at the swankiest place in town.

    In many cases they could not get the beefsteak they wanted to order. It was rationed. So they asked the waiter, “What’s good? What to you recommend?” The waiter would then suggest something they had a lot of – lobster. Which the GI would order for himself and his girl. Many had never heard of it before. (A lot of soldiers came from what is now flyover country, far from lobsterpots.

    Of course, it was delicious. And the GI that had it for the first time on their way to war thereafter associated lobster with swank dining and not poverty. After the war lobster was transformed to a luxury. It has remain so ever since in the US.

  6. There used to be an interesting dichotomy between crayfish and lobster… crawdads were only eaten by Gulf Coast hillbillies, Cajuns, and similar po’ white trash, while lobsters were eaten by rich people in fancy restaurants — because obviously crayfish and lobsters are such completely different things (okay, yeah, different genuses and species, but let’s be real here… one decapod crustacean is much like another when it comes to eating them).

    That’s not as big of a deal nowadays, I speculate due to Cajun food having become “trendy” at some point.

    Much further back, one of the demands in a servant strike in New England back in colonial times was that they not be fed lobster more than three times per week.

  7. Eating grits in the US (coarsely ground hominy, cooked as a hot cereal) immediately marks you as Southern. My mother was from Tennessee, so we were raised on them. My father (from Pennsylvania) would eat them and pretend to like them.

    1. I once complained to my father that between Georgia and Texas there was no breakfast place that didn’t automatically dump grits on your plate, whatever else you ordered.

      He said, “And the problem is?”

    2. My family postulated the existence of the “Grits Line” in the US. South of which you were automatically given grits as your breakfast side dish, and north of the line you got automatic hash browns. We traveled a lot so we got to map out the Grits Line fairly well. 😀

    3. When eating breakfast out if it’s available I always order grits to gross out my yankee friends. To gross out my southern friends I eat my grits with grape jelly.

          1. Here in DFW there are many places you can get them: Cracker Barrel, IHOP, Denny’s, Norma’s Café…

    4. About ten years back, my Army Reserve unit from Georgia was training in Indiana, and after hours we sought out an all-night IHOP for a late meal. Not only did the waitress not have grits, she’d never heard of it.

      It. Not “them,” you Yankees. When your oatmeal is scorched, you didn’t burn “them,” did you?

  8. Apparently limburger, braunschweiger and onion sandwitches were a staple of, at least Midwest, astronomers back in my grandfather’s time.

    My guess is it came over from the German immigrants, and stuck around in astronomy much longer than it did elsewhere because their night owl lifestyle somewhat isolated them from the wider community.

    It’s also really good cold and will keep you going for a long time.

      1. Snack gardens!

        You plant stuff that you can pick and eat right away, still warm from the sun, usually has a lot of tomatoes and you *must* have a salt shaker out there…..

  9. Off topic, does anyone have good references for what is involved in living off grid?

    I’d been thinking mid-1800’s tech level with some scifi bits, but it hit me, even in the absolute edge of the world, people would still have cellphones, no matter how low bandwidth and unreliable. They’re just to useful not to have something.

    Now I’m trying to figure out what else they might have mixed in with the sticks.

    1. Joel of Joel’s Gultch (joesgultch.com) lives off-grid somewhere in rural Arizona. His blog talks about the issues he sees day to day.

  10. When I got to Alaska, one of the interesting cultural quirks is that it is below the grits-line. Because so many Texans, Okies, Louisianans, etc came up to work the oil, the culture mixed very deep south with pacific northwest, and you get grits in a lot of the diners instead of hashbrowns.

  11. No beans in chili is pretty much a Texan thing. Other parts of the country put beans in their chili and never look back. Even the wrong kind of beans (red kidney beans, for instance, instead of the correct pinto beans). Another food whose markers have changed is flank steak (also called skirt steak). Used to be that was a cheap meat cut for poor people who couldn’t afford sirloin or T-bone, but ever since fajitas became popular it’s become as pricey as the more traditional steaks.

    In the continental US, getting served grits without requesting them is a marker for being in the South. So is sweet iced tea, instead of unsweetened. Where I live in central Texas used to be default unsweetened (if you wanted it sweet, you could add the sugar yourself), but for the past decade or so the wait staff ask which variety you want. In other parts of the country, the concept of iced tea is not fully understood. Way back in 1985, I ordered iced tea in a restaurant in Massachusetts in early September, and was informed that, “It’s out of season.”

    Another regional marker is the salsa served in Mexican restaurants. Over almost all of the country, it will be a red salsa whether you like it or not. In New Mexico, though, green salsa is just as popular so restaurant customers will be asked which color they want. To the point that I’ve heard that the official New Mexico state question is, “Red or green?”

    1. That’s true. It is the state question. And one acceptable answer is “Christmas.” (A little of both.)

      Also NM: if you ask for “The breakfast of champions,” you don’t get Wheaties™. You get asked if you want posole (yes!) and get menudo with or without posole. Menudo is tripe stew, and it is a great day-starter and supposedly cures hangovers as well.

      (Posole is a type of hominy.)

    2. Flank and Skirt are often pricier than Ribeye here, for some reason. T-bone, Sirloin and Porterhouse were just on sale so Flank and Skirt were $7-$8 ($9 in the case of sirloin) more. Skirt runs a bit tougher than Flank but tastes a bit “beefier”.

      1. Most formerly cheap cuts have gotten expensive.
        They were cheap because they take time and effort to prepare.
        They’ve stopped being cheap, because conspicuously having the time and putting in the effort has become a middlebrow or better sort of class marker.

        I don’t know how widespread it is, but from the corner I grew up in, it was humiliating for a rancher to eat beans. It implied he sucked at his job.

        1. Not to mention prep methods like sous-vide meaning that you can get good results easier, so there’s more demand.

  12. Pizza is a huge regional marker in the US.

    New York thin and crispy.

    Chicago deep-dish with the cheese on the bottom and the tomato sauce on the top (Pizzaria Uno is the big name for it)

    St. Louis thin and crispy with Provel cheese (Ino’s is the big name in that style)

    California style — anything goes, including plenty of what-the-heck ingredients, but often on a whole-wheat crust

    Hawaiian pizza — ham and pineapple, maybe anchovies or another kind of fish

    There are dozens of other regional styles. In the part of downstate Illinois where I grew up, the primary pizza chain had round pies cut in squares rather than wedges, which was great for serving a large party of younger children (think the season’s-end party for a Little League team).

    1. Cutting pizza in squares with a half-moon knife is apparently something from Rome, originally. You get it in spots around the US, such as Marion’s here in Dayton. (Very thin crust, very small grains of sausage too.)

      Wisconsin has a lot of cracker-thin crust, apparently. Pennsylvania has a lot of white pizza in the Lehigh Valley.

      And of course Detroit pizza, made in the first conveyor belt pizza ovens, and cooked in square pans originally designed to hold auto parts in car factories (and fit on conveyor belts). Apparently it’s like they make in certain parts of Sicily, with tomato sauce as almost an extra topping and it mostly being a bread/cheese cake.

      1. Chicago Deep Dish might be famous but its the cracker thin crust pizzas cut into squares that are the weekly family pizza in Chicagoland local pizza joints. If the crust isn’t nearly crunchy when fresh out of the oven its not done right. and yes that found up into southern Wisconsin as well though I haven’t done enough research to see how far north it really gets.

        Chicago Deep Dish is eaten by locals but much less often and even most of us will secretly agree its not REALLY pizza but more of a pizza flavored pie/casserole but only in very hushed tones 🙂

  13. beans in chili I gather is a death-trap

    Strictly speaking, chili is the gravy stuff.

    So like the “football” debate where society foobtall is a hot point.

  14. Scrapple. Liver mush (the southern version) is sort of similar but it’s not the same. Scrapple uses everything but the squeal and plenty of cheap cornmeal and it’s delicious fried crispy.

    Plenty of people won’t touch it.

      1. I like mine crispy, sometimes topped with barbecue sauce or A1.
        I don’t like ketchup.
        I don’t always have scrapple with pancakes so syrup isn’t a given.

        Scrapple is for dinner with refried boiled potatoes on the side!

      1. Scrapple isn’t a Southern dish. I was introduced to it in Philly, and according to Wikipedia, was introduced by German immigrants (aka Pennsylvania Dutch), and is most popular in the mid-Atlantic.

        1. And goetta is like scrapple, but it has oats instead of cornmeal. (And you apparently need a splatter screen, because the grease goes all over creation when you cook it in a pan.)

  15. Nothing wrong with green Jello, aka lime. Well until mom finely shreds carrots into it, then it tastes truly awful.

    I love spam, with a spoon, from the can. Low sodium is good, as are some of the flavors, others are awful.

    If you get deep enough off the beaten track in the south west you can find Mexican food. Nothing like what most Americans think of when they hear Mexican though.

    1. And depending which part of Mexico the food is from, you can be talking about radically different things too. The wheat/corn tortilla debate is not the only big one.

      I will admit, I do *really* miss molle, brown and green are delicious. I need to see if I can find a low carb brown molle recipe…

  16. Spouse and I both grew up in the rural northwest US. Neither of us can stand most canned (cheap) vegetables now. Boiled potatoes in a can – don’t miss them, and I love all other potatoes. Jello, any flavor, is for when you’re sick as it’s easy on the stomach. And chili in southwest Ohio has cinnamon and is served on spaghetti…an acquired taste, though I don’t know why you’d bother.

    1. Cincinnati chili! Two way, three way, or four way. When my family lived there, my folks’ employer had a chili cook-off. Dad messed with everyone else’s mind by bringing cans of Wolf Brand, shipped in from Houston.

      1. Cincinnati chili is not an Italian dish; it’s a Greek dish. If you make your peace with that, I think you will enjoy it. (And yes, cinnamon on meat is a general Middle Eastern/medieval cooking thing, which I like a lot.)

        Similarly, pineapple pizza is a Greek-American fusion thing. And I like that one too. (Best with anchovies on the pizza, but very few people will believe you.)

  17. My great uncle ordered french toast from room service at a 5 star hotel in Paris. He was informed that it was peasant food. He informed them in turn that given what he was paying for the room they could indulge his taste. They fixed the french toast and it was the best he had ever had. (They were probably already in shock from the Canadanosity of his French which weakened their will). He told this story to my dad. I wish to believe that it is true.

  18. You rascal, Dave, you did that on purpose just to stir things up. You know perfectly well that a nation as diverse as the US has dozens of cultures, all of which have their own ‘cultural food markers’ which is just a fancy of saying ‘food snobs.’

    My personal favorite was well-to-do Chicago politician Barak Obama campaigning in rural Iowa, lamenting low crop prices and blaming corporations for exploiting farmers by pointing out the high price of arugula at Whole Foods stores. People in my (admittedly low class) social circle laughed at him. Who can afford to shop at Whole Foods and what the hell is arugula?

    I know adults who won’t eat KaBoom breakfast cereal because that was one of the foods which qualified for Food Stamps so they ate it when they were children living on welfare. Nothing wrong with it – tastes like every other over-sugared fruity kid cereal – but it’s welfare food, poor people food, and we’re not eating it, ever again.

    1. I remember my mom’s reaction to that. Apparently it’s a fancy name for rocket, which was something of a weed where she grew up.

      Complaining about the price was a bit like complaining about the price of pattypan squash.

    2. Malt-o-meal– now “MOM” in their branding– similar thing, it was the Cheap Stuff and usually stale knockoffs of everything.

      …. note, at some point someone TOTALLY overhauled stuff, because in the last decade or so I’ve had better luck quality-wise with them than the name brand stuff. Their only economy is still that they’re in feed-sack sized bags that cost the same as the ever shrinking large hardback book sized boxes of name brand stuff.

  19. “I know adults who won’t eat KaBoom breakfast cereal because that was one of the foods which qualified for Food Stamps so they ate it when they were children living on welfare.”

    My mom felt the same way about apple butter. I guess it was doled out to families that needed charity in the 1930s. (No food stamps back then.) I remember asking her about it after reading about a “triple butter” sandwich (peanut butter, apple butter, and butter) in some story I read as a child. She refused to buy apple butter. Tried some later and could not understand the prejudice, but it was there,

      1. If you love pumpkin, make it to Trader Joe’s in October — they put pumpkin in almost everything! (Sometimes when it doesn’t make sense….)

  20. Historically, there was apparently a time when Americans very much did not eat sheep.

    See, mid 19th century or so, cattle raised in Texas (or elsewhere on the plains) could be driven up north to the transcontinental railroads, slaughtered, and shipped east. The great plains were farmed some, but particularly the west can be pretty arid, and ranching could be pretty viable. And, the cattlemen do not like sheep, or those who want to ranch them. Anyway, the beef supply may have pushed out much interest in eating sheep.

    Sheep are more popular these days. For some reason there is less of whatever motivated the actual aversion to eating sheep, and we have had some more waves of immigrants from sheep eating and goat eating cultures.

    Pork, Beef, Chicken and Turkey are pretty common, along with fish (commercially or recreationally acquired). Hunters eat a bunch of stuff, with venison being extremely common for them.

    But, wide variation in customs. Some folks still hunt small critters by preference, frogs and stuff. Others, previous generations did eat stuff like squirrel, but dropped dealing with butchering small animals as cheaper commercial meat became an increasingly practical option. And someone apparently buys commercially raised goat meat, somewhere. I also understand that there is even some importing of bush meat from Africa.

    Also, it seems like there are two types of people who eat Gluten Free. 1. Food cranks, possibly leftist, often following fashion. 2. Folks with medical conditions that are disgusting, horrible, or both.

    May be that I am paying attention, but it feels like there may be a lot of Americans with strange food intolerances.

      1. It’s the lanolin. Get even a bit of it on the meat when butchering, and the meat tastes awful.

        Lamb is a bit easier to avoid that problem, I gather–hence its past popularity, and not just for symbolism, for things like Easter dinners.

        1. Federal law allows sheep meat from a sheep of any age to be sold as lamb.

          All the lamb we eat is probably mutton, these days, but old sheep must have had easier lives than they once did.

    1. 1800’s, there was a actually a lot of mutton consumption in the US – and a series of running range wars over public grazing up and down the Rockies. The precipitous decline came after the World War II, in which a lot of GI’s who’d eaten canned mutton rations (thank you Australia) refused to ever touch the stuff again. (Really interesting book on it: The Wooly West: Colorado’s Hidden History of Sheepscapes by Andrew Gulliford)

      Goat meat is commonly available in supermercados – though my love bemoans the way they leave bits of bone in when they chop it up, as in South Africa, this is not the done thing. If you have an indian or halal grocery nearby, goat is usually available there, too. (A goat curry, well done, is a thing of delight.)

      1. Around here, I’ve seen goat meat in Asian supermarkets. It’s probably available in Mexican meat markets, too (haven’t looked), but I haven’t seen it in Indian bazars (hmm, don’t recall see any meat – so probably vegetarian markets, so someday will need to check out a halal market).

        Food customs are fun. In an American supermarket, when you buy a chicken, you don’t get the head or feet. In Spain, you do. Here in an Asian market, you do — Chinese like chicken feet as a snack (it’s street food in China).

        1. Man, that one…I know cultural differences, etc but I have SEEN what chicken feet on a live chicken get into! There is not enough boiling water on the planet… 😀

          1. What about pig’s feet? Chinese love those, too, but pickled pig’s feet are eaten in parts of the US, too.

  21. For other interesting regional US foods/restaurant chains there is the Maid-Rite loose meat sandwich zone which is centered on Iowa. Finely ground beef, browned and seasoned (seasoning vary but usually include onion, salt, and “something extra” like Worcestershire sauce) but kept loose without a sauce to bind it as in sloppy joes. Usually served with some diced raw onion, mustard, and optional slice of American Cheese on a steamed hamburger bun.

    Like White Castle its another Midwest franchise restaurant chain that dates back to the 1920’s. It was fairly popular in Midwest mall food courts but looks like those didn’t survive the collapse of the malls + Covid though many of the stand alone stores are still going.

    1. “Taverns” I heard them called in Northwest Iowa. They appeared at every pot-luck (or hot-dish) church supper, and a few times when I was visiting friends at their home. They didn’t add onions to theirs, because the family patriarch and onions “were not friends.”

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