What is American food?

On my first trip outside the country I craved a hamburger. It wasn’t to be found where I was.

I rarely eat commercial hamburgers so perhaps I was just homesick.

What is popular in one part of the country could be totally unknown in another.

People in South Dakota love their “chislic” but it is unknown in my part of the world.

Lobster rolls are popular in New England. Just lobster in a bun.

Chicago pizza differs from one in New York and barbecue sauce in Texas and South Carolina are nothing alike.

This line of thought began over lunch with Kansas relatives, some from Texas and Nebraska. There are foods in Nebraska that nobody else knew of and some things we enjoy in the South none of them could fathom.

They were curious about our sandwiches made of fruit. None had enjoyed a pineapple sandwich. Only one had eaten a banana sandwich.

Pineapple sandwiches need some prep because they are juicy. Draining and blotting help with removing excess juice but a smear of butter on the inside of the bread slices helps. Otherwise, it is just pineapple, mayo and white bread.

My mother made pineapple sandwiches for visiting ladies. She used pineapple slices and trimmed the bread to make a round sandwich with half a cherry in the dimple.

Banana sandwiches can be made with or without peanut butter sharing space with mayo.

One of my in-law relatives had never had a standalone tomato sandwich minus the BLT ingredients.

Suggesting a peanut butter and marshmallow cream sandwich made the table go quiet.

They flinched at the mention of an onion sandwich. When Vidalia onions are in season they are a regular thing down here; thick sliced, salted, sliding around between layers of mayo.

Midwestern relatives are not strangers to the biercock, or runza.

The biercock came to Kansas with German-Russian immigrants and has many variations.

Imagine baking small sandwich loaves, only rather than inserting the fillings inside the baked buns you mix the fillings (meat, cheese, pork, onions, cabbage) with the dough and bake it.

The runza is about the same thing and popular in Nebraska. The restaurant chain “Runza” has stores in the Midwest offering the runza and a full menu.

In my early trips to Kansas I expected heavy steak-eaters but they eat a lot of pork including “pork burgers” and the heavenly “pork tenderloin sandwich.”

Mid-westerners are slowly warming up to sweet tea because it is now available in coolers at convenience stores.

There was one non-sandwich Southern bite that hooked them: Crispy-fried bacon with a smear of crunchy peanut butter.

That got ’em.

Joe Phillips writes his “Dear me” columns for several newspapers. He has many connections to Walker County, including his grandfather, former superintendent Waymond Morgan. He can be reached at joenphillips@hotmail.com.

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