Monday, November 03, 2008

Presidential Dinner II: The Side Dishes

Continuing my menu suggestions for a pan-US meal, I come to the Veep candidates. Yes, I'm only focusing on the two biggies, that guy from the Delmarva that rides the Acela back and forth to work every day, foot in mouth, and that lady from Wasilla who really dislikes her brother-in-law.


JOSEPH BIDEN (Democrat - DE; born PA)

representing the Mid-Atlantic - oyster stew

Every time I write about Maryland and Chesapeake cuisine, I am writing about Mid-Atlantic food. But strangely enough, I never write about all the foods of the Mid-Atlantic. To be honest, I'm not quite sure just what "Mid-Atlantic" means. All I know is that we are in it, as are DC and, at least, parts of Virginia and, perhaps, Pennsylvania. Delaware also fits in there somewhere. The only state that is east of the Mason-Dixon Line, poor little Delaware often gets left out of any discussions of culinary prowess.

It's not difficult to see why: I did a search for "Delaware recipes", and really, I can't find a thing that we don't usually find in another state, only more famously so. Of course, Delaware has a rich bounty of seafood (just look at this brochure from the Delaware state government). But since Maryland also does, it seems like I'm just copping out and putting in a recipe from Maryland.

Photo linked from the Chesapeake Life Magazine website

So why not just grab some oysters and call it a day? I can find no reason why not. Oysters, like crabs, are prominent in and around the Delmarva area. There are a bunch of ways to eat oysters: raw on the half-shell, fried in fritter form, stewed, etc. I like this recipe for oyster stew from Chesapeake Life Magazine. For this you need a pint of oysters in their liquor, and various stew vegetables - celery, potatoes, onions, carrots, etc. Or you could just do the impatient thing and eat them raw, freshly shucked. Nothing wrong with that!

representing the Northeast - Scrapple canapés

Joe Biden also was not born in the state he represents, calling Scranton, PA, the home of his humble beginnings. Unlike Mid-Atlantic cuisine, I really have no clue what honest-to-goodness "Northeastern US cuisine" is supposed to be like (though Wikipedia does take a stab at figuring it out). Perhaps it's largely Amish? New England's is a cuisine unto itself, and the Mid-Atlantic, which often gets glommed onto the Northeast, isn't really "Northern" food-wise at all, more of a slightly Northern, slightly Southern entity all its own. New York is a food empire - 'nuff said. But Pennsylvania? No disrespect is at all intended here, but when I think "Pennsylvania" and "food" I think of cheesesteaks and I think of Amish food and that's it. I know there's more but I have no idea what that is. Since Biden comes from northeastern Pennsylvania I tried to find something from there. Not much luck. So I'm falling back on that German/Amish/Pennsylvanian staple: scrapple.

A pan of Scrapple, being fried up for breakfast. Photo linked from the WHYY-FM (NPR) website

I hate scrapple. It worked its way into Maryland and I wish it would go back to be perfectly honest. But enough people do like it (including my mother) that I feel compelled to include it here. Scrapple is a far different creature than Spam, including various parts of the pig (there's also beef scrapple) mixed up with corn meal to create a big block of pork-and-corn glop. A palatable way to prepare it might be to use it as the main ingredient in a Pennsylvania Dutch canapé. Just put little chunks of fried-up Scrapple on little crackers or crunchy toasts, add a grape tomato slice and a little sprig of parsley and Scrapple instantly becomes semi-edible!

I apologize, Scrapple fans. I know I am dripping with sarcasm but I just cannot stand the stuff.

SARAH PALIN (Republican - AK)

representing the Pacific Northwest - Salmon sliders

Far, far away on the other end of the continent lies Alaska, the biggest state land-wise and one of the smallest states population-wise of the US. Much of its culture is tied to the Pacific Northwest, which is why I'm lumping it in that region of the country, with Oregon and Washington. Governor and would-be VP Sarah Palin swears she can field-dress a moose lickety split, but Alaska is known for more than just its moose population. Since we are a seafood state, it comes as no surprise that when I think "Alaska" and "food" I think of its seafood: specifically, salmon and Alaskan king crab. There's a lot more, of course, but that's what pops into my mind. And Alaska salmon, crab and halibut are quite easy to find in Maryland.

Photo linked from Bon Appétit Magazine.

It's easy to find canned Alaska salmon in the supermarket, even the dollar store. There are good recipes out there, such as this one from What's Cooking, that show you how to make a salmon burger using salmon from a can. For a change, you can take a recipe that forms six equal salmon burgers and transform it into twelve equal salmon sliders, and cook as normal. Use a steak roll or a mini-hamburger bun and top it with anything from mustard to onion to dill sauce to the lemon-sour cream sauce that mentions in the above-linked recipe (Bon Appétit Magazine suggests a dill-tartar sauce for its salmon burgers). Or just leave it alone.

Image of Joe Biden linked from the Associated Content website, via Wikimedia Commons. Image of Sarah Palin linked from the Political Kudzu website.