Since Iowa is one of the nation’s top producers of corn, beef, swine, ice cream and no telling what else, I figured a food column was in order.
It’s hard to beat a good old Iowa breaded pork tenderloin.
They’re a staple at the Iowa State Fair and many eateries across the state pride themselves in dishing out pork tenderloins that are as big a spare tire in a 1948 Desoto.
They are big and Iowans love them.
I saw a breaded tenderloin on Facebook that was as big as a pizza box.
There are even yearly contests seeking out the biggest and best pork tenderloin.
I enjoy them, but I would rather have a cheeseburger and order of onion rings from Culver’s.
One of our favorite lunch spots at the Iowa State Fair is Beattie’s Watermelon Stand. Debbie usually eats a tenderloin and I have a ham or roast beef sandwich. And of course, some tasty hot French fries and cold ice tea.
Another Iowa delicacy is the Maid-Rite or loose meat sandwich as it is often called. An article I found on the internet called it “A messy culinary rite of passage,” an Iowa tradition with just the right combination of spices and meat.
First created in 1936 by Fred Angell of Muscantine, the sandwich was declared to be “made right” by a happy customer, and the name, Maid-Rite, was history.
Top it off with mustard, ketchup, onion and pickles and it is a favorite of many Iowans.
Growing up in Oklahoma, we often fixed sloppy Joes. My mom would brown a pound of ground beef in the skillet and pour in a can of Manwich or make her own mix. She’d then pour the mixture over a toasted open-faced bun and we’d eat it with a fork.
I was living in Missouri and attending the University of Missouri-Columbia when I experienced my first loose meat sandwich.
I was rolling down Broadway when I saw a sign for Mugs Up Drive In. It looked inviting, so I pulled in for lunch.
I scanned the menu and found the Zip Burger. That looked good, so I ordered two. I opened up the packaging and about half the sandwich fell on the floor of my pickup truck.
“Where’s the beef,” I’m thinking.
In short, Maid-Rites are not too bad. One always has to have a spoon or fork handy. I guess that is the lure of the sandwich.
Sweet corn is another Iowa favorite. Come July, the sweet corn vendors pop up on street corners in small towns all across the state selling their tasty treats. Slather some butter and add salt and pepper to taste and it is hard to beat Iowa Sweet Corn.
Another tasty Iowa delight is the Hot Roast Beef Sandwich, which includes well-spiced roast beef stacked onto white bread with a pile of mashed potatoes and gravy poured all over it. It’s another popular Iowa State Fair food served at the Cattleman’s.
Ham balls is another Iowa favorite and a food that has grown on me. I don’t recall eating ham balls growing up in Oklahoma. My mom may have fixed them, I just don’t recall it. We ate a lot of fried chicken, okra, barbecue Spam, fried fish and fried potatoes. My dad enjoyed wilted salads and fresh onions pulled from the backyard garden.
Chili with cinnamon rolls is another favorite Iowa food. Not long after moving to Iowa, I was at a football game between English Valleys and Bussey. It was the last game of the season and the good folks of Bussey would all bring their chili and everyone poured it a large pot at the concession stand. It looked inviting, but I passed. Talk about a gas explosion.
Real chili to me is a meat dish, not a soup, as it is often called. It’s good poured over a cheeseburger or over spaghetti with onions and cheese for a three-way. Toss in some beans and make it a four-way.
Something that I didn’t see listed anywhere was corn dogs and polish sausages, two of my favorites. It’s also hard to beat a good steak cooked medium or tasty pork chops, baked, grilled, fried or however you like them.
And it’s hard to beat Anderson Erickson anything from milk to cottage cheese and various varieties of chip dips.
And Nutty Bars, another Iowa State Fair staple, or a dish of Iowa-made Blue Bunny vanilla ice cream is always a good way to end any meal or just enjoy while relaxing and watching a game or one’s favorite show on television.
Next time you are out and about, stop and try something different. And while you are there, say hello to a stranger or find someone visit with. You’ll be glad you did.
Have a great week and always remember that “Good Things are Happening,” every day and always.
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