27-33/1000 Foods to Eat Before You Die

Jun 17, 2015 by

I would hate for any of you to think that just because my life is currently in total upheaval due to our upcoming move back to NYC, and the fact that Miles is quitting his job and I am starting a new one, and we have yet to sell the house (PLEASE GOD LET US SELL THE HOUSE), and I’ve been back and forth between Virginia and NYC all summer, I would hate for any of you to think that just because all of this is going on and the blog is quiet, that I am not still eating everything I can get my hands on.  I am still doing that.  I am even still (most of the time) remembering to take photos.

Here are the things I’ve recently eaten from Mimi’s List of 1000 Foods to Eat Before You Die.

Most of them are terrible for you.

All of them are from the American Foods section.

On my last day in NYC before leaving for Abingdon (then going back to NYC, then back to Abingdon, it’s been like that) I was feeling stressed out because I had screwed up the time of an important meeting.  I was also about to drive ten hours with all my stuff and my mother in a rented car, and the highways between NYC and Abingdon can be insane-making.  As I wandered around the East Village trying to reschedule the meeting via email, I happened upon an outpost of Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream, where I’d been once before I moved to NYC.  As we all know, ‘stressed’ spelled backward is ‘desserts.’

I stopped in for a Hot Fudge Sundae (27), the Continental Sundae, in this case.

Behold, I give you vanilla ice cream with red currant compote, sea salted marcona almonds, housemade hot fudge, and whipped cream.  And since it’s Van Leeuwen ice cream, you know it’s made with hormone-and antibiotic-free milk, cream, eggs, and cane sugar.  So you (I) can feel totally smug about consuming one million delicious DELICIOUS calories in a sitting.  I really did eat it all.  I thought when I got it, “there is no way I am going to eat of this.”  But I did.  Ate it.  Every bite.  I still have dreams about it.

The Continental Sundae at Van Leeuwen NYC

The Continental Sundae at Van Leeuwen NYC

While we’re on the subject of NYC, let’s talk about Peanut Butter & Co.

Because I’ve been eating A LOT of Peanut Butter (28).

What’s more American than PB?  Mimi informs us that, “The indigenous plant with a winding green stalk was already well known to the Native Americans by the time Columbus reached the new world… But peanut butter lovers owe the greatest thanks to Dr. George Washington Carver, who, in the early twentieth century, encourage the cultivation of the peanut as a source of nourishment, especially for the poor.”  Most of us have eaten peanut butter since our youths, so finding and consuming it are not usually cause for celebration.  However, should you feel yourself stuck in a peanut rut, PLEASE take my advise and try Peanut Butter & Co. in your grocer’s aisle, or at their brick-and-mortar establishment in the West Village.  There, they will sell you a sandwich made with your choice of three of their ten PB flavors, including maple, dark chocolate, and spicy.  My favorite, however, is The Bee’s Knees: thick and creamy PB blended with honey.  Anything but bland.

The Bee's Knees peanut butter, by Peanut Butter and Co.

The Bee’s Knees peanut butter, by Peanut Butter and Co.

I’ve been cooking, too, since I’ve been home.  God bless house-sized kitchens!!  Some friends came through town last week and stayed the night with us, so I made a dinner which included one of my favorite things to cook and to eat.

We had cornbread (29), made with buttermilk and green onions.

Yes, do be jealous.  My cornbread is made in a cast-iron skillet and it is to die.  Mimi says that in the South, cornbread “has always been made with white — not yellow — cornmeal.”  I made this batch with white cornmeal because that’s what I had in the house, and feel really self-satisfied about coincidentally doing it correctly.  Most Southerners will tell you, as Mimi does, that you are NOT to put ANY sugar in cornbread, but I always put honey in mine.  It makes it better.  And the skillet is greased with bacon drippings and placed in the oven during preheating, so that when the batter goes in the pan is already piping hot.  This is a trick I learned from my friend Mary Lucy, and I don’t know why it makes the bread taste better, but it does.  I finish with an egg wash about five minutes before it’s done.  Those are my cornbread secrets.  You’re welcome.

My own homemade cornbread with green onions.

My own homemade cornbread with green onions.

Let’s see… what else… oh yes!  A festival called Plumb Alley Day happened on Memorial Day weekend, as it always does in Abingdon, and I got to eat festival food.

I had my first Funnel Cake (30) in many years.  No regrets!!

Please tell me you know what a funnel cake is.  It is perfection when hot, and a rubbery, sugary mess when cold.  No one would make one at home.  Give us the history, Mimi: “Looking like a giant, squiggly spiderweb of a doughnut, the cake is a treat with Pennsylvania Dutch roots.  The recipe, for what is basically a cruller, most likely originated in northern Europe and emigrated to American with the first Mennonite settlers from southwestern Germany.  They settled in the farmlands of Pennsylvania, where the funnel cakes were initially fried in lard and served as a snack to field workers.”  So, I guess someone WOULD make them at home.  Anabaptists, in fact.  Learn something new every day.

Funnel Cake.  With which I am well-pleased.

Funnel Cake. With which I am well-pleased.


Speaking of festival food, Lord love a hot dog (31). 

Especially in Abingdon, where we have Political Dogs: Hotdog Leader of the Free World.  Open late with tons of toppings, both familiar and exotic, as well as the option to have a veggie dog or a kosher dog in any configuration.  Not to mention the best (worst) puns for names of dishes.  I had a Monroe Doctrine a few days ago: black beans, sour cream, pico de gallo, jalapeno marmalade, pineapple salsa, fried onions, and Sriracha on a veggie dog.  I never wanted it to end.  Mimi informs that, “The hot dog is a strictly American invention, and a native of Brooklyn, at that.”  My favorite type outside the marvels of Political Dog is, of course, the delicious Chicago style (hold the tomatoes, extra peppers, extra celery salt).

The Monroe Doctrine Hotdog at Political Dogs in Abingdon, VA

The Monroe Doctrine Hotdog at Political Dogs in Abingdon, VA


In addition to its sublime hot dogs, Abingdon boasts my favorite hamburger (32).

I swoon for the grass-fed, locally-raised, perfectly-cooked Chef’s Burger at Sisters at the Martha Washington.  The first time I had one (Valentine’s Day 2014, I remember it so well), I didn’t speak for fifteen minutes.  Cooked medium-rare and served on a brioche bun, it can be served with several different cheese options, but the house-made pimento makes my heart sing.  This is my go-to celebration/being upset/getting into Juilliard/going away meal in Abingdon, and I need to eat as many of these burgers in the upcoming weeks as I have the time and money to consume.  I know there are good burgers everywhere, but this one is mine.

The Chef's Burger with Pimento Cheese at Sisters Grill at the Martha in Abingdon, VA

The Chef’s Burger with Pimento Cheese at Sisters Grill at the Martha in Abingdon, VA

And, finally, bit of a wild card out here in Appalachia, and the one dish I forgot to take a photo of before consuming.  Surf-and-turf wonderful, Miles ate most of these in about two minutes.

Dining out in Kingsport, Tennessee last week, we tried Clams Casino (33).

We discovered this delicacy at Biggie’s Clam Bar, a restaurant founded in Hoboken that now has outposts all over (even way out here).  Mimi calls this an “old-fashioned Italian American appetizer,” and apparently it’s very big in the Northeast.  Here’s the deal: cherrystone clams are topped with paprika, bits of bacon, and chopped red and green peppers, then sprinkled with butter or cheese and sizzled under the broiler.  Delicious, delicious, delicious.  Like clam chowder without the soupy part.  We are converts.  Should be way easier to find in NYC, too.

Clams Casino Photo via vikingrange.com

Clams Casino
Photo via vikingrange.com

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