My journey as a travel writer begins in the city of my birth St. Louis, Missouri the “Show Me State.”
On June 4, 2016, I started living full-time in a small recreational vehicle to travel the back roads of America. Before I left Southwest Florida, April 30, 2016, I purged a lot of personal belongings, to include one 4 x 3 plastic container and three, 3 x 3 plastic containers filled with personal photos, awards, and memorabilia of my last 30-35 years.
It is always great to visit my home city, filled with family and friends, touring my childhood community and old teenage haunts, but, it also provides me the glorious opportunity to consume the foods I grew up eating.
My first food excursion took place ten miles south of the city as I traveled northbound on I-55 when I spotted a White Castles restaurant on the right side of the highway. My mouth began salivating as I reminisced about one of my staple food sources from my teenage years, especially after partying till the wee hours of the morning.
During my teenage years, my friends told me, these square two-inch by two-inch burgers, soaked up the liquor after a night of drinking and partying. I was always the designated driver back in the day before the concept was established and of course, I did not consume any alcohol as a teenager. 🙂
My White Castles history dates back to a time when they cost 12, cents a burger and my minimum purchase of ten was normal.
With age, wisdom and a better knowledge of healthy eating, I limit my purchases to one regular burger and one cheeseburger, small fries and water. Hey, I still get the tasty flavor while reminiscing about my youth without consuming the volume of calories. My stop was savory and quick as I pulled back onto the highway headed for St. Louis County where I deliver my personal belongings to my sister’s home.
Because it was mother day weekend, I know the rest of my favorite foods tastings would be split with my sisters as we share the similar love of the unique foods of St. Louis.
Many US cities like St. Louis have a signature food item and the “St. Paul Sandwich” is as unique to St. Louis as Gino’s Philly Cheese Steaks are to Philadelphia.
This sandwich is sold at every Asian storefront restaurant in the city and St. Louis County. (Growing up we called the storefronts the “Chinaman Shop or Chop Suey shops.”
I never knew how unique the St. Paul sandwich was to the St. Louis until leaving the city for the military. I have asked for a St. Paul sandwich in West Germany, Copenhagen, and Alexandria VA during the 1980’s & 90’s, and I would receive what the heck looks from the person I was asking.
The verbal exchange at some Asian restaurant would appear to be a comedy routine as an Asian-accented waitress repeating what I asked for and I repeatedly telling her while attempting to understand what he or she was saying. In the end, I discovered, no one outside of St. Louis had ever heard of a St. Paul sandwich.
Some years later, I Googled the sandwich name and found its origins.
Steven Yuen, the owner of Park Chop Suey in the Lafayette Square neighborhood near downtown St. Louis, is credited with naming the sandwich after his hometown of St. Paul Minnesota.
He created the sandwich as a more familiar dish for Midwestern Americans because if you put anything between two slices of bread, it can and will be eaten and I can attest to that.
The sandwich is an Egg Foo Yung pattie without the rice and gravy, between two slices of white bread with options of shrimp, chicken, beef, and pork or a mix of all meats or any combination. I like my St. Paul sandwich with shrimp, lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese and mayonnaise.
There are many other original foods unique to St. Louis to include the “Gerber” an open-faced sandwich, with Italian or French bread, garlic butter, ham, and Provel cheese. It is sprinkled with paprika and toasted.
Toasted Ravioli was born in the Italian section of the city called the Hill, which is a ravioli coated in breading and toasted dry or fried, instead of being boiled or baked wet.
My food history and experiences have its foundation based on my father who was born and raised in the Mississippi Delta. He was raised on wild game, including chicken, beef, pork and especially pork.
In honor of my father, whenever I return home I seek out a Bar-B-Que restaurant that serves the pig snoot sandwich. Yes, there is no need to let your mind wonder, it is that part of the pig you are thinking about.
Now, that you have connected the dots, go ahead and turn your nose up, but, it’s what I was exposed to as a child, and ate with a smile on my face and still love.
However, I limit myself to half a sandwich which I share with one of my sisters. Now, she will never admit to eating the snoot sandwich, but she won’t probably read this. 🙂
My mother who did not eat this delicacy but would Bar-B-Que this unique item on the grill and my brothers and sisters would devour everything she cooked she did not set aside for my father.
Yes, it always great to visit the city with its iconic Arch and famous river that passes beneath it carrying the heartland of America’s food that eventually feeds the world. But growing up, it is my family, friends, and the food of my beloved city that makes me happy when I visit.
But, my stay in St. Louis County over the mothers day weekend was a little chilly, ok downright cold after leaving warm Southwest Florida. Since the mid-Atlantic had forecasts night time lows in the 40’s for early May and plenty of rain where my RV was in stored so I returned to Florida’s warm temperatures.
Yes, it was not that cold for those who are ok with night time temperatures below 60 degrees, but, my body needed more time to adjust to the cool temperatures as a travel writer.
So, my next posting will include Supermans home and areas of Northern Florida.