One thing I'd love to see Serious Eats do a series on, just for fun, is the array of industrial-grade stuff that most everyone who grew up in the American public school system remembers. You know what I mean - the gear-toothed, off-tasting hamburgers, the rectangular slabs of pizza (and the hexagonal "Fiestada" pizza), the crispitos, the perfectly spherical lumps of coleslaw and mashed potatoes.
We all remember that stuff, and I'm sure some of us would like to sample it again just for the nostalgia, no matter what it ends up tasting like. Actually getting your hands on these items seems to be challenging, though, if you're not a schoolkid (though I'm sure S.E. would have its ways).
I have a 1989 menu from one of my hometown's grade schools sitting around somewhere. Burnt-orange paper, typed on an IBM Selectric and then Xeroxed to hell. I should dig it up.
There's a mustard that's made in Rock Island, Illinois called Boetje's.
Maybe it's just my roots talking but this is still the single best spicy mustard I've ever had. It's unapologetically hot and tangy, and I've never found anything better for bratwurst or sandwiches. And no one from outside the Midwest has ever heard of it. I was still able to get it when I moved to Kansas City, but then when I uprooted to Connecticut I finally left Boetje's range.
What are some of your favorite lesser-known regional condiments? Not famous stuff like Duke's mayo.
I grew up in Davenport, Iowa. Born 1980, left for college in 1998.
At the corner of Division and Kimberly was a little place called BG's Charbroiled Burgers.
I haven't had them since grade school, and all I can remember is that they did indeed have a charbroiled taste, completely different from the McDonald's and Wendy's that I had far more often, and not weirdbroiled like Burger King. And they were greasy as hell, served in shiny foil wrappers that simply said "HAMBURGER" or "CHEESEBURGER" in a very '80s font (I believe the font name is "Frankfurter Plain", look it up).
They closed so long ago that there's no Internet record of them at all. The only proof I have of their existence is that a friend of my sister's used to work there as a cook.
What places do you have like this, in your memory?
This will be an exceedingly odd topic, but what the heck. What is some food featured in video games that is memorable to you? Did it make you hungry?
- Monolith Burger, the McD's parody from the Space Quest series (1986-1995) and Jones in the Fast Lane (1990); menu items included "Filet-O-Orat" and "Space Spuds".
- the Cold Meal from Return to Castle Wolfenstein (2001); it depicted a gigantic cured sausage - about the size of Hillshire Farm's Yard-O-Beef - and a loaf of bread, and made me ravenous every single time I saw it.
- the Stupendous Sandwich of Chungella IV from Commander Keen 6 (1991); "the second-biggest sandwich I ever saw!"
- Soy Food packets from Deus Ex (2000); "Seasoned with nanoscale mechanochemical generators, this TSP (textured soy protein) not only tastes good but also self-heats when its package is opened."
- Crack-O's potato chips from System Shock 2 (1999); "voted the UNN's national food product in the early 21st century, made from slices of common potatoes deep fried in hydrogenated oils. This treat is often supplemented with vitamins to boost its questionable nutritional value."
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