New York state of mind
IT’S a bit of a worry when a seemingly intelligent, well- educated American confuses devils with Dracula and thinks Tasmania is Transylvania.
A worry, too, for me at least, to see the increasing popularity in Tasmania of US- styled ‘‘ pulled’’ or ‘‘ hacked’’ beef and pork – meats that are slow cooked to fall- apart tenderness and then, in the US, shredded and filled into long, split baguettes.
They’re known variously in different parts of the country as po’boys, subs, heroes, hogies, torpedoes, grinders or, in one case, mixed with soft cheese and called a phillisteak sandwich, a big hit in rural upstate New York.
Like popcorn chicken, currently being popularised at Jack Greene’s in Salamanca, such pulled, hacked, shredded meat dishes fail to improve any in their trans- Pacific migration.
And it is to be hoped that popcorn itself remains confined to movie theatres and doesn’t become, as is not uncommon here, an alternative entree or main course accompaniment to potato crisps or French fries.
On one occasion we had a unique experience of observing a family at the next table for whom burgers, fries, popcorn and gallons of Coke all- round constituted an ideal meal. And what’s more, order a serve of popcorn with your burger and, like the machine- dispensed fizzy drinks available in every diner, you can get as many free refills as you like from the popcorn machine in the corner.
One useful addition to the normal Australian steak descriptions of rare, medium, well done and so on is the US term ‘‘ Chicago’’, meaning a steak sear- charred on the outside and done ‘‘ to your liking’’ on the inside.
This is preferably achieved over the hottest part or flame of the grill, not, as on one occasion here, in a turbo- charged oven which blasted the steak at 1000C or, I swear, at another where the surface was thickly carbonised with a blowtorch.
It’s not too unfair a generalisation to say Americans are cooking less and less at home, with apartments in many cities now being built without full kitchens.
By way of compensation, serves at diners and restaurants are so large it is common practice for patrons to leave carrying their specially wrapped leftovers for a subsequent meal at home.
The beneficial flipside is the number of excellent delis with ready- prepared food, the number of eating establishments, even upmarket ones, that offer home delivery and wonderful places like Essen in New York.
In an enormous space on Madison Ave, more than 40 chefs start taking deliveries daily at 4am to prepare countless varieties of hot meats, hot dishes, salads, cold cuts, breads and pastries – not to mention fresh fruits and desserts – to be sold at various stations throughout the shop, continually freshened and topped up throughout the day for you to put your own lunch or dinner together. They’re served to go, paid for by the weight.
So it’s not all bad and, as good as Liveat, the Wursthaus and the like are, it strikes me that such a complete concept as Essen could prove a very healthy, fresh and attractive alternative to Australia’s Cat and Fiddle- style food courts.
STAPLE DIET: The US is the home of the supersized junk food meal.