Fourteen-year-old Hayden from Maryland, sent me a letter asking what my favorite food is. Hayden says that her personal favorite food is apple pie with melted cheese on top.
All I can say is: Hayden, you can enjoy that pie all by yourself. Because I’d rather lick a mule between the ears than put cheese on apple pie. But then, who am I to judge? Someone wise once said: “Just because we can’t agree doesn’t mean that you’re not a complete wacko.”
Anyway, to answer your question, Hayden, my all-time favorite foods have changed over the years. When I was a baby, my mother said that I would eat entire blocks of cheddar while in my high chair. My mother, who thought it was adorable to see a child gnawing on a brick of cheese, would take photographs of me, thereby documenting the origins of my longtime childhood weight problem. But I eventually grew out of the cheese fascination and I moved onto:
The women in my family make delicious mashed potatoes using an ancient family recipe:
—80 sticks of butter.
—Accidental bits of cigarette ash.
Also, my mother did not whip her potatoes with electric mixers like the pagans. She had an actual hand masher, covered in rust so that it looked like a tiny tetanus-covered farm implement. I would always lick the masher when she finished. This explains a lot of my developmental problems.
Also, I love collards. And the only way to cook greens is with the ugliest, most deformed ham hock knuckle you can find.
And, bacon. I do not believe that all bacon is created equal. The bacon I like is the hand-cut kind your granddaddy would spend his hard earned money on.
Let the record show that I also love fried chicken. Throughout certain periods of my life, this food was the only reason why I remained a member of the Baptist church.
I love fresh caught redfish, speckled trout, red snapper, grouper cheeks, fresh shrimp, and raw oysters. A lot of people cringe when I talk about oysters as though I’m talking about wolf snot on the half shell. But in my family, oysters are a big deal. My granny made oyster dressing every holiday season. My father-in-law made a great oyster stew. We received oysters for presents each Christmas. (“Oh, look what Uncle John got you, Sean! A dozen raw!”)
I love pound cake. Banana pudding. Chess pie. Lemon icebox pie. And, of course, Conecuh sausage.
Today, this brand of sausage, which is manufactured in Evergreen, Alabama, has become hugely popular. It even recently became the official sausage of the Atlanta Braves baseball team—which I think is great. I personally love that professional baseball franchises have their own official sausages nowadays.
MICKEY MANTLE: Hey Roger, what’s our official team sausage again?
ROGER MARIS: I dunno, Mick, is it Jimmy Dean Heat ‘n Serve?
But I remember when you couldn’t find Conecuh sausage anywhere but rural convenience stores, or the IGA in Brewton, Alabama.
When I used to go fishing with my buddies, it was a special treat to have this sausage, we would cook up a few packages and eat it all day long until our cardiologists disowned us. In fact, for entire periods of my adult life I survived on two things. Conecuh sausage and:
Ah, biscuits. Long ago, a friend wrote a short biography for one of my magazine articles. In the bio, my friend referred to me as a “biscuit connoisseur,” and the title stuck. Pretty soon, people started calling me this. And whenever I would deliver a speech at, say, a Rotary Club bingo night at Craters of the Moon, Georgia, they would introduce me as “Sean Dietrich, biscuit connoisseur.”
I have eaten biscuits in 34 states. And here’s what I have learned in my travels.
Mississippi has light, fluffy ones that remind you of heaven.
The Florida Panhandle has big fat ones that stick to your ribs.
Georgia and Alabama make biscuits that will make you believe in the power of lard.
West Virginians eat biscuits with two hands.
Tennesseans eat them with three.
Canadians eat croissants.
They even eat biscuits in New York City. A lot of trendy restaurants are now serving what they call “upscale Southern-style cuisine.” I have been to these restaurants and tried the aberrations they tried to pass off as biscuits. And my reaction is: Metropolitan New Yorkers wouldn’t know a real biscuit from their own astrological sign.
I would list all the other foods I love, Hayden, but I’m out of room. And there are way too many foods to name. Besides, I have to go to the kitchen to lick the potato masher.
Remember: Friends don’t let friends put cheese on apple pie.