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, sweetie. 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 for ruining your apple pie like that.”
Anyway, to answer your question, Hayden, my all-time favorite foods have changed over the years.
When I was a baby, my mother says that I would eat entire blocks of cheddar while in my high chair. My mother, who thought it was cute to see a child gnawing on a brick of cheese, would take photographs of this, thereby documenting the origins of my longtime childhood weight problem.
But I eventually grew out of the cheese fascination and I moved onto:
Mashed potatoes. The women in my family make mashed potatoes using an ancient family recipe:
—80 sticks of butter.
—“Days of Our Lives” blaring at high volume.
Also, my mother did not whip her potatoes with electric mixers like the pagans do. She had an actual hand masher. It was covered in rust and looked like a tiny tetanus-covered farm implement. I would always lick the masher when she finished. Though occasionally, I would lick the masher while she was still mashing.
I love collards. And the only way to cook greens is with the ugliest, most deformed ham hock knuckle you can find.
Also, bacon. And 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.
My mother told me that when she was a girl, men used to go to the butcher shop and stand in long lines to spend their week’s pay on pork slabs.
Just think, bacon was so important back then that men would buy it BEFORE spending money on vital household necessities needed during those hard economic times like Perry Como records, and Lucky Strikes.
Also, I love fried chicken. For many periods of my life, this food was the only reason why I continued attending 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.
Also, each Christmas morning my father used to receive small cans of oysters in his stocking. And some of the best memories I have involve eating oysters with my father, listening to Perry Como singing songs about Lucky Strikes.
I love pound cake.
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 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?
JOE DIMAGGIO: Boys, boys, everyone knows the official sausages of the New York Yankees are Johnsonville Brats.
MICKEY MANTLE: Joe DiMaggio? You weren’t on the 1961 Yankees roster with me and Roger Maris.
JOE: This is just an anecdote, you hick.
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. In fact, for entire periods of my adult life I survived on two things. Conecuh sausage and:
Long ago, I had a friend write a biography for me when a newspaper published one of my articles. In the bio, my friend referred to me as a biscuit connoisseur, and it stuck.
Pretty soon, people started calling me this. And whenever I would deliver a speech at a Rotary Club banquet, a school gymnasium, or a rest home, they would introduce me as “Sean Dietrich, biscuit connoisseur.”
I even wrote a song about it, which I once played on my guitar for an audience where Prince Albert was actually in the crowd. True, he was stuck in a tin can at the time, wedged in my uncle’s back pocket. But it was a highlight I’ll never forget.
I have eaten biscuits in thirty-four 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, but I’m out of room. And there are way too many foods to name, Hayden. Besides, I have to go to the kitchen to lick the potato masher.
Friends don’t let friends put cheese on apple pie.