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.
Steve - November 13, 2019 7:48 am
BBQ. That’s all you need to know. Everything else is a side dish.
Karen - November 13, 2019 8:09 am
You forgot buttered grits, mac n’ cheese, garden tomatoes, and pecan pie. 😘
Sandi. - November 13, 2019 9:28 am
I echo Karen’s list!
Denise - November 13, 2019 11:13 am
One of the best apple pies in the states is in Panama City at a very well known steak house with a big bull named Gus. It’s called angel pie Sean! Go try it. It’s the best then give us your opinion on cheese in apple pie. It’s delicious!
Elizabeth - November 13, 2019 11:26 am
I like to eat cheese with my apples, so cheese on a pie would at least be worth trying. Never say no to apple pie!
So your thoughts on real biscuits or the yeast based biscuits?
Martha Black - November 13, 2019 12:05 pm
You my friend are a connesoirre……… not sure about the spelling, but you “is” one!
(I am sure about the using the wrong verb, but hey I choose to…..lol
Meredith Williams - November 13, 2019 1:17 pm
Sean, The reason you couldn’t eat cheddar on your apple pie is because you’re a SOUTHERNER! Eating it that way is a very YANKEE thing to do. 😂
John - November 13, 2019 1:25 pm
As my dad used to say “Apple pie without the cheese is like a kiss without the squeeze”.
But actually he preferred Blue Bell homemade vanilla on his apple pie. And so do I.
Allison Cobb Gilmore - November 13, 2019 1:38 pm
I love cheese and I love apple pie, but I have to agree with Sean that those two as a combo just don’t work for me. And I also do indeed love a good biscuit, but I’ve almost given up on finding good biscuits since my mama died in in 2005. She made buttermilk biscuits that were simply self-rising flour, buttermilk, and Crisco, but no other biscuit has ever come close to tasting like hers did. Wish I had one right now with my coffee.
Edna Beam - November 13, 2019 1:39 pm
Took my 12 year old grandson to NYC and the first morning he asked for biscuits at breakfast. I laughed and laughed.
Ala Red Clay Girl - November 13, 2019 1:44 pm
Let’s not forget cornbread – hot out of the iron skillet with tons of butter. How about some fresh corn just picked from the garden slathered with butter. How about anything with butter?
Edna B. - November 13, 2019 1:51 pm
I don’t put cheese on my apple pie either. i mash my potatoes by hand too. Also, I mash turnip in with the potatoes. Mmmm, mmm, mmm. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.
Robert Chiles - November 13, 2019 1:54 pm
Oyster pie/dressing is the cat’s meow, my favorite thing on the Thanksgiving table.
Naomi - November 13, 2019 1:59 pm
Unlike you Sean, I grew up in Orthodox Judaism and my grandfather was a kosher butcher. We had steak, mashed potatoes and English peas or corn for dinner almost every night. All of the blood had to be drained out of meat before you could eat it. After it was cut, my mother and my grandmother would put it on the sink drain and cover it in kosher salt and then broil it until you could hammer a nail with it. My parents also ran a mom-and-pop grocery store and beer joint where they sold pickled pigs feet. My mother let my brother eat pickled pigs feet but she wouldn’t let me eat pork. I was also a picky eater so I was always very skinny. It wasn’t until I got married and left home that I found out how many different foods I liked. My husband grew up on a farm so we started eating collard greens and turnip greens. I never learned how to make home-made biscuits but my husband’s aunt did. Also BBQ restaurants are all over metro Atlanta. There is one in our town that has been in business for over 50 years. My step son wrote a book on all of the BBQ restaurants in Georgia and he has been to every one of them. When I first moved to Atlanta, we went to the Varsity all of the time. When my husband and I were dating, we went to the Varsity for lunch but we couldn’t find a place to sit. Mr. Gordy, the owner of the Varsity, was still working there every day. He saw us looking for a table and came up to us and said, “You look like two lovebirds”. He then took us into his office and cleared off his desk and let us eat our lunch there.
Sue Ellen Terrell - November 13, 2019 2:03 pm
About the Apple pie. My grandfather was from up north and he always ate his Apple pie with a chunk of cheddar cheese. Not my favorite but not bad either.
Shelton A. - November 13, 2019 2:07 pm
I admit cheese on apple pie is strange, but kids just don’t always know about served warm with good vanilla ice cream. Young and not yet exposed to the wonders of the world.
Phil S. - November 13, 2019 2:41 pm
Poor Hayden – cheese is for pizzas, not apple pie. Ice cream is for pie.
My grandmother made oyster dressing every Thanksgiving and Christmas. Did visions of sugar plums dance in my head? Oh, no, I dreamed of a big plate full of oyster dressing all to myself. There are many highly theological questions I want to ask Jesus when I meet Him in heaven. Things like: did his grandma make Him oyster dressing every year on His birthday?
My grandmother also let me lick the bowl after pouring the pound cake mix into the baking pan.
Ahh, those were the days. But, know what? Every day is THE DAY. Rejoice and be glad in them all!
Thomas "Tom" Roberts - November 13, 2019 2:59 pm
I grew up in Evergreen so Conecuh sausage were a regular item for us. My wife used to have them shipped to us in Tampa but the company discontinued that. We’re thankful that Publix started selling them in Tampa.
(What time zone is the clock using on these messages? It’s now 9:52 EST.)
Amy - November 13, 2019 3:12 pm
Sean I have to tell you, I grew up in Alabama and am a southerner through and through BUT, a friend of mine introduced me to a dish called Apple Cheese. It is an apple casserole and it has cheddar cheese in it and it is delicious. I will get the recipe from her and send it to you so Jamie can make it for you to try. If you try it I want you to let me know how you like it.
Laura - November 13, 2019 3:14 pm
I read an article recently about why biscuits are better in the south…it has to do with the flour!
Sharon - November 13, 2019 3:21 pm
Biscuits, collards, chicken fried steak, blackeyed peas, and mashed potatoes. Marie Callander’s Coconut Cream pie or hand cranked peach icecream. The latter is the best way to teach children and grandchildren the value of hard work. No crank, no ice cream. BTW, the time is way off on the clock.
Red from Lower Alabama, Roll Tide - November 13, 2019 3:27 pm
You really make me want to go get a biscuit from Mississippi – lol…… Have a great day !!!
Bill - November 13, 2019 3:38 pm
I read Laura’s link above, and it is worth a read by all. Really interesting article from the “Atlantic” magazine. Turns out the flour in the South is different from the flour normally sold in the North. White Lily is the key!
Ray Wallace - November 13, 2019 3:51 pm
Girls in the South learn to make biscuits and cornbread before they learn to walk !
Linda Moon - November 13, 2019 4:05 pm
Biscuits! The kind my mother-in-law who raised 12 kids on were the best and can never be duplicated. They had lots of lard, yet she and the offspring lived to see old age in spite of all that lard. She, and no one else I ever shared a meal with, would’ve put cheese on apple pie. Thank you for the reminders of some good and favorite foods, Friend!
Linda Moon - November 13, 2019 4:08 pm
She and the others would NEVER have put cheese on apple pie: a necessary clarification to my post!
June Gibson - November 13, 2019 4:28 pm
Sean, believe this is the only thing I’ve ever disagreed with you…Cheese on apple pie is wonderful! Only way I eat it! But I still love you, even though you don’t know how to eat apple pie!
Tim Peace - November 13, 2019 4:30 pm
What you call oyster dressing where you are from – we call oyster casserole. Be it Thanksgiving or Christmas, it was always on our table, loving prepared by my Aunt Teal. She’s gone now but my brother makes it from time to time. Love me some oyster casserole (dressing)!
Connie Havard Ryland - November 13, 2019 5:02 pm
I’m a Southerner to the core but actually like cheddar cheese on apple pie. Something about the salty and sweet thing just works. Learned to make biscuits before I was 12 (too many years ago to count) and taught my kids young. I’m an old lady, but I love to cook and I love most of the food of the South. There is good food all over the country-but it’s always best when I learn how to cook it at home.
Linda Buchanan - November 13, 2019 5:39 pm
Sean, when you are looking for somewhere to eat in Birmingham, go to Automatic Seafood and Oysters. It is a new restaurant and was just listed as one of the best according to “Esquire’s Best New Restaurants in America, 2019.” Love your writings!
Steve - November 13, 2019 7:00 pm
Y’all are gonna hate me for this – but whoever invented Mary B’s Frozen Biscuits is a genius. They put homemade biscuits out of business. Homemade takes time and skill. Time to make and time to clean up. Those frozen biscuits are 99% as good. Try them before you attack me!
Sandi. - November 13, 2019 9:02 pm
Thanks for the recommendation, Steve. I’m going to buy some of those frozen biscuits next time I go grocery shopping!
Harriet - November 14, 2019 2:53 am
Steve, I do love Mary B’s biscuits. They are southern perfect! And Sean I love this story.
Mary Berryman - December 9, 2019 4:55 am
LOVE Conecuh sausage! Put the “hot and spicy” variety in my gumbo. YUMMY!
Steve Winfield - December 9, 2019 5:12 am
Grits, greens, beans, bbq & anything that swims in the gulf. Peach or BlackBerry cobbler. Hold the apple pie.
Barbara White - December 9, 2019 5:15 am
We must be related. NC girl.
Donna - December 9, 2019 9:35 am
That is an awesome story💖
Neil Mathews - December 11, 2019 9:21 pm
Late comment for this story, my favorite biscuit recipe uses two ingredients:
2 cups of self-rising flour
13/4 cups heavy whipping cream
mix together, do not overwork
roll out on floured towel to 1/4-1/2 inch thick
Use a small mouth Mason jar to cut out buscuits
Cook at 475 degrees for 10-12 minutes
When ready slather with: butter, molasses, honey, peach jam or preserves or jelly, muscadine jam or preserves or jelly, blackberry jam or preserves or jelly, raspberry jam or preserves or jelly, or white gravy, or coffee ground gravy, you get the picture.
Oh, almost forgot, then stuff above delicacy in yo’ face