Quirks about St. Louis

I guess one thing I like about St. Louis is that it isn’t completely cookie-cutter yet–I can still go to a place called MacArthur’s for a better doughnut than a Krispy Kreme and a much better sandwich than Subway, or to The Concord Grill for a much better hamburger than Applebee’s or TGI Friday’s, or to Fortel’s for the best pizza, period–but St. Louisans themselves have some delightful quirks to make fun of.

You can tell I’m not a St. Louis native because I haven’t asked you what high school you went to yet. You might be 48 years old and the president of the company you work for, but for some reason that’s more important than your name and what you do for a living. Because, after all, St. Louisans measure the quality of their weekend by the number of former classmates they ran into.

When Dick Gephardt decided to run for president, I’m sure the first paragraph of the news story read, “Southwest High School graduate Dick Gephardt announced Tuesday his intention to run for president–of the United States–in 2004.” The second or third paragraph should mention he graduated in 1958. And somewhere buried in the middle of the story, there’d be a mention that he served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 26 years. The mention of minor details such as his political party was probably cut to make room for a bigger photo of Southwest High School.

And the only quote from Gephardt ought to talk about how he manages to keep in touch with his old classmates from Washington D.C. and where to get a good pork steak outside of St. Louis.

At least that’s how I would have run the story if I’d been the editor and wanted St. Louisans to read it.

And I never have figured out what you’re supposed to do with a pork steak. Put it in your baseball glove for extra padding? What a true St. Louisan does is throw the fat- and gristle-laden thing on a grill, dry, cook it until charred, then wave a little bit of Maull’s over it and call it real BBQ.

No wonder Kansas City is on the opposite side of the state. It’s trying to stay as far away from that vile dish as possible.

Sorry about that. I got rolling in an e-mail message this morning so I’m cheating and posting that. I’ll answer someone’s writing and publishing question later this weekend.

9 thoughts on “Quirks about St. Louis

  • July 12, 2003 at 1:05 pm
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    I am a native St. Louisian who a) never asks anybody what school they graduated from, b) never was remotely curious about the fact, c) has never to my recollection been asked that question, and d) likes pork steaks but only without any sauce at all – but has never been so vain as to think that that is what real BBQ is like.

    Actually, though, my roots are mostly in Jefferson County (south of St. Louis), so maybe I’m not native enough to qualify?

  • July 13, 2003 at 2:17 am
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    Well I’m about as native as you can get, and I hate pork steaks. And I have never to my knowledge been asked what high school I attended or asked anyone that.

    Plus, I really think pork steaks are a subversive plot from some disgrunteled KC native. (Dave, doesn’t that sounds like a Miller plot…)

  • July 13, 2003 at 12:58 pm
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    Can’t be as bad as the “BBQ” this Texas boy ran into while living in northern Illinois 20 years ago. Take ribs or brisket, cook in a pressure-cooker (yeah, that’s right – steam/boil the poor thing), then slap it on a grill for a few minutes and slather it with a vile, sweet sauce made from ketchup, brown sugar, etc…

    Besides decent Mexican food, real BBQ was one of the first meals I usually got when visiting back home in Austin ๐Ÿ™‚

    BBQ Joints Within an Hour of Austin

  • July 14, 2003 at 9:12 am
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    The high school thing is supposed to be all important in Louisville too. I have never been asked that though in the 14 years I’ve lived here. Of course, the could be because I do not sound like a true native!

  • July 14, 2003 at 10:21 am
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    I’ve been asked where I went to high school, once, maybe twice. There are *areas* of St. Louis where that’s popular, but I’ve never asked the question myself.

    As for pork steaks, the local supermarket chain (Schnucks) started all of that by slicing pork butt the “wrong way”. Now, you can get center cut pork steaks – without the gristle and fat, which anyone who *knew* BBQ would know is supposed to render away – at the local shops pretty easily. I eat them on occasion (when someone else makes them), but certainly *only* on occasion.

    And as for “real BBQ”, I don’t call something slathered in sauce for half a day to compensate for questionable technique “barbecued”. I call it “boiled”. There’s an age-old debate (one of many in BBQ-land) about whether BBQ should be dry or wet. I like both, depending on my mood and the rub or sauce used, but not to the extreme. I’ll just quote a Memphis BBQ guru (they’re almost as high-falootin’ about their BBQ as KC natives; maybe Raunche is Memphis, R. Collins is KC?): “We’re not disguising the taste of the meat. You actually taste the rib. In a lot of places outside of Memphis and the (Mississippi) Delta, all you’re tasting is barbecue sauce. […] You could make a hot dog taste like barbecue if you put enough sauce on it.” ‘Nuf said. See also “the McRib”.

    I personally make my ribs (and we’re talking pork baby-backs here) by brining them, putting a good spice rub on them, letting the rub sink it overnight, and then BBQing them – slowly – for about four hours over apple wood. Better than most KC “Masterpiece”s. Add sauce if you want afterwards, but you don’t *need* it. With the state’s cultural attractions and sports teams on the eastern side of the state, though, I guess the Kansas Citians need to have *something* to call their own. ๐Ÿ˜› At least it’s not Rolla, though Rolla *does* have an engineering school…

    In all seriousness, I do like KC Masterpiece. But there are a few places around here – Charlotte’s Rib and to a lesser degree, Bandana’s for starters – that hold up to anything from cross-state. And no, they don’t serve pork steaks.

  • July 14, 2003 at 3:53 pm
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    …and JHR, where the heck are you?

  • July 16, 2003 at 9:53 am
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    Will do, Dan. You’ve got an open invite too, if you’re ever in middle coast. I might even let Dave come over. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    As for “The Beast”, I can only say “ooh” and “aah”. Nice setup. A cool side for the slow cooking, and a nice big area for searing and quick cooking. I just have a Weber kettle myself, but my wife keeps threatening to buy a gas grill because charcoal “takes too long to heat up”. I won’t comment on the virtues of real wood fires, but I’ll keep milking it until I find a model I want. ๐Ÿ™‚ Hey, never too many cooking gadgets, right?

    I found what I think is the world’s largest (realistically usable, at least) Weber kettle. The local hardware store has a 48″ diameter monster – to feed hundreds, apparently – for the cool price of $1000. You could cook a whole pig on that sucker.

  • January 9, 2004 at 2:07 pm
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    comment I lived in St Louis for only 2 years and had a few pork steaks and then started to make them at home. Here is the secret to them. Have your burtcher cut a center cut Pork Steak 1 inch thick. Season it up good with some salt,pepper,cavender. Lay the seasoning on thick and rub it in to the steak on one side only. Get yourself a low sided pan that has a top that fits it. Put about 2 inches of water in the pan, put the steak in the pan and cover it and them bring it to a boil and then turn it down as low as your stove will go and let it cook. Check it every 10 min or so because you will need to add wataer as the water will evaporate. In about 40 min, take it out and lay on some hot sauce, and some worchestire sauce and this steak should just be folk tender and come right off the bone.
    Try this and let me know what you all think. Send me an e-mail….I live now in Baltimore where they have never heard of Pork Steak and I have my butcher cut me a center cut of a fresh Boston Butt and it is wonderful.
    Enjoy

    Andy

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