From down-east Maine to uptown
Oakland and from Savannah to Seattle,
there is one talent American cooks
have in common: a knack for inventing
crazy, mixed-up dishes. This is a nation
that loves strange plate-fellows coming
together as delicious "kitchen-sink"
creations. The brash, rules-be-damned
attitude of America's cooks has
produced glorious dishes that long ago
became edible symbols of their hometown. Creole
gumbo, Cincinnati five-way chili and the San
Francisco seafood stew known as cioppino are wellknown
examples of higgledy-piggledy classics, with
nearly as many recipes for each as there are cooks.
Travel around the country, and you'll see that the
no-holds-barred spirit continues to thrive, yielding
such recent local wonders as the Korean taco of
Southern California, barbecue pizza in Memphis
and praline bacon in New Orleans. Rochester, New
York, has become famous for its garbage plate—an
outrageous array of macaroni salad, fried potatoes
and hot dogs crowned with chili.
Hoppel poppel has long been a staple of upper
Midwest community cookbooks and a Sunday meal on
kitchen tables throughout the heartland. Named for
a nonsense phrase in an old German nursery rhyme
about a nosy child who peeks into the stew pot,
hoppel poppel is a scramble of eggs and home fries
with pork sausage or beef salami, and optional onions,
peppers and mushrooms, the whole shebang topped
with melted cheese.
Have you ever eaten a horseshoe? The place to
do so is Springfield, Illinois, where this craziest of
sandwiches, first served at a local hotel in the 1920s,
has become a signature dish. It was so named because
its slice of ham on toast resembled a horseshoe on an
anvil, and the french fries scattered around it looked
like shoeing nails. But it has lost all resemblance to
equine footwear and instead become a mountainous
plate of ham (or pork tenderloin or fried chicken)
eclipsed by countless fries and a spill of cheese
sauce, all atop a bed of toast. There are even
breakfast shoes made of eggs, hash browns,
ham or bacon, and a half-and-half arrangement of
cheese sauce and sausage gravy.
No regional cuisine inspires more creativity
than Tex-Mex. Nachos and fajitas practically
demand wild ingredients and garnishes, and the
border-town breakfast called migas is another
recipe with countless variations. In Spanish, migas means crumbs; but on Southwestern menus, it
means eggs scrambled with pieces of tortilla and
any combination of sausage, salsa, cheese and hot
peppers. Frito pie is another local hodgepodge of
chili and corn chips crowned with grated cheese
and raw onions. On a plate with a few tamales, it's
what Arkansas folks know as a spread. Served in an
individual bag of Fritos, it's a walking taco. Batter
everything together, dunk it in hot oil, and you will
have made the No. 1 award-winning food at the
2010 Texas State Fair: deep-fried frito pie.
Kitchen Sink Recipes
Migas, My Way
Quick, easy and delicious, this egg scramble gets a big thumbs-up from my family. Sometimes I substitute fresh corn tortillas for the chips by cutting them into strips and sauteing them with the pepper and onion.
—Joan Hallford, North Richland Hills, Texas
Southwest Frito Pie
I got a real culture shock when we moved to New Mexico several years ago, but we grew to love the food. Now, back in South Carolina, we still crave New Mexican dishes, and this is one of my go-to favorites.
—Janet Scoggins, North Augusta, South Carolina
Fresh and Spicy Cioppino
Using prepared pasta sauce makes this hearty and hot one-pot dinner a cinch.
—Doris Mancini, Port Orchard, Washington