The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Globe Life

October 23, 2009

Book review: Bring an appetite for ‘500 Things to Eat’

“500 Things to Eat Before It’s Too Late

and the Very Best Places to Eat Them”

By Jane and Michael Stern

OK, I promise that my next review will have nothing to do with food! I couldn’t help myself, though, when we got the latest book by Jane and Michael Stern at the library.

I’m a big fan of their “Roadfood” books and Web site, as well as their books on popular culture like “Way Out West,” “The Encyclopedia of Bad Taste,” “Jane and Michael Stern’s Encyclopedia of Pop Culture” and their other food books, too. I was sad to see that Gourmet magazine has folded, because the Sterns had a “Roadfood” column there. Here’s hoping they’ll find a new home for it!

So, their latest guide is called “500 Things to Eat Before It’s Too Late and the Very Best Places to Eat Them.” Divided into six regions (New England, Mid Atlantic, South, Midwest, Southwest, and West), it details the foods of each region and the best restaurants and food stands to find and enjoy them.

Lots of the foods covered are familiar to just about everyone. Ice cream, hot dogs, doughnuts, chicken fried steak, French fries, hamburgers and so on. It’s interesting to read about some of the regional variations, though. Hot dogs, for example, can be Coney Islands, dip dogs, Dixie dogs (a Southern concoction including cole slaw), the Newark hot dog (deep-fried dogs, onions, peppers, fried potato chunks in a half-loaf of Italian bread), Chicago red hots (including the “dragged through the garden” dog with raw onion, sliced tomato, pickle spears and celery salt) and more!

Aside from regional variations, there are things that I suspect most people who haven’t lived in certain regions are unfamiliar with. I was unaware of the existence of coffee gelatin (a Boston item) and coffee milk (Rhode Island). They like their coffee in New England! Also in Rhode Island, they evidently like their snail salad. I think if I go to Rhode Island, I’ll settle for the coffee milk.

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