Although I‚Äôm sure they exist elsewhere, thin pork chops seem particularly popular in St. Louis. In a city so obsessed with beer, baseball, and pig products of all kinds, one might expect to find big, honkin‚Äô double cut chops walking across the average grill. Most St. Louisans that I know, however, prefer the skinny variety, less meat and more sauce. Typically, these chops come boneless, and pose serious bbq-ing challenges. How to get the pork well-seared while preserving juice and tenderness continues to stump backyard chefs armed with only a cursory knowledge of zone fires and food science.
This Saturday, we grilled pork chops, tomatoes, and white corn. ‚ÄúGood food cooked right,‚ÄĚ my Dad says. When preparing peak ingredients, simple proves better‚ÄĒno fancy emulsions, foams, encrustations, only a bit of homemade bbq sauce, butter, and seasonings.
There‚Äôs no recipe for cooking like my Dad, merely instinct and a willingness to err along the way. Family cookery St. Louis style feels wholly Midwestern; in New York, deciding to slap some chops on the pit and watch the Cardinals is rather difficult when you live in a claustrophobic studio apartment with no balcony. Indeed, the hippie hipsterish groovy funk self-righteous cool of the Slow Food movement exists without hippiehipsterishgroovyfunkself-righteousness-ness right here along the Mississippi. No, we don‚Äôt buy all local ingredients, we shop at a homogeneous titanium supermarket that reeks of post-industrial capitalism. But the concept of simplicity, the near culinary minimalism that pervades the ‚Äúgood food cooked right‚ÄĚ ethos, appears more wholesome than a trip to the farmer‚Äôs market that ends with some grotesque dish right out of American Psycho.
Take these tomatoes. Grilled for around 8 minutes then roasted with olive oil and salt. Bursting open with rounded acidity and a distant savoriness, these plump fruits tasted like the May evening during which we prepared and ate them.
In terms of culture and gastronomy, I‚Äôll freely admit that St. Louis lags behind Manhattan. Yet, maybe New Yorkers could stand to learn a lesson from the St. Louis ‚ÄúSlow Food‚ÄĚ ethic, at least in the abstract.