Personality is the ingredient that makes nearly all Roadfood so especially delicious. When I think back on the good things I ate in 2011, they are all connected to people: cooks, bakers and food-truck vendors, waitstaff, fellow diners, and travel companions. Here are some of the faces that have made this last year such a joy.
Aqui Simpson of Nashville's 400 Degrees
knows how to fry a bird! Note the big hot pepper shaker in her hand.
Niles Golivan of Connecticut's Bantam Bread Company
shows some loaves he is about to bake. This particular bread is called a local loaf
because it is made with wheat grown and milled nearby.
John Jr. at B&B Grocery
in Des Moines is mixing up the ingredients for breakfast burritos:
Have a turtle! Hallie Baker of Turtle Alley
in Gloucester, Massachusetts, brought her amazing chocolates to the New Orleans Roadfood Festival
At Nashville's Hot Stuff Chicken and Fish, Kiki Montgomery takes orders and warns newbies that in this place, hot means H-O-T!
Hot Stuff is noteworthy not only for its chicken and fish, but for the slices of cake it sells, made by defensive tackle Spencer D. Middlebrooks:
Near the northernmost point of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, at a place called The Jampot
, brothers of the Society of St. John make bread, cake, cookies, and jam:
Bruce and Sue alerted me to the importance of stew in Indianapolis, where, at John's Famous Stew
, I enjoyed a hearty bowlful and great conversation with veteran waitress Pauline:
Carol Petro, who had earlier tipped me off to the Turkish restaurant Bereket in Bridgeport, Connecticut, told me I needed to visit its neighbor, Laurita's Guatamala Bakery
, for out-of-this world coffee-companion pastries. Presided over by Laurita Azanon, this hole-in-the-wall was a 2011 local-color highlight:
Up in steamed-cheeseburger territory in central Connecticut, Chris and Amy introduced me to one of the state's most charming restaurateurs, Anita Dufresne of The Lunchbox
At the Minnesota Fair, I met the all-time baking champion, Marge Johnson, who was surrounded by fans:
Also at the fair, in the Dairy Building, I stood next to the reigning Princess Kay of the Milky Way:
Susie Johnson of Susie's Kitchen
in Stanton, Iowa, was especially proud of the rye bread she bakes:
One morning at Toni's Country Kitchen
in Laurium, Michigan, I peeked into the kitchen to find a staff member gleefully mixing up ingredients for that day's pasties:
And my favorites of all people along the good-eats road of 2011: the passionate Roadfooders with whom I shared the October eating tour, here seen at The Wiener's Circle
in Chicago. What a great and joyful fellowship! (Looking at this photo, I first wondered whether whether Suz was putting down or taking away that boat full of char-dog, then realized that the smile on Katherine's face makes it clear that the red hot is incoming.)