The Wild West
I recently vacationed in Montana, which you may know (if you are a geography buff or completed 3rd grade) is a long way from North Carolina. Montana is a beautiful state, but it lacks in interesting culinary traditions. Beef is the name of the game in Big Sky Country, and there is plenty of steak to be had. No complaints from me on that. However, my palate was tested mightily when spending an afternoon in Butte, Montana, a tough as cow leather town notorious for having one of the nation’s largest Superfund sites. Butte is also known for a rich history as a mining town, and the miners who flocked to Butte in the late 19th and early 20th centuries brought their own culinary traditions to town.
English, Irish and other European immigrants–and their American descendants–brought the pasty (pas-tee) to Butte, and it continues to enjoy a special place in the lower intestines heart of modern day Butte residents. Pasties are sort of a chicken pot pie but the chicken is beef and the crust of the pot pie is much thicker and totally encases the beef and vegetable filling. I wouldn’t recommend you travel to Butte or other pasty-friendly locales just to eat one. Still, pasties are something I can see people being proud of–they taste okay and they have a lengthy culinary pedigree.
Now pork nuggets are another matter…
Pork Nuggets? Really?
One of Butte’s favorite restaurants among the locals is a place called Pork Chop John’s. As a BBQ Jew, I felt obligated to see what the beef-loving people of Montana do when preparing pork. It’s not pretty, folks.
Maybe it’s all the cows roaming around, the high altitude, or the toxic water at the superfund site. Whatever the reason, the people of Butte are badly confused when it comes to preparing pork. Instead of slow-cooking it, they choose to bread it and fry it. Now breaded and fried things are usually good (hush puppies, fish, chicken, you get the picture). But there is something not quite right about giving the flash fry treatment to the divine swine. Actually, the pork nuggets weren’t all that bad but I thank my lucky stars that North Carolina’s cuisine is ‘cue and not this stuff…