In keeping with tradition, I spent the 4th of July in Arkansas. It’s my favorite holiday, for reasons my sister articulates better than me: “My favorite holiday used to be Easter or Halloween based purely on accumulated sugar. Now-a-days I love that the 4th of July is a low stress holiday – people rarely freak out, just about chilling with friends and family, making some good food & drinks, and appreciating that while we may not have everything figured out as a country it sure averages out to better than most.”
I’m not really a Southern southerner – which I define as knowing how to successfully make and enjoy fried chicken, okra, grits and gravy – but I’ve learned there are a few items that taste better in the south. In no particular order, and without judgment, I present my top 5 best Arkansas flavors:
1. Bud Light. I usually steer clear of this beer because come on, it doesn’t taste like anything and makes you pee like a racehorse. But I swear, it tastes like a cold slice of heaven when we’re out on the boat, in the yard, after running through the sprinkler, and sitting on the porch under the fan. The garage fridge is always packed with these aluminum cans. Even when we buy assorted (expensive) micro brews to sample, I still default to the easy drinking of Bud Light.
2. Egg Foo Yong. In all honesty, yesterday was the first time I’d tried this dish. And it ROCKED. Therefore, according to logic, egg foo yong tastes best in Arkansas. The brown sauce, the combination of crunchy scallions with chewy pieces of pork and chicken and shrimp, all enveloped in a fluffy egg fritta thingy. Mmmm.
3. Mashed Potatoes. Much like Red Lobster’s cheddar biscuits, mashed potatoes are better when you don’t know what goes into them. When I make ’em, I undersalt, skimp on sour cream, and leave out the cream cheese – all in the name of health. You read that right: our ‘family recipe’ involves butter, milk, sour cream and cream cheese all blended in before serving, followed by extra butter on the plate. Glorious velvety mouthfeel of fluffy, moist, a little tang and a whooooole lotta good.
4. Cucumber Vinegar Salad. My mouth is literally watering as I type, just thinking about this dish. It’s fast, easy, cold and gets better with each day in the fridge. If you’re a salt ‘n vinegar chip lover, or prefer savory to sweet, this will blow your socks off. 5 of us ate an entire container in one sitting, and I may have poured some of the vinegar dressing over mashed potatoes too.
5. Coffee. Each morning, 4 adults went through about 12 cups of coffee – with maybe another 6 cups in the afternoon. Will I get the “Great Dad” or Tinkerbell mug? Girl Scout cookie or unidentifiable creature mug? I’m sure the leisurely pace and sitting around the table yakking feeds into my fondness for Arkansas coffee, but there are two other secrets: cinnamon and Orange Seville. Every pot of coffee gets a dash of cinnamon, which makes it smell warm and spicy, and increases the bitterness. Also, they usually have Orange Seville flavored coffee. And sometimes we throw in a little Bailey’s Irish Cream. Did I mention we also had Mickey Mouse waffles and crispy bacon for breakfast yesterday?