2/09/2005

oh porcine foe, you have vanquished me. or: i still contend that st. louis is not in the south. even though evidence may be against me. two of my foremost food heroes, upon hearing that i'd be in st. louis this week, pretty much threw down the gauntlet when each asked me, separately, "so, you going to get some snoots?" for the uninitiated, "snoots" is the local term for barbecued pig snouts. and taking up that challenge, i went in search of C & K Barbecue -- reputed to offer the best 'cued nose in the metropolitan area -- after a particularly unpleasant dental appointment and semi-successful shopping trip to that midwestern mecca of thrift, value village. C & K is in pine lawn, a suburb in north county st. louis, about 40 minutes away from wherever i'm coming from. that is, unless a year-plus of not driving has beset me with geographical amnesia. so i finally made it out to jennings station road, going the right way, about an hour and half later. C & K is a truly downmarket little place, a take-out joint with a mostly white, slightly dirt-colored exterior. inside, customers place their orders through the quarter moon of plexiglass that takes up most of the interior space, wallpapered cursorily with praise for the 'cue and postings for '78 buicks for sale. they can then patiently await their orders on one of the three wooden park benches. the menu lists rib tips, ribs, snouts, wholes or halves of chickens, and the st. louis specialty of pork steak -- all cooked on a charcoal grill (no smokers here) and slathered with C & K's sweet tomato- and brown sugar-based sauce. (these may come with a modest scoop of a yellow tinged, nearly pureed potato salad, a slice or two of squishy white bread, and a heap of napkins.) oh, and there are also sandwiches of pulled pork, links, tripe, and ear, and yellow, lemon, pineapple, and double chocolate cakes, and sweet potato pie. i requested an order of snouts and an ear sandwich. and folks, now i know why midwesterners are a chunky, chunky bunch. first, let me say that it's unfortunate that i had to drive all the way home with my food, because my ear sandwich did not fare well. more on that later. the car also became saturated with porkiness. maybe the aldehyde molecules of barbecued pork take particularly well to being airborne. or maybe they're extra sticky. snouts are not unlike pork rinds in surface texture, the crunch giving way to a chewy, fibrous interior. they taste like they are very, very bad for you. in fact, i ate what appears to be maybe 3.5 snout halves (they give you 6), and i'm feeling rather light headed now, maybe an hour later. (it's a little like "super-size me," only fast-forwarded.) the first snout bit proved quite tasty, especially when you scoop up a little dollop of that potato salad. i've grown up eating alot of pig ear. my mom frequently made that chinese dish of ears cooked in soy sauce when i was growing up. i've mentioned them before in a blog comment, regarding the taiwanese phrase, "Q-Q". so these ears are probably boiled, which gives them a pretty slippery texture that i presume would be a turn-off to many. and because C & K probably don't know about the glories of soy sauce, the ears have that unfortunate grey boiled-flesh color. that said, they taste not so bad (particularly if all one has eaten that day is a banana in anticipation of a visit to the dentist). there were probably 1.5-2 ears in my sandwich, slathered with electric yellow deli mustard and housed with a few round wavy pickle slices and raw onion rings between two slices of wonder bread. there was also some of that barbecue sauce in there, but i think that's just from all the sauce they're slinging about back there. still, not a bad addition. so unfortunately, the 45 min it took me to get back west county carried the moisture from my ears all the way through one slice of bread, rendering it totally soggy, slimy, and, honestly, disgusting. this detracted a little from my overall ear experience. and i only ended up eating the whole ear sandwich because i just couldn't handle another bite of snout. i don't regret eating the ears, but i think a slice of the sweet potato pie might have been more satisfying. and no, i don't have any pictures for you. do you really want to see what these things looked like? i think not. i think next time we'll go for the snout/rib tip combo. this turns out to be the most popular dish in the house (which i found out only after i had already placed my order). i guess a little snout goes a long way. *** oh, and speaking of "Q-Q," i just heard another one last night, when i went out to dinner with my mom and her friends for chinese new year's eve: "tso-tso". this, like so many taiwanese (and indeed, foreign) phrases has no direct translation, but from my mother's explanation, i take it to mean "coarse" or "unrefined" or "lacking finesse". her actual example of usage: "tso-tso, you know, like american chinese food." happy new year, people.

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