Cannibal Sandwich celebrates the smoked, charred, pickled, and fermented things in life.
I’ve always liked weird food; things from tins, weird items usually foisted on us by ancient relatives. Maybe canned fish or pickled herring. Anything pickled really. Aged, smoked or esoteric foreign foods too. Something old world about them, and the older I’ve become, so grows the appeal. I know many of us have a few food items like this in our families that somebody makes, and that this somebody (if still living) is probably very, very old. One of my grandmas still manages to make anise Springerle cookies at Christmas and the other will sometimes whip up a butterscotch meringue pie that would knock your socks off.
I like to think of myself not necessarily as an old soul, but as one with old taste buds perhaps. As you might imagine, I’ve taken some heat for these taste preferences over the years. At one job, my office mates revolted after they smelled the sardines I was eating for lunch one day. “OH HELL NO!” one cried, as she yanked her collar up over her nose to employ the universally-known grade school stink defense shield. Shortly thereafter, I was presented with rules: I had to close the door to my office; the fish tin could never go in our kitchen garbage; this little fish habit of mine quickly became my dirty little secret.
But things have changed in the last few years; I think this is a broader trend, but it is especially felt in my hometown, Pittsburgh. This city has always prized its rich epicurean diversity in its distinct ethnic neighborhoods, but something special is happening here, right now. I read an interview where Andrew Zimmern said it best:
The geography lends itself, it’s incredibly lush farmland, and [sic] inexpensive city with incredible history…They had chefs who left the city because there was no scene and went to LA, they have the talent to be anywhere in America, and they have come back and can afford to open their own places and do what they want. It’s very, very exciting.
Zimmern goes on to essentially identify Pittsburgh as reinvented with blue-collar roots. It is true; I’m happy to report many items from our shared past do survive here today in markets and on menus. Items like perogies or braunschweiger for example; rye as toast offered at every diner.
Now, though, this history is complemented too with less traditional items like charcuterie or a world-class cocktail selection. Today, a vibrant food scene is found here filled with people happy to compare notes and swap recipes. I hope to bottle that energy for you.
If it succeeds, Cannibal Sandwich will bring us joy, especially as we share recipes and stories about the weird old things people used to drink and eat, and maybe are now trying again. May you find happiness and new inspiration here.