The Breaded Pork Tenderloin–Definitive and Delicious!

The Breaded Pork Tenderloin (BPT), one of the most famous Midwestern sandwiches, is so popular that TWO flyover states lay claim to it—Indiana and Iowa.  Both states are among the top pork producers (Iowa is number one and Indiana is in the top ten), so it’s no wonder that this fried and breaded testament to porcine deliciousness calls these two states home.  I’m not going to get into an argument over which is the “real “ birthplace, though, living in Indiana, I’d vote for the Hoosier state.  Allegedly, Nick’s Kitchen in Huntington, Indiana, (between Fort Wayne and Muncie) is where it all began.  Anyway, this sandwich is so beloved that it’s inspired driving tours and a blog dedicated to it, written by Rick Garrett.

The humble pig (and its ancestor, the wild boar) is not native to North America; rather, they stem (geographically) from Africa and Eurasia.  Pig production in what is now the United States (or rather, the colonies prior to the end of the Revolutionary War), began with both Spanish (initially, Hernando de Soto) and English (e.g. Sir Walter Raleigh) explorers bringing pigs.  But why Indiana or Iowa?  Why the Midwest?  As the population grew, so did the pig industry, spreading west as the colonies (and later, the United States) expanded its territory.  Indeed, Cincinnati, Ohio was once called Porkopolis, owing to its hog slaughter industry.  Today, the Midwest is geographically and climatologically well suited for pig production.

You can consider the breaded pork tenderloin to be the Midwest’s interpretation of the Wiener Schnitzel and you’d be correct.  The Wiener (Vienna) Schnitzel is a veal cutlet, pounded thin, breaded, and fried, typically served with a wedge of lemon and some sort of potato product (fried, parsley potatoes, potato salad).  That it’s made with pork here isn’t exactly heretical—order a schnitzel in Germany (or some other countries), for example, and you’d get pork, not veal.  But these Euro-schnitzels aren’t sandwiches.  Or, should I say, SANDWICHES (all caps intentional).  You see, the BPT isn’t just some meat in a bun—it’s more involved than that.  The tenderloin part must have an area at least twice that of the bun (see picture below).

BPT_Sandwich

It can’t just stick out a little—not if it’s a real BPT—it has to truly dwarf the bun.  That massive overhang is part of the sandwich’s appeal.  If you’ve never seen one, your jaw should drop.

As wonderful as the gargantuan-sized BPT is, sometimes it’s a bit much.*  Granted, it is inimitably shareable, in a way (I’m imagining a set of three or four friends, all in different chairs, eating this single sandwich WITHOUT HAVING TO CUT IT UP BECAUSE THE PORK IS LARGE ENOUGH TO COVER THE ENTIRE TABLE).  But let’s face it, folks, it makes for poor appetizers or snacks for a crowd.  And while it tastes great, it’s MORE filling, not less.  But fortunately, a slider version of this Hall-of-Fame sandwich is better suited for small bites fare. Therefore, I bring to you BPT sliders in my next post—all the taste, but a fraction of the mass.

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WHERE the bleep are the Flyover States, anyway?

The term Flyover States doesn’t refer to a neatly defined, clearly demarcated geographic zone.  It’s not like Pacific Northwest or Gulf Coast states—two examples of regions that are based on relationships to bodies of water.  It doesn’t have a directional basis, like MidAtlantic or Northeast, or even Midwest.  Sure, there’s a general sense of the where (ummm, it’s somewhere between the East and West Coasts), but there exists no formal definition of Flyover States.  Well, the beauty of that means I get to generate my own personal definition.

So, where are MY Flyover States located?  See the map below—it encompasses states considered to be part of the Midwest, the Plains, the Great Lakes.  It’s where people don’t, generally,  speak with well known accents like the Southern accent1 (though, to be sure, the Minnesotans I’ve met do pronounce creek as crick, even though the word should be spoken with a long “e”.)

FlyoverLand1

Flyover Tapas’s Flyover States–click to enlarge the image

1In my part of the Flyover States (Indiana), one does hear southern-esque accents, an artifact of the Upland Southerners who migrated and took jobs in the auto industry.

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What the bleep is Flyover Tapas anyway?

I suppose the blog’s title—Flyover Tapas:  Exploring the Culinary Geography of the Flyover States—warrants an explanation.  “Flyover” and “Tapas” typically aren’t used together, though I guess that a silly autocorrect suggestion on a mobile device could conceivably have placed the two words adjacent.  So, fasten your seat belts and make sure your bags are secured in the overhead bin as we take off to Definition Land.

 

I’ll do this backwards and start with “tapas”.  The Spanish got it right.  By creating the concept of tapas, I mean, that delightful “meal” of small bites that accompanies drinks, friends, and conversation.  How refreshing and rejuvenating!  How absolutely delightful!  Defined by Merriam-Webster.com as “an hors d’oeuvre served with drinks especially in Spanish bars —usually used in plural”

 

The Spanish certainly aren’t the sole practitioners of this practice.  North Americans regularly partake of similar get-togethers.  Anyone who has ever shared a meal of myriad appetizers with friends can understand the appeal of the power of nibbling on little bites of various tasty things on flowing banter between compatriots.  Witness the popularity of meeting friends for drinks after work, often accompanied by bowls of snacks, or the cocktail party, with its finger foods to balance the beverages.  The spirit of tapas infuses them.  Food sharing = people caring.

 

Now, let’s look at the first word, flyover.  The term “flyover states” has been used perjoratively to belittle the vast interior of the United States.  Heartlanders are assumed to eat only greasy, flavorless casseroles, probably calling them “hot dish”.  Anything with seasonings other than salt, pepper, and (maybe!) curly parsley is “spicy”.  Naturally, all recipes involve a can of cream of fill-in-the-blank soup.  And, of course, these Flyovererians are all wearing sequined holiday sweaters and Big Ten (Eleven? Twelve?) caps.  These—and many more—are the myths associated with the Midwest and Plains food culture.  And I admit to insulting this region myself—BEFORE I moved here twelve years ago.  However, since I’ve lived here, I’ve discovered some wonderful food producers, markets, restaurants.  I’ve become more aware of food (and food system) issues.  I’ve encountered people as passionate as me about eating well with a connection to place.  So, why not share my discoveries of the culinary geography of this region with the world?

 

There you have it—Flyover Tapas.  I’ll be introducing foods and producers, discussing restaurants with a regional flavor, visiting places where regional delights are sold, examining issues that impact the Heartland’s food culture, and yes, sharing some recipes.  So please, stick around and learn about the wealth that is Flyover Food!

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