If you want a front-row seat to observe some of these quiet eccentricities, invite a few native Kansans over for dinner. I don't recommend going into this blindly. You need to know that Kansans don't like to have their taste buds assaulted. To ensure that you don't overwhelm their palates, keep the following in mind:
- Don't serve dinner after 6:30 p.m. According to my grandfather, dinner around 5:30 is ideal. I don't know the logic behind this reasoning, but I do know that Kansans (myself included) get testy if dinner is served after 7:00.
- When seasoning food, just stick with salt and pepper. Don't try to sneak in ginger, fennel, rosemary, or anything a Kansan might consider exotic.
- Don't serve anything with a funny sounding name. Kansans' taste buds get skittish around things like hummus, jicama, and tabbouleh.
- If you serve cheese as an appetizer, make sure it's yellow. If you stick with one of Kraft's Cracker Barrel selections, guests will be impressed.
- If you prepare a salad, don't mix greens. Stick simply with an iceberg lettuce. Don't add nuts to salads or feta cheese. Serve a variety of dressings on the side, but be sure you have Ott's Original Dressing on hand. (Revision: It's Dorothy Lynch Dressing I'm thinking of, not Ott's. Thank you Nella from Peckerwood Gravy Company for remind me.)
- Be prepared to talk about the weather. Even if you don't own a rain gauge, be prepared to announce daily precipitation amounts received over the past decade. I'm not exaggerating.
- Serve potatoes with the meal, preferably mashed with gravy or scalloped. We also like our tators fried.
- Kansans like casserolse. Any casserole with a cream of mushroom base will satisfy most Kansans.
Now if you're an individual who likes to shake things up and you don't mind guests talking on the drive home about the strange meal you served them, I'm going to share a recipe that breaks many of the above rules. It's a little Vietnamese sandwich called the Bánh Mì, and it's one of the best things I've eaten this year.
Allow me to say this again: It's one of the best things I've eaten this year.
This sandwich will satisfy every corner of your palate. I challenge all of my readers to make it this weekend and report back to me. Just follow these simple steps:
- Visit the White on Rice Couple's companion website The Battle of the Bánh Mì and get the complete lowdown on this sandwich.
- Follow their recipe for the marinade and preparing the meat, and don't be afraid of the fish sauce.
- Buy or bake some good bread. They suggest a nice, crusty French loaf. I prepared my sandwich with day-old loaves from Jimmy John's. An 18-inch loaf can be purchased for 45 cents. I'm in the process of finding a recipe to replicate Jimmy John's bread or the French loaves you see used for Po-Boys down in N'Awlins.
- Prepare the following to dress the sandwich:
- sprigs of cilantro
- thinly slice red onions
- thinly sliced cucumbers
- pickled carrots and daikon radish: Be a native Kansan, I was apprehensive about this ingredient, but this makes the sandwich. Like the fish sauce, it's a bit stinky, but roll with it.
- Sriracha: This spicy Asian ketchup is essential for the sandwich.
Anyway, get out there and get you Bánh Mì on this weekend.
P.S. I survived prom decorating, and tonight I'll take my five-year-old daughter to prom. Her enthusiasm will glide me through the evening.