It may be time for a Garbage Plate.
Before you register a mental 'ewwww,' bear in mind that garbage plates have a long and honored tradition. The first mention seems to be Nick Tahou Hots in Rochester, NY; Alex Tahou, Nick's dad, is said to have invented the original Garbage Plate in 1918.
The Garbage Plate, according to Nick Tahou Hots, starts "with a base of any combination of home fries, macaroni salad, baked beans or french fries topped by your choice of meats and dressed to your liking with spicy mustard, chopped onions and our signature Nick Tahou's hot sauce. Each plates comes wiht two thick slices of fresh Italian bread and butter."
Sounds like the perfect dish for a customer who can't make up their mind. ("Hey Nick -- give me a little of everything!")
Another site described Tahou's mixture as "two hamburger patties and a choice of two sides -- usually some combination of home fries, macaroni salad, and beans. The contents are often laced heavily with ketchup and hot sauce, and mixed together before eating. Rolls or white bread are served on the side."
New York's Tom Wahl's burger chain makes a similar dish, but calls it the "55 Junker Plate." So, to my surprise, does the national Culver's chain. According to one review, their "Hot Plate" is made up of three cheeseburgers, home fries and macaroni salad lumped together on a platter, with "sneaky good" meat sauce ladled over all. (Bread is extra.)
|Culver's 'hot plate'|
No fuss, garnishing or arranging here -- the food is lumped on, sauce poured over and the plate is slapped out on the counter. (I remember George Orwell asserting, in his 'arranged' memoir, Down and Out in Paris and London, that the less fuss paid to a dish, the more it was probably not dropped on the floor, picked up, moved around with sweaty fingers that had been licked, etc etc. Yum.)
This actually looks a lot like what The Mama called 'Slop:' various leftovers mixed together in a frypan, then served topped with sauce or gravy, if we had any. Her comment, after that, was usually "Shut up and eat." Even now, that command is still used, with much giggling, at family gatherings. (The Mama generally blushes when it's trotted out.)
All this slopping and pouring reminds me of another regional specialty:
Cincinnati Chili. This interesting dish features spaghetti heaped with a spicy tomato sauce that's not traditional chili... but something else. Word is it was invented, c.1920, by two Macedonian Greek immigrants for their restaurant, The Empress. (They'd been using the same sauce on their 'coney' dogs shortly before.)
|I'm pretty sure this is 5-way -- see below|
This is not your typical chili -- it's considered a Mediterranean thin soup, rather than a stew. It uses spices not associated with traditional chili, including cinnamon, allspice, bay leaf, cloves and nutmeg. Cumin and chili powder are in there too...but they show up in a lot of chili recipes, including Colorado's famous green chili. Some recipes even include a little dark chocolate, though Dann Woellert, author ot The Authentic History of Cincinnati Chili, says that's not the case for any chili parlor in Cincinnati.
The 'ways' are important in this dish. According to Wikipedia, they are:
- Two-way: spaghetti topped with chili (also called "chili spaghetti")
- Three-way: spaghetti, chili, and cheese
- Four-way onion: spaghetti, chili, onions, and cheese
- Four-way bean: spaghetti, chili, beans*, and cheese
- Five-way: spaghetti, chili, beans, onions, and cheese
*usually kidney beans
So what's served with it? Oyster crackers, of course!
Here's the recipe, as interpreted from AllRecipes.com, direct from a Cincinnati native.
2 pounds lean ground beef
2 chopped onions
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
4 cloves minced garlic
1/2 square (1 oz) unsweetened chocolate (optional)
1/4 cup chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
5 whole cloves
5 whole allspice berries (or a teaspoon of allspice)
1 bay leaf (optional - I am not a fan)
Step 1: BOIL THE MEAT. (Yes, you read that correctly.) Cover the hamburger with water, then boil until cooked, breaking up the meat to give it a fine texture. Cool (preferably overnight), then skim the fat off. Keep the broth -- you'll need it.
Step 2: Stir in everything else, bring to a boil, and reduce to simmer for three hours. Check occasionally to see if more water is needed. Pull out your bay leaf, if you used it, and serve as a topping for freshly-cooked spaghetti. Makes enough for 4-8 hungry eaters, depending on how many 'ways' you add. (Variation: Serve 'coneys' first, with the sauce spooned over hot dogs in buns -- then use the rest of the sauce later in the week for Cincinnati Chili.)
Plan ahead, and you can have just enough leftovers from other dishes to make a quick Garbage Plate or Cincinnati Chili some cold and overcast March evening. Top your meal off with a goold old Irish Eton Mess, and you've got a messy, satisfying meal.
(This post was also published in my 'other' blog, Holiday Goodies. Our third blog, Christmas Goodies, is taking its annual long winter's nap.)