Determining the Quintessential Iowa Food--How About the "Loosemeat Sandwich"?

Nov 10, 2015

If you could pick just one food to represent Iowa, what would it be?  In his new book, "The Mad Feast: An Ecstatic Tour Through America's Food," Mathew Frank has selected a dish for every state in the union.  We talk with Frank about his culinary map of the United States and the food he feels represents Iowa, the Loosemeat Sandwich.

Weighing in on the discussion are Iowa food blogger Jim Duncan, the editor of the food quarterly "Relish" for the past 15 years, the Cityview Food Dude for 23 years and a freelance food writer for 30 years, along with Melissa Friedhoff, owner and chef of Ross' Restaurant in Bettendorf.

Frank, who now teaches creative writing in Michigan, grew up in Illinois and tells us that the Loosemeat Sandwich, a.k.a. the "Maid-Rite,"  "The Tavern," the "Canteen" and the "Tastee" was invented in Sioux City in 1934 at a place called "Ye Olde Tavern."  He heard people in the area mention that the sandwich was symbolic of the land being "ripped apart" by a tornado.  

Frank's actual Loosemeat Sandwich recipe in the book is from Friedhoff's iconic Bettendorf restaurant, founded in the 1930's.  It's called "Sriracha Rossburgers" and Frank says he was impressed by her "imaginative alchemy of revision" to add such ingredients as bacon and caramelized onion.  And what about Iowa food blogger Duncan?  Well, based on his comments on the program, he might be leaning toward the pork tenderloin as Iowa's "quintessential" food.  After all, he says, travel out of state and it is referred to as "The Iowa Tenderloin."