My most glorious Citizens! Today is truly a day of the most bountiful tidings and celebration, for today marks two weeks after My second COVID-19 vaccination and I AM UNLEASHED UPON THE WORLD ONCE AGAIN! 💪💪💪💉💉💉🦠🦠🦠💀💀💀🤯🤯🤯
After nearly 14 months of the strictest quarantine, seeing only My wife, My dog and My food delivery couriers (thank God for all of them!), I can once again sally forth into the fray, blinking against the light of day and hesitantly seeing the outdoors at last with My OWN eyes! #DarthVader
In honor of this day of renewed beginnings and returning to life’s basic needs, I wish to share with you no bastion of haute cuisine, but instead the most humble of dishes as a reminder of what is honorable and true – the sloppy joe! Today is also coincidentally April 20, aka 420, aka the day where people who can legally enjoy Marijuana do so with enthusiasm – and what better way to stave off the inevitable munchies, I ask you? 😉
If you’re unfamiliar with this most classic dish, a sloppy joe is a sandwich consisting of ground beef or pork, onions, tomato sauce or ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and other seasonings, served on a hamburger bun. The dish originated in the United States during the early 20th century. Ground turkey or ground pork may be used as a substitute for ground beef, if so desired – TFD does not, though I do ADD to the classic ground beef, as will be elucidated shortly. A sloppy joe differs from a traditional ‘loose meat’ or tavern sandwich due largely to its tomato-based sauce.
Early and mid-20th century American cookbooks offer plenty of sloppy joe-type recipes, though they go by different names: Toasted Deviled Hamburgers, Chopped Meat Sandwiches, Spanish Hamburgers, Hamburg a la Creole, Beef Mironton, and Minced Beef Spanish Style.
Marilyn Brown, Director of the Consumer Test Kitchen at H.J. Heinz in Pittsburgh, says their research at the Carnegie Library suggests that the sloppy joe’s origins lie with the ‘loose meat sandwiches’ sold in Sioux City, Iowa, in the 1930s and were the creation of a cook named Joe.
Legend has it that Joe, a cook at Floyd Angell’s café in Sioux City, Iowa, added tomato sauce to a loose meat sandwich and that was the start of what we now call the Sloppy Joe. The term sloppy joe’s had an earlier definition of any cheap restaurant or lunch counter serving cheap food quickly or of a type of casual clothing.
Thetakeout.com advances an alternate theory – that the sandwich in fact comes to us from…CUBA?!
But back to Joe. Who is he, exactly? There are two theories.
Theory no. 1 takes place in Havana, Cuba, and asserts that the Sloppy Joe, like most dishes that we see as “all-American,” is actually not American-in-origin at all. (American embraced-and-appropriated? Sure.) It starts with a gentleman named José Abeal Otero who opened a bar in Havana sometime between 1917 and 1919, depending on which account of history you believed. Otero was nicknamed “Sloppy Joe” by regulars, and sensing a marketing opportunity, he changed the name of the bar to “Sloppy Joe’s.”
One day, seeking to add food to complement the drinks on the menu (the bar popularized the mojito), he put together a simple sandwich filled with ground beef stewed in tomatoes. It’s likely he was influenced by ropa vieja, a Cuban dish of shredded beef with tomatoes and spices, as well as picadillo, a comfort food of ground beef mixed with capers, olives, and raisins.
According to this theory, the Sloppy Joe came to America thanks to none other than Ernest Hemingway, who apparently loved Sloppy Joe’s in Havana. His friend, Joe Russell, opened a bar in Key West, Florida, in the 1930s called the Silver Slipper.
Hemingway convinced Russell to change the name of the bar to Sloppy Joe’s, and to start serving the sandwich. It remains on the menu today for $9.99, which the restaurant boldly claims as “the original… it made us and Key West famous!” (The Havana Sloppy Joe’s bar closed down in 1959 after the Cuban Revolution, and reopened in 2013.)
References to sloppy joes as sandwiches begin to appear by the 1940s. One example from Ohio is a 1944 Coshocton Tribune ad under the heading “‘Good Things to Eat’ says ‘Sloppy Joes’ – 10c – Originated in Cuba – You’ll ask for more – The Hamburg Shop” and elsewhere on the same page, “Hap is introducing that new sandwich at The Hamburg Shop – Sloppy Joes – 10c”.
Food companies began producing packaged sloppy joe, in cans with meat, or just the sauce, such as Manwich®, by the 1960s. As noted in a story in the Chicago Tribune:
As for sloppy Joes making their way to home kitchen menus, 1960s and the convenience of commercial company canned sloppy Joe brands made the “loose meat” sandwich a quick and easy option for home cooks. Libby’s was one of the first brand labels for a line of canned “pre-cooked and ready-mixed meat and sauce” sloppy Joes.
But it was rival Hunt’s innovation of creating a canned sauce for sloppy Joes, which only required the addition of cooked ground beef, which has remained the signature Sloppy Joe sauce brand. Hunt’s called their canned sauce Manwich and launched it in 1969 marketing it as “an easy one-pan meal for the whole family.” A clever advertising campaign in the 1970s and 1980s helped sales skyrocket using the slogan “A sandwich is a sandwich, but a Manwich is a meal.”
Several variations of the sloppy joe exist in North America. In Québec, Canada, sandwiches of stewed ground beef such as pain à la viande and pain fourré gumbo are usually served on hot dog buns. A similar sandwich, the ‘dynamite’, exists in the area around Woonsocket, Rhode Island, and is distinguished by the use of onions, bell peppers, and sometimes celery.
Stewed meat sandwiches are common in several other culinary traditions as well. The rou jia mo, from China’s Shaanxi Province, consists of stewed pork, beef, or lamb on a steamed bun. Keema pav of Indian cuisine uses a pav bread roll filled with keema – a minced, stewed, curried meat.
Citizens, My version of the sloppy joe is – as to be expected – far more evolved and is redolent with far more depth of flavor than its humble ancestral recipe. For all practical purposes, Mine is – in fact – a deconstructed meatloaf, with all the goodness that implies!
First off, I call for a blend of dry-aged wagyu ground beef (you can find it here) as well as sweet Italian sausage for more fat and flavor. I also call for a bit of demiglace to add richness and umami to the final dish – My preferred brand is this one. Instead of just pedestrian onion powder, I instead call for ground, dehydrated wild ramps – a form of wild onion with FAR more profound flavor! You can buy it from here.
I have also added in flavor enhancers like roasted garlic, Worcestershire sauce, Tiger sauce, salsa, BBQ sauce and more – My sloppy joe is truly transcendent beyond any compare! 😀 I hope you see fit to join Me in this moment of rarest celebration, My Citizens – and I hope you are fully immunized as soon as possible so that you too can share in the joy of liberation from a once-in-a-lifetime plague!
Battle on – the GeneralissimoPrint
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