Special Foods

8 minutes read

Includes the answer to the eternal question: "What is Provel ™ cheese?"

Some food found only in St. Louis, others were popularize here.

St. Louis Originals - most are still unique to the area

  1. Toasted Ravioli - invented in 1943 or 1944 at Oldani's on “The Hill” by chef Terry Lane and served to (or more likely by) Martin “Mickey” Garagiola (Joe's brother), though others also claim the invention.
  2. Gooey butter cake - legend has it that in the 1930s a German baker got the proportions wrong and the rest is history - available at most area bakeries and grocery stores.
  3. Prosperity sandwich - available at many area Italian Restaurants - Open face turkey, ham, bacon, melted cheese and if done right a cream sauce.
  4. Pork Steaks - Pork butt sliced as a steak, often Bar-B-Qued - a cook at home favorite.
  5. The Concrete - Ted Drewes Frozen Custard (Ice Cream) mixed with candy, fruit, and/or nuts. A history back to 1929 with the two remaining locations here from 1931 (Grand) and 1941 (historic Route 66). When Dairy Queen couldn't buy it they came up with their very poor imitation the Blizzard.
  6. Peanut Butter* - In 1890, an unknown St. Louis physician encouraged a food products company owner, George A. Bayle Jr., to process and package ground peanut paste as a nutritious protein substitute for people with poor teeth who couldn't chew meat.
  7. The Slinger - Typically two eggs, hash browns, a hamburger patty all covered in chili. Breakfast of champions. (Shows up at one Chicago joint.)
  8. Provel ™ cheese - Developed as a shelf-stable cheese often found as topping for the next entry (St. Louis style Pizza), it's name may lead some to think it is a shorthand name for provolone. It is in fact a processed cheese of cheddar, swiss and provolone as Velveeta (or any other American cheese) is a processed cheese based on Cheddar and Colby cheese. I suspect that this then is where the name comes from: Pro(volone)vel(veeta). Not too bad on salad.
  9. St. Louis style Pizza - A thin crusted pizza with Provel ™ Cheese, round and cut into squares.
  10. St. Paul Sandwich - Has nothing to do with St. Paul Minnesota that I know of. It is egg foo young, lettuce, tomato, and pickle on white bread.
  11. Brain Sandwich - Exactly that.
  12. A number of soft drinks by Charles Leiper Grigg (1868-????) born in Price's Branch, Missouri.
  13. Whistle™ in 1919 while working for Vess Jones. Slogan: "Thirsty? Just Whistle"
  14. Howdy (another orange flavor) while working for Warner Jenkinson Co.
  15. 7-UP™ in 1929 originally called "Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Sodas" at his own company "Howdy".
  16. TUMS® antacid (OK not technically a food) invented 1928 by pharmacist Jim Howe.

St. Louis 1904 Worlds Fair introduction to the people who flocked there.

  1. Ice Cream in a Cone - a waffle cone.
  2. Hot Dog on a bun for the first time made and sized for it. Served by Arnold Feuchtwanger. Though the R.T. French company introduced yellow mustard the same year it's likely these were served with brown. Though the hot dog itself (seasoned and sized as we know it today) was served in 1893 at the Colombian Exposition in Chicago and at the St. Louis Brown's ballpark. Both the team and the ballpark were owned by Chris Von de Ahe who also owned a tavern.
  3. Iced Tea - by Richard Blechynden. It was probably served in some areas well before this.
  4. Hamburg Steak as a Sandwich (Hamburger) - one recipe from this time calls for onion, Worcestershire, egg, salt and pepper to be mixed in. Possibly introduced at the fair by Fletcher Davis of Athens, Texas.
  5. Peanut Butter - again by C.H. Sumner.
  6. Chili (also spelled Chile) - though not a new introduction, the kind served by the O. T. Hodge Chile Parlor in downtown St. Louis has now become the style expected by many canned chili eaters. An in-law of Hodge spun off the Edmond's Chili Co. to provide this chili in canned form.
  7. Soft drink Dr. Pepper™ (but created in 1885 in Waco TX)
  8. Cotton candy - originally called fairy floss.

1904 -“An apple a day keeps the doctor away”, proclaimed J.T. Stinson in an address to the St. Louis Exposition.

St. Louis Favorites, but likely came from elsewhere.

  1. Crab Rangoon - available at most Oriental Restaurants in this area, and many others as well. Though they don't claim it, Trader Vic's is the most common recipe found and there was at one time a Trader Vic's in St. Louis.
  2. Bar-B-Que - A quiet war between St. Louis and Kansas City though of course not invented in either.
  3. Ham Steak - The best with brown sugar and cloves!.
  4. Famous-Barr's French Onion Soup - many recipes may be found on the web but the soup can now only be found at the downtown store.
  5. Bissinger's™ chocolates - with a 17th century beginning.
  6. Even the Twinkie has a St. Louis connection. Jimmy Dewar, manager of the Schiller Park, IL bakery, trying to make year round use of the shortbread pans that were only used during strawberry season filled them with golden sponge cake and banana filling. While en route to show off his new idea in St. Louis, Dewar saw a billboard for "Twinkle Toe Shoes". The use of vanilla filling was the result of a banana shortage during World War II.

The first motor hotel (motel) in Missouri from 1929 the "Big Chief" in Pond (now part of Wildwood) on historic Route 66. It's original restaurant building still stands.

The Perfect Day.

  1. Breakfast - Gooey Butter Cake (hey! eggs, flour, butter - same as waffle!!!)
  2. Snack - Crab Rangoon
  3. Lunch - French onion soup, hamburger
  4. Dinner - Toasted Ravioli appetizer, Prosperity Sandwich, Ice Tea.
  5. After - a Concrete at Ted Drewes

* - But didn't Dr. George Washington Carver (~1864-1943) invent peanut butter? No. He invented a lot of uses for a lot of agricultural products and without his pushing of peanuts and others as crops to rebuild the depleted soils of the south there would not have been a supply of peanuts to make peanut butter. He likely did invent peanut butter fudge. But for some odd reason he is credited with inventing a lot of products he didn't. What he may have made were ways of making them with peanuts or sweet potatoes. Among these are margarine (1870), mayonnaise (1753), Worcestershire Sauce (1835), and vinegar (~17000 BCE)! You should visit the George Washington Carver National Monument in southwest Missouri but take their list of inventions with a grain of salt!

(Some references are from The Food Timeline). (BCE - Before the Common Era [same time frame as BC], ACE - After the Common Era [AD])

Provel is a trademark of the Churny Company, Inc., 114 Waukegan Rd, Glenview, IL (sold under the Hoffman's label). Churny is a division of Kraft Foods, Inc.

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