Food rivalries

June 7 was National Doughnut Day in the U.S., with many bakeries offering free doughnuts to customers. This food "holiday" prompted Food & Wine magazine to discuss a long-standing debate: which is the better doughnut, yeasted or cake? The arguments pro and con were that yeast doughnuts "are airy and fluffy with a pleasant squish. They are so delicate that you can eat about a billion before you your brain registers that you're full (perhaps too full). Point yeast doughnuts. Cake doughnuts are crumbly and buttery and can handle heavier toppings like thick chocolate frosting. They are also dunkable. Point cake doughnuts."

This discussion brought to mind other heated food debates that rage on, like which is the better dessert: cake or pie? Sometimes regional idiosyncrasies drive the debate. In the U.S., the Civil War may be over, but Northern versus Southern food fights linger. Northerners serve their iced tea unsweetened, allowing people to add sugar to taste, but in the South, if you order iced tea, it's going to be sweet. Very sweet. In a somewhat inconsistent manner, Southerners are aghast at adding sugar to cornbread, denouncing the slightly sweet Yankee version as being too much like cake.

SconesEven within smaller regions food fights can be fierce. Take barbeque, for instance. In the state of North Carolina, there is a gulf between the eastern part of the state's whole hog and vinegar-mustard sauce and the western side's pork shoulder with a tomato ketchup-based sauce.

These rivalries aren't limited to the U.S., although Americans probably escalated the battles: the topic spawned a short-lived series on the Food Network called Food Feuds. Rivalries are not unknown in the UK (Leeds vs. Manchester United, anyone?), and food is no exception. There is a long-standing debate between Devon and Cornwall over how to properly serve cream teas. "Devon argue that it is cream first, then jam, while Cornwall vie for jam first, then cream, condemning the Devon method as nigh on sacrilege." Even though a study was commissioned (by a clotted cream manufacturer), the debate is not settled.

What are the big food rivalries where you live? Where do you stand on cake vs. pie, yeasted vs. cake doughnuts, or any of the other above debates?

Photo of cream teas courtesy Yahoo! Lifestyle UK & Ireland

4 Comments

  • mfto  on  6/9/2014 at 6:54 AM

    I am one of those Southerners who can't eat cornbread that has sugar added. Wait a minute, that's not true. I do add 1 teaspoon of sugar when I am using buttermilk. Please don't tell. My sister is horrified. I assured her that you can't taste the sugar. Then why do I use it. I don't know why except it tastes better.

  • ellabee  on  6/9/2014 at 8:02 AM

    Sweet, cakey "cornbread" is appalling. Real cornbread is made in a skillet, and its very faint sweetness comes only from the corn itself. It's a fairly dense and savory bread, made to sop up gravy and the likker from greens, or crumble into chili. Though it's also good with apple butter (and butter) for breakfast. North or south, I've encountered the real item only from home cooks; the cakey stuff seems to have taken over in restaurants and diners.

  • veronicafrance  on  6/11/2014 at 7:13 AM

    Jam then cream! It's the only way.

  • ellabee  on  6/12/2014 at 7:34 AM

    From an observer entirely free of cultural baggage/experience with cream tea, jam under cream seems to make sense logistically: Gravity will encourage the bottom layer to sink into the shortbread, and the jam layer will be more resistant to mixing with/changing the texture of the shortbread than cream...

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