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Provel Cheese, Pork Steaks, and TUMS: St. Louis Food Traditions

April 5, 2010 Le Cordon Bleu St. Louis 0 Comments

Provel Cheese, Pork Steaks, and TUMS:  St. Louis Food Traditions


Nearly every large city in the U.S. lays claim to its own unique specialty foods:  New York-style pizza, the Chicago hot dog, Philly cheese steaks, and the list goes on. One city that often gets overlooked when talking about regional specialties, however, is St. Louis. And if you don’t already know about the great food traditions of the Gateway City, then you’ll want to plan a trip to find out more. Or, you can just read on …


Provel Cheese


If you live outside of the St. Louis area, then you’ve probably never heard of this process cheese made from Swiss, provolone, and cheddar cheeses. Its creaminess and low melting point make it an ideal topping for a couple of other St. Louis specialty foods, St. Louis-style pizza and the Gerber sandwich (an open faced sandwich that consists of a half section of Italian or French bread, spread with butter, and topped with garlic, ham, Provel processed cheese and seasoned with a sprinkling of paprika and then toasted).


The original Provel cheese recipe dates back to 1947 and the Costa Grocery. Today the trademark for Provel cheese is held by Kraft, Inc., but it’s still a delicious companion to any salad, sandwich, or pizza.


Pork Steaks


Texas has beef ribs, Memphis has pork ribs, and North Carolina has pulled pork. But the barbecued meat of choice in St. Louis is the pork steak. These one-inch pork shoulder cuts are either slow cooked in barbecue sauce or smoked for several hours at low temperature (170-225°). Many St. Louis barbecues will serve them with crispy snoots, pig cheeks and noses grilled until crispy. Both are then slathered in St. Louis-style barbecue sauce, which is not as thick and sweet as Kansas City-style or as hot as Texas-style.


Fitz’s Root Beer


Of course we know that St. Louis is famous for its beer. German immigrants of the 19th century brought their brewing knowledge, and St. Louis, along with Milwaukee, soon gained fame for its breweries. Anheuser-Busch and several smaller family-owned breweries are still based here.


They also brought their knowledge of making non-alcoholic brews like birch, sarsaparilla, and root beers. And one name that has been famous for root beer since the 1940s is Fitz’s. Fitz’s was a hamburger stand that started making its own root beer to go along with the burgers. The rest is St. Louis food history. While the hamburger stand went out of business when the original owners retired, the root beer can still be found on the shelves of local grocery stores.


The Louisiana Purchase Exposition


One hundred years after the Louisiana Purchase, the World’s Fair was held in St. Louis to commemorate the anniversary of that historic event. It was designed to be a coming out party for the still young United States. It was also a coming out party for some of today’s most popular foods. Many people credit the invention or first appearance of hot dogs, iced tea, cotton candy, peanut butter, and waffle-style ice cream cones to the Fair, but most only become widely known after being feature at the exposition. After being produced for a number of years, Dr. Pepper became a national hit after being featured at the fair.




It’s just coincidence that St. Louis pharmacist, Jim Howe, would invent his famous heartburn remedy in a city famous for pizza, beer, and barbecue, but it’s probably good that he did. Today, more than 75 years after its invention, TUMS is the best-selling heartburn and acid indigestion treatment in America.


The Joy of Cooking


In 1931 St. Louis resident, Irma Rombauer, self-published her book, The Joy of Cooking. It went on to be one of the most popular cook books sold in the U.S. It has taught several generations of Americans how to cook. Simple yet delicious recipes along with Rombauer’s humor and common sense made it a must have in depression-era kitchens. Successive editions have kept up with the country’s changing tastes.


Located in the heartland of the U.S. and resting on the shore of the Mississippi River and the intersections of Interstates 44, 55, 64, and 70 St. Louis is not too far from nearly anywhere in the country. So the next time you’re thinking about a road trip or you’re a food tourist looking for a new taste we recommend making the trip to St. Louis. You’ll find a city with a history of delicious local specialties that rivals any other city in the nation.



This article is presented by Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in St. Louis. Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in St. Louis offers culinary arts and pâtisserie and baking training programs in the St. Louis, Missouri area. To learn more about the class offerings, please visit http://www.Chefs.edu/St-Louis for more information. 


Le Cordon Bleu does not guarantee employment or salary. All trademarks are property of their respective owners. Le Cordon Bleu ® and the Le Cordon Bleu logo are registered trademarks of Career Education Corporation.


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