The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Some habits and in-jokes die hard


September 15, 2019

“What the (expletive) is a pasty?” That’s what I said when we were in Butte, Montana.

Fine, that’s what I wanted to say, but I was 8. While I knew better than to say the expletive, young me did not yet know Butte as strange sibling of the Montana family. If some Wyoming piece of trash talks about Butte, know that we will defend our brother — but if we’re all Montanans, Butte has an extra vowel because it was the butt of almost every joke.

My favorite joke: When you registered a vehicle, the state would take a few days to stamp out your plate. In the meantime, the clerk would print out a temporary license, and write its expiration date in large handwriting for you to tape to the rear window. It was called a “Butte license plate” when you made one with a Sharpie and blank printer paper.

As the years have gone on, I’ve developed an appreciation for Butte, and how some people absolutely love living there. Somebody’s gotta make the pasty, I guess.

So what the (expletive) is a pasty? It apparently originated in Europe, but it’s a food I’ve only found in Butte to this day. It’s a pastry filled with beef skirt, potato, and other vegetables. It tasted like a beef pot pie without the moisture, and I’ve never been mad I can’t find out outside of Butte.

My parents did like the occasional pasty, but my distaste for them was never an issue because of another food I’ve rarely found outside of Montana — the pork chop sandwich.

Known as a porky in some parts of the state, the sandwich is pretty simple. Take a pork chop between three and five ounces, batter and fry it and serve it on a toasted bun with tomato, onions, mustard and pickles. Add fries, onion rings or chips and a small piece of chocolate to balance out all of that salt flavor.

A few months ago, I realized the southwest U.S. was not going to get things rolling on the porky. I needed to bring it to my own kitchen. I found a knock-off recipe from somebody missing Montana as well, and got to work.

The equal mixture of onion powder, garlic powder, dry mustard and paprika (1/2 tsp each) met with a cup of flour and a cup of milk to form a spicy pinkish batter. After patting the pork chops dry and salting and peppering, they got a coat of cornmeal before they got dipped in the batter and gently placed in a cast iron skillet of hot canola oil (medium high). After about four or five minutes a side, they were dropped on a paper towel to soak up the oil still attached to this crispy delight.

As it cooled, I did what I liked. See ya later, onions. Extra pickle. Extra lettuce. Mustard on the top bun in a “W” shape, continuing a lesson I never unlearned from two summers working at a Wendy’s.

You do it right, and it’s one wave of crispy after another, from the toasted bun to the lettuce to the pickle to the covering — all leading up to the moist, juicy white center.

I did what any mediocre cooker would do, and posted it on the Instagram. Every public comment was from a fellow Montanan, and every private message was a joke about Butte. Like the pork chop sandwich, some habits die hard.

Kevin Wilson is editor of The Eastern New Mexico News. Contact him at:

[email protected]


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