LYNN NEARY, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Lynn Neary in Washington, sitting in for Neal Conan.

Today as we celebrate our nation's independence, many of us are packing picnics, trolling the boardwalk for treats and barbecuing in the back yard with family and friends. After all, Americans do love to eat and any holiday is a good excuse to overindulge. But there's something about the Fourth of July that brings out the foods we think of as American, hamburgers and coleslaw, apple pie with ice cream, corn on the cob and watermelon. So on this Fourth of July, we thought we'd take a look at America through its food. With so many people from so many places and so many culinary traditions, what exactly is American food? To help puzzle this out, we've invited a couple of food experts who've pondered this question and have come to their own conclusions. We also want some help from you. Iconic American food is the TALK OF THE NATION.

Later on, we'll check in on the Tour de France and the last ride of Lance Armstrong. Right now, what food says American to you? And what are you planning to eat today to celebrate the holiday? Join the conversation, but beware. This is not an hour to listen on an empty stomach. Our number here in Washington, (800) 989-8255. That's (800) 989-TALK. And our e-mail address is totn@npr.org.

Our first guest is John T. Edge, director of Southern FoodWays Alliance at the University of Mississippi and author of a series of book on iconic American foods. He's already written about apple pie and fried chicken, and his latest book is "Hamburgers and Fries: An American Story." He joins us from commercial station WQLJ in Oxford, Mississippi.

Welcome to TALK OF THE NATION.

Mr. JOHN T. EDGE (Director, Southern FoodWays Alliance): I'm happy to be with you.

NEARY: So, Mr. Edge, first of all, how do you define iconic American food? What does that phrase mean to you?

Mr. EDGE: To me it means foods that are accepted from coast to coast as a part of our daily lives. I mean, we're talking about fairly simple, straightforward foods: fried chicken, apple pie, hamburgers. But these are foods that change as you travel the country. Their underlying essence remains the same but you may have a burger in Connecticut that's steamed in a little chest and then travel out to the West Coast and find a burger that's sluiced with chili, and the two retain something that marries them but they also have this incredible diversity, which represents to me, you know, the American fabric.

NEARY: What about foods that come from other countries that we seem to have made our own? And I'm thinking really specifically of pizza. You know, it's not an American food but somehow we think of pizza as American.

Mr. EDGE: I think you're right about that. I think there are so many foods that become part of the American story by way of the many immigrants who showed up here. I think, you know, you could make the same argument for a food like fried chicken; you know, that immigrants come from China with a long tradition of chicken cookery. They come from Italy with a long tradition of chicken cookery but somehow in this kind of process of American assimilation, these foods become more American than they are, you know, foreign to us. Pizza certainly a great example of it. There's a great book out now by Ed Levine called "Pizza: A Slice of Heaven." It celebrates this diversity and it's everything from, you know, a pizza with kim chee on it in Hawaii to a pizza with just a straightforward margarita topping in New York. And you see the same thing with hamburgers. In fact, I saw a kim chee burger--ate a kim chee burger in Hawaii as well.

NEARY: Well, how does the hamburger fit into your definition of an iconic American food? It wasn't actually invented in America.

Mr. EDGE: Well, it's hard to say. You know, when can a--folk foods like this were invented--if they were invented at all. A food like the hamburger takes its name from Hamburg, Germany, and in my opinion, it's not as if that food was lifted wholesale from Hamburg to America and then, by process of kind of coinage and distillation, a hamburg steak becomes a hamburger. I think of it as hamburger is a point of embarkation from the Old World to the new. And multiple kind of patties of beef from multiple traditions are brought over by multiple ethnicities, all emanating from the point of Hamburg into America. And that phrase `hamburg steak' which becomes hamburger becomes, you know, kind of almost like a Creolized, a pidgin language for these little patties. And that happens sometime in the late 1800s, early 1900s.

NEARY: What made it become so identified with American culture? Was it the onset of places like McDonald's or these fast-food places?

Mr. EDGE: I think that's some of it, but it's the very nature of the burger. It fits our lifestyle. It's eminently portable. I mean, think about it. You've got a slab of beef between two buns. You grab and you go. And it's something that is as much a part of lunch on the 405 snarled in traffic in LA as it is sitting at a, you know, stool at Louie's Lunch in New Haven, Connecticut. It is American. It's kinetic. It's portable. It's cheap. It's fast. And, you know, you could argue, if you were so inclined, it's out of control because I'm seeing so many variations on the burger as I travel. That's what excites me, too.

NEARY: All right. Well, speaking of variations, Jeff Weinstein has taken the love of hamburger to quite another level. He's the owner of The Counter, which he says is a modern interpretation of the burger joint. The concept of the restaurant, which is located in Santa Monica, California, is that you build your own burger, with various selections of patty, cheeses, toppings, sauces and buns. He says there are 312,120 different combinations of hamburger possible and he joins us now by phone from his home in Palm Springs, California.

Thanks for being on the show.

Mr. JEFF WEINSTEIN (Owner, The Counter): Hi. How are you?

NEARY: Well, first of all, tell us, how does your system work?

Mr. WEINSTEIN: The system works where you come into the restaurant, you pick up a small clipboard with a bunch of choices on it, step one through five. And step one is you choose what kind of meat you want, whether it's beef, turkey, veggie burger or chicken burger. Then you choose the size: a third, two-thirds or a pound. You then choose what type of cheese and we have about 12 different cheeses to choose from. You then choose four different toppings, and there are probably 26 different toppings that you can choose from. Then you move on to what kind of sauce. We have 15 different sauces to top your burger and then finally three different types of buns that you can choose, whatever you want your burger on.

NEARY: Do you have a mathematician on staff who helps you to figure out how many burgers you can make out of all this?

Mr. WEINSTEIN: Absolutely. We figured out the other day that not only are there 312,000 and some-odd combinations but if you had a burger a day every day, it would take you 855 years to eat every single burger there is.

NEARY: What's the most interesting combination you've heard somebody making in your store?

Mr. WEINSTEIN: The most interesting--you know, I tend to be somewhat of a traditionalist when it comes to eating a burger. The most interesting I've seen or maybe the most disgusting I've seen, I should say, is feta cheese with peanut sauce and red peppers.

NEARY: Ooh.

Mr. WEINSTEIN: So...

NEARY: Did the person eat the whole burger?

Mr. WEINSTEIN: They ate the whole burger.

NEARY: Oh, wow.

Mr. WEINSTEIN: Yeah. So, you know, it all depends on what you like. We have something for everybody and, you know, that's really the idea, is that you're getting exactly what you want. I started to have trouble going into restaurants and having the chef or the waiter tell me what I had to have on my burger. And to me, it made more sense for me to choose than them to make it for me.

NEARY: What's the most common choice? Is it the plain old hamburger or...

Mr. WEINSTEIN: I tend to think that the most common choice is what we call the old school, which is one of our standard burgers and that's, you know, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, cheddar cheese on a hamburger bun. To me, that's probably the most common choice.

NEARY: Now had you had experience with burgers before? Or presumably you had restaurant experience.

Mr. WEINSTEIN: Well, you know, I think everybody's got experience with burgers. Everybody's been eating them since they were children. I mean, I've been eating burgers--I can remember back four and five years old when my grandma used to take me to Hamburger Hamlet and, you know, I was eating them four or five times a week, and you know, it just seemed to make sense.

NEARY: Now I'm wondering what's the most common. Do people come in and order the same thing over and over or do people come in and try something different every time?

Mr. WEINSTEIN: Well, we tell people when they come in for the first time that they should take it easy on the checklist, you know, build what they're comfortable with. Their second and their third time in, start to get a little more adventurous, and we see that. And we see people bringing their friends in and telling them the same instructions that we've told them as well. So people tend to start, you know, not being too risky and then the more and more that they come, they tend to get a little crazy with the burgers.

NEARY: And you're not going to want to answer this, but has anybody ever gotten sick from a combination they put together?

Mr. WEINSTEIN: No, I don't think so. You know, you occasionally see a half-eaten burger, which makes me wonder because everything there is so good, but, you know, maybe they didn't like the combination. But again, you know, we put kind of the onus back on them. Hey, you know, we didn't create this, you did, so...

NEARY: What's your favorite?

Mr. WEINSTEIN: I tend to eat a beef burger with Gruyere cheese, some pepperoncinis on an English muffin. You know, it's very simple, easygoing burger. The English muffin isn't something that a lot of people do out here, especially on the West Coast, but, you know, it adds a different level of sweetness to the burger as well.

NEARY: Well, it sounds good.

Mr. WEINSTEIN: Yeah.

NEARY: Thanks for joining us today, Jeff.

Mr. WEINSTEIN: Thank you.

NEARY: Jeff Weinstein is the owner of The Counter in Santa Monica, California, where you can build your own burger, and he joined us from Palm Springs, California.

John Edge, what do you think about that?

Mr. EDGE: Well, I think it's interesting that he points out a burger with peanut butter on it as being, you know, beyond the pale, at least for him, because I've had more than one burger with peanut butter on it when I've traveled around the country. There's a place called the Wheel Inn in Sedalia, Missouri, where they put kind of a loose peanut butter spread on the burger. And then there are other places; Bearden's, this roadhouse in Cleveland. I mean, and I found another variation called a Nutty Muffett, which was a double cheeseburger with coleslaw and chopped mixed nuts in Orville, Ohio. You know, If you present people with these options at a place like The Counter, they're going to reinvent something that may already be out there in the American roadside.

NEARY: OK. Before we move on to other American iconic foods, I wanted to ask you another question about the hamburger and that is when did hamburger and fries become such a good combination, such a well-known combination?

Mr. EDGE: It comes a little later. If the burger comes about in late 1800s, early 1900s, fries come to the fore in the 1920s, 1930s. Some of that has to do with rationing during the wars. Some of it has to do with looking for good food costs. Fries are remarkably cheap to make and remarkably filling. And I think the combination of the two really becomes part of the American culinary firmament in the 1930s.

NEARY: And are they really French?

Mr. EDGE: They are not. They--you know, there are a number of ways to look at this. You could say the Belgians are quite strong in their opinion that fries are theirs, frites are theirs. A lot of American soldiers coming back from the war may have encountered Belgian frites in France. Some people argue it's about the technique of frenching the potato, and I think that's probably not correct. But, you know, what we have done to the fry, and I conclude the book with a chapter on kind of the future of the fry, and it seems to me that they are--if burgers are modern; we talked about them as being kind of modern--then the fries are post-modern. They no longer are the side dish. They've become the center of the plate and I've seen everything from pizzas with Cheez Whiz and waffle fries on them on the Jersey coast...

NEARY: Oh, wow.

Mr. EDGE: ...to--yeah, it's just `wow.'

NEARY: We're going to get into more of these odd combinations and more American foods when we return from a short break. John Edge will stay with us and when we come back, cookbook author Joan Nathan joins us. What's your perfect and perfectly American food? We're taking your calls at (800) 989-TALK. I'm Lynn Neary. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

NEARY: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Lynn Neary in Washington. Neal Conan is on vacation.

Whether your Fourth of July barbecue involves pulled pork, beer-bottle chicken or wasabi-glazed salmon, this is a holiday of iconic American eating. In honor of the nationwide feasting, we're discussing our favorite American foods. What are you cooking today? And since pretty much every recipe but corn on the cob and venison steaks comes from somewhere else, what makes something American? Give us a call at (800) 989-TALK. Our e-mail address is totn@npr.org.

With us from Oxford, Mississippi, is John T. Edge. He's the director of Southern FoodWays Alliance at the University of Mississippi, and he's the author most recently of "Hamburgers and Fries: An American Story."

Joan Nathan joins us now. She is the author of an "American Folklife Cookbook" and has a new cookbook coming out this fall called "The New American Cooking." She is also guest curator at the Smithsonian Institution's Food Culture USA exhibition at this year's Folklife Festival in Washington, DC. And she joins us now in Studio 3A.

Thanks for being with us.

Ms. JOAN NATHAN (Author, "American Folklife Cookbook"): Thank you for having me.

NEARY: Glad we could get you away from the Folklife Festival going on at the Mall. How is that going, first of all?

Ms. NATHAN: Well, it's very American. I think that--I was thinking it's this huge American picnic in America's back yard, the National Mall. And the kinds of people that are there, the kinds of foods that are there reflect food eaten by all Americans today, which means that we have Thai food, we have Korean food, we have pizza. We've got somebody making ice cream, the man that--Steve Herrell, who invented the Mix-ins for Steve's Ice Cream. This is all on the Fourth of July. We've got somebody making crab cakes. A Portuguese can't wait to go home to Massachusetts for her clam boil, which is Fourth of July. We have all kinds of sausages. We've got Andouille sausage. We've got chicken sausage, and everybody thinks this is what their food is.

NEARY: Are these all iconic American foods, to use the phrase which we've been using, or are there some foods that we think of as--this is particularly American, like the hamburger which we were talking about earlier, but other examples?

Ms. NATHAN: Well, I think that most, except maybe the clam boil, is iconic because a hamburger or a hotdog, in its variations, is definitely an icon of what we're using. The--what I've noticed is it's not so much the icon of, let's say, a hotdog, but what's inside the hotdog or inside the hamburger and outside the hamburger or the hotdog. What surrounds the food? That's what makes American food different from other food. You know, every barbecue's going to have some sort of hotdogs and hamburgers, but what the other foods are and what the spices are with them.

And I was listening to what John T.--hello, John T.

Mr. EDGE: Hi, Joan.

Ms. NATHAN: What he said about going around the country. You don't even have to go around the country today. It's right within each city, each small town--and I'm sure you'll agree with me--that in homes, people are adding mustard seed, hot curry leaf to their potato salad. Other people are having German potato salad, but it's what goes on these foods that makes each one different and which makes the--they might be iconic foods, but they change.

NEARY: Your new--or your upcoming new cookbook is called "The New American Cooking." And what exactly do you mean by that, the new American cooking?

Ms. NATHAN: Well, there are three major themes in the book. The major one is the increasing multidiversity in American food. And that is a result of 1965 immigration change, when people--we would allow other people in from all over the country. So that's made a big change. And then in addition, the rise of sustainability in organics, the interest that many people have in what we're eating. And then the third is the rise of chefs. So that all comes to play--to have a play in what we eat.

NEARY: We are talking about food here today on TALK OF THE NATION on this Fourth of July. What's your favorite American food? What do you think of as an iconic American food? If you'd like to join our discussion, give us a call at 1 (800) 989-8255. And we're going to take a call now from David in Minneapolis.

Hi, David.

DAVID (Caller): Hello there. How are you?

NEARY: I'm pretty good. What are you eating today?

DAVID: Well, we are going to have Spam burgers. We stopped at the Spam Museum in Austin, Minnesota, and we're on our way home to Minneapolis.

NEARY: I--oh...

DAVID: And so we have a can of Spam in the cupboard at home and we've got hamburger buns and so we're going to have Spam burgers for supper tonight.

NEARY: Now wait, is this a tradition in your family or are you just doing it this year because you went to the Spam Museum?

DAVID: We're just doing it this year because we went to the Spam Museum.

NEARY: And do you really like Spam burgers?

DAVID: Well, actually, I'd never had it before but they were handing out samples and I had a slice of Spam. I thought, `Well, this is pretty tasty.' And we've had the can in the cupboard for--I don't know--years. And we decided, hey, let's go home and cook up some Spam burgers for dinner.

NEARY: And shoot up some sparklers at the same time.

DAVID: Yeah, absolutely. Right.

NEARY: Well, bon appetit.

DAVID: Thank you.

NEARY: Thanks for your call.

DAVID: Oh, you're welcome.

NEARY: John T. Edge and Joan Nathan, is that an iconic American food, the Spam burger?

Mr. EDGE: I've seen Spam mosubi out in Hawaii and I've eaten Spam mosubi in Hawaii and enjoyed it. I was surprised, though, that someone from Minneapolis didn't say he was going to Matt's Bar down in the Powderhorn neighborhood where they do these Juicy Lucys, which are two patties of meat crimped around a piece of American cheese that kind of turns propulsive and molten and beautiful and when you bite in, it squirts out and burns the heck out of you. That to me is a Minneapolis burger.

NEARY: Joan Nathan, is Spam from--is it American?

Ms. NATHAN: It is American.

NEARY: I don't know what the origin of Spam is.

Ms. NATHAN: It is American but with what's so absolutely bizarre is, as John T. said, that in Hawaii that's where there's Spam everything, everything in Hawaii, but the Spam Museum is in--I think it's in Iowa, which--where I've never been. But, you know, it's the ultimate processed food.

NEARY: Yeah.

Ms. NATHAN: And that's what people really liked a few--maybe 30 years ago.

NEARY: All right. Let's take another call from Gordon in Savannah, Georgia.

Hi, Gordon.

GORDON (Caller): Hello.

NEARY: Hi, Gordon.

GORDON: Oh, hey.

NEARY: Hey. Happy Fourth of July.

GORDON: Thank you. Thank you. Same to you. I'm...

(Soundbite of dog barking)

GORDON: Oh, there goes my...

NEARY: And to your dog, as well.

GORDON: Albert, my West Highland terrier. I'm cooking up a moose stew as we speak.

NEARY: Oh!

GORDON: And the moose--I didn't shoot this moose. It came from Maine and a good friend of mine who lives on the Eastern shore of Virginia knows that I eat lots of game and I love game. And he gave me the--some cuts of moose, some stew meat, some hamburger, moose hamburger. And I had thawed some a couple of days ago and I came in from working in the yard and saw this and said, `Hey, I've got to make a stew out of it before it goes bad.' But I'm putting parsnips and Vidalia onions and some Tabasco and okra, which are all very American foods, I think.

NEARY: What does moose taste like? I have never had moose.

GORDON: Moose?

NEARY: Does it taste like chicken? No.

GORDON: No, it doesn't taste like chicken. It's very high in digestible protein, low in fat. It's very good for you. And I haven't bought processed meat in a market for many, many years and a lot of my friends hunt. I love to hunt too, mostly birds, but a lot of my friends hunt birds and big game and they know--and their wives don't like to cook it and I love to cook the stuff. And that's what I live on.

NEARY: Wow.

GORDON: And I've got a freezer and a half full of game and it's a real treat for people to come over here and for me to feed them dove au poivre. And one of my favorite things to cook is, oh, Canada goose cassoulet, the traditional--not the traditional French cassoulet, but it has a tomato base and beans and it cooks in the oven for 10 hours at 300 degrees. And the goose--the texture of the Canada goose is just fantastic. And I use probably two or three bottles of wine and rosemary and...

NEARY: Well...

GORDON: ...and thyme and bay leaves.

NEARY: Well, I don't know if everybody else's mouth is watering. I have to say game is not my thing, but I'm sure...

GORDON: It--you know ...(Unintelligible).

NEARY: It sounds like you do a good job with it, Gordon.

Mr. WEINSTEIN: I'm game for game.

GORDON: ...(Unintelligible) especially, say, a wild duck. I grew up in Maryland shooting ducks on the Chesapeake Bay. And most people cook a duck or a goose like a turkey. They cook it at a low temperature in the oven for a long time. It's more like a roast beef. You've got to cook it fast and hard. And it should be rare to medium rare and it's the most delectable, delicious, tender meat imaginable.

NEARY: Right. Well, Gordon, thanks so much for sharing your Fourth of July food with us.

GORDON: I love your show.

NEARY: OK.

GORDON: And public radio. And I support it.

NEARY: Thanks so much, Gordon.

GORDON: Yes. Bye-bye.

NEARY: Thanks for calling in.

How common is it that--is game an American food? I guess it really is. I mean...

Ms. NATHAN: Oh, yeah.

NEARY: But that's kind of universal as well, isn't it?

Ms. NATHAN: Absolutely. But before there was refrigerated--refrigeration came in the late 19th century, mid-19th century--there was a lot more game that was eaten by everybody. And actually the Pilgrims ate very grainy wild turkeys and they talk about, you know, what they ate then. But since then most people have processed foods or refrigerated foods.

NEARY: Yeah.

Mr. EDGE: I think it's appropriate that he's from the South, because where I live--I grew up in Georgia and now live in Mississippi, and so many of my friends hunt. And I remember one day I was--you know, I don't much like guns and I was ranting and raving about hunting. And then someone looked at me and said, `You really liked that venison loin that I cooked for you last week, didn't you?' And I said, `Yeah.' And then I was kind of quiet after that. I really do love game and I wish there was better access to it, you know. Wild game to me tastes so much better and has so much--people bandy about the term `terroir,' the wild game taste of the place from which it comes. And I wish we had better access to it. I think the stuff that is farmed is pale in comparison and I would like to be over at his house eating a bit of moose.

NEARY: All right, let's go to Paula in Tallahassee, Florida.

Hi, Paula.

PAULA (Caller): Hi. How are you?

NEARY: Good. What are you having for the Fourth of July?

PAULA: Well, we're having a traditional cookout. And as I was listening to the radio, I was making apple pie.

NEARY: And do you have your own family recipe or...

PAULA: Well, I've been using the same recipe since probably 25 years ago. It's a combination of the Betty Crocker and Fanny Farmer.

NEARY: And do you serve it with ice cream or...

PAULA: Ice cream, yes.

NEARY: Of course. You have to have ice cream, right?

PAULA: Absolutely.

NEARY: Well, John T. Edge, you've written about the apple pie.

Mr. EDGE: Yeah, and she makes me think about Betty Crocker. There's this quote attributed to Betty Crocker, who, as many of our listeners will know, is a figment, a marketing figment. And this quote attributed to Betty Crocker was, `If I were to create a coat of arms for our country, a pie would be its heraldic symbol.'

NEARY: That's wonderful. How did the pie become so associated with America? How did the apple pie become so American?

Mr. EDGE: I think there are a number of factors. One is just the kind of assimilation of the country that happens after the Civil War. You know, there are a number of things that pull us together, and we're looking for kind of totems of our shared culture. There are stories of Civil War and of Union and Confederate soldiers scavenging for apples and baking on the front. But there are also--this moment after the Civil War when, you know, we're looking for these symbols.

There's this great quote that I found when I was doing research about the industrial revolution and how apple pie kind of became a symbol for the American might during the industrial revolution. This is a German economist who said, `On the shoals of roast beef and apple pie, all socialistic utopias founder.' In other words, how are you going to fight apple pie? It became this symbol of American largesse, the symbol of American munificence. It became the symbol of American wealth, and that idea that an apple pie was as easy as walking into the back yard and plucking an apple from the tree really grabbed hold of kind of the American psyche. And that term, `American as apple pie,' comes out of that and out of a number of other things that are mostly political.

NEARY: John T. Edge is the author of "Hamburgers and Fries: An American Story," and you're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And let me just say thanks to Paula for her call from Tallahassee. We're going to go now to Rob in Minneapolis.

Hi, Rob.

ROB (Caller): Yes. Hello?

NEARY: Yes, go ahead.

ROB: I just wanted to set the record straight, being from Minnesota. The Spam, it was invented in Austin, Minnesota, which is in Minnesota, not in Iowa. But the main reason I'm calling is that I found, growing up in the Midwest and then moving to the East Coast, that, like, clam fry and lobster roll and that kind of food was much more heavily associated, especially on the coast, with the Fourth of July and with, you know, American types of food. And I know that, you know, in the Midwest, beef is such a big thing, but it seems to me that that kind of seafood and that popular treatment of seafood in terms of frying it, and, you know, clam fry and all that kind of thing is very, very American.

The other thing I wanted to mention, and this is kind of a side thing, was that in our family, there was a tradition of drinking root beer floats, and I just kind of wonder what the origins of root beer float was.

NEARY: The origins of the root beer float, Joan?

Ms. NATHAN: I don't--I'm not sure that I know, but I'll tell you one thing, that the clam fries--I grew up in Rhode Island, and the clam cakes, which are batter-fried clams with a baking powder batter, are absolutely Fourth of July, and they also mean summer. And people think that they came from South Carolina when people from South Carolina were having hush puppies and they came to New England in the summer, that they brought the clam cakes with them, and the clam cakes just stayed.

NEARY: OK.

Mr. EDGE: Wow! That's an interesting theory.

NEARY: You had never heard that?

Mr. EDGE: No. I like it.

Ms. NATHAN: By the way, on the Mall just now, when I just came off the Mall, there was a woman making apple pie with wonderful maple syrup in it. She was a farmer from Vermont, and she just decided to make the apple pie today, but she always uses maple syrup, so, regional differences.

Mr. EDGE: I think that's really important, too. I mean--and this is kind of where the breakdown comes. There are foods that are very provincial, that are of a place. And I think, you know, the clam fries of which you speak and putting apple--putting maple syrup in apple pie, they both speak of place, and they also sort of--they catalyze arguments among Americans that are very much about provincial pride, you know, `My apple pie's better, because I'm from Vermont, and, darn it, we put maple syrup in every one of our apple pies, or at least a goodly number of them.'

NEARY: Right.

Mr. EDGE: And I think Americans enjoy that kind of socio kind of--it's almost--I mean, we know what we're doing. We know we're putting on a show, but we take it somewhat seriously. We enjoy the battle, the kind of boastful kind of swagger of saying, you know, `Your hamburgers from Connecticut, those can't touch those burgers from Arizona.' We enjoy that. It's part of our national dialogue.

Ms. NATHAN: Absolutely. And what's been very interesting at the festival right now is that all these farmers from around the country have their own apples that they're fighting about for Fourth of July.

NEARY: Joan Nathan, thanks so much for being with us, and thanks to John T. Edge as well.

When we come back from a short break, we'll check in on Lance Armstrong and the Tour de France. I'm Lynn Neary. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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