Food and Drink

Alaska from Scratch: An American classic that's not afraid to get messy -- ground turkey sloppy Joes

When the magnitude-7.1 earthquake rocked Southcentral, Alaskans picked up their phones and laptops, taking to social media in droves. Everyone from the Kenai Peninsula to Anchorage and beyond seemed to be up at 2 a.m. checking on one another, sharing stories and videos and reading the breaking news. Text messages chimed. Phones rang.

Within moments of the event, the earthquake became the common thread that stitched together a people who live miles and oceans and mountains apart in this vast state we call home. The solidarity was visible and immediate. Shared experiences unify people, rewriting our collective narrative.

Food, too, has a tendency to draw people together in unexpected ways. A grandmother's kitchen technique becomes a family heirloom that influences generations. A familiar flavor from a distant time and place becomes a shared comfort in the here and now. A table becomes a place of deep nourishment and maybe even forgiveness when people sit across from one another and look each other in the eye over the food that brought them together. Food meets us in the messiness of our lives and keeps us going for another day.

Today, I offer up a recipe for some classic American food -- a good old homemade sloppy Joe sandwich. It's one of those go-to meals that spans the decades and appeals to eaters of all ages who might be gathering around your table this Super Bowl season. Food doesn't have to be fancy or expensive. After all, some of the most delicious moments in life are the sloppy ones.

Ground turkey sloppy Joes

Serves 6-8

2 teaspoons oil

1 pound ground turkey

1 small onion, chopped

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 (15-ounce) can plain tomato sauce

2 tablespoons ketchup

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Salt to taste

Hot sauce, optional

For serving:

6-8 small hamburger buns, lightly buttered and toasted

Grated cheddar cheese, optional

Sliced green onions, optional

In a large frying pan over medium heat, swirl in the oil. Brown the ground turkey. Add the chopped onions and cook 2 minutes until translucent. Stir in the garlic powder, tomato sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and black pepper. Turn the heat down to low and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes until thickened. Season with salt to taste and add hot sauce if desired for a little heat. Serve a heaping spoonful of the sloppy Joe mixture on lightly buttered, toasted hamburger buns. Top with cheddar cheese and green onions, if desired, and hot sauce on the side. Repeat with remaining buns. Serve promptly.

Maya Wilson lives in Kenai and blogs about food at Have a food question or recipe request? Email and your inquiry may appear in a future column.

Maya Wilson

Maya Wilson lives and cooks on the Kenai Peninsula and writes the Alaska From Scratch blog. Her book, "The Alaska from Scratch Cookbook: Seasonal. Scenic. Homemade," was published in 2018 by Rodale Books.