The other day, I was thinking about the time I’ve spent in states that are as much known for their cuisine and famous dishes as for their attractions or heritage.
In other words, I was pondering the must-taste states. In this country, just using soups as an example, you’d identify gumbo with the South, chili with the Southwest and chowder with the Northeast. Crab cakes call Maryland their home, Kansas City and Chicago have their beef history, San Francisco has its sourdough bread, and Boston boasts its beans.
There are many places you can’t visit without at least once sampling their signature dishes.
Granted, some Northerners might wish they could escape the South without confronting grits at least once, but their peaches, pecans, fresh-caught fish, and shrimp? Well, that’s something else altogether.
Most states have an official food. Some even have an official dish. And leave it to the politicians: one state just had to make everyone happy by declaring an official state meal.
Michigan is NOT on that list. It has neither a state fruit nor a state vegetable. There’s no state dish, and (thankfully) we don’t have a state meal.
How ‘bout them apples! Or not.
It’s probably just as well. I can’t imagine our legislature simultaneously dealing with all the good folks who grow apples, blueberries or cherries, let alone sugar beets and all of our other great crops.
But in the event that you’re wondering what other states have decided you should be eating when you stop by, I’ll give you a sample plate. (And I’ll warn you in advance. Some of their choices are a little hard to digest.)
Official State Foods, Snacks and Meals
Massachusetts made the obvious choice when it selected the Boston Crème Pie as its official dessert. Maine on the other hand? Well, as Ricky often said to Lucy, they must have had some “esplainin” to do when residents officially gave the “Whoopie Pie” their nod for state snack. In a really bizarre twist, Pennsylvania residents actually fought against Maine’s plans so that THEY could claim the Whoopie Pie as THEIR own. (The nerve of some states. Sheesh!) As mentioned earlier, if you love Georgia peaches, be sure to have a big slice of peach pie while you’re in town. It’s the state fruit. But if you’re not a fan of grits, beware; they’re also this state’s designated prepared food (Honestly, who makes up these categories?).
The home of the Big Apple, New York, is also the official home of the fruit. It was awarded that honor in 1976. The muffin became an official state food in 1987 thanks to the particularly dogged efforts of a fourth-grade elementary school class from North Syracuse. (I’m not makin’ this stuff up either–really.).
Before you think everyone has lost his mind, we have to tip our 10-gallon hat to the state of Texas, which pretty much got it right by naming chili as its official dish and tortilla chips and salsa as its official snack. Similarly, Louisiana did the reasonable thing by choosing gumbo as its official cuisine (even though I don’t consider gumbo a cuisine, but then again, no one contacted me for my advice.).
The official snack of Illinois?
Class? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
Well, if you guessed popcorn, congrats! You get the day off to do–whatever.
Last, AND least, the “I Can’t Make Up My Mind, Everything Looks So Good” award goes to the great state of Oklahoma for having so many official state foods that it had to create a whole new category called its official state meal.
What makes its official state meal (passed in 1988) so interesting to me is that it’s comprised of foods I don’t even readily associate with the state. Then again, why should that really matter when it has yet to release its official state recipes or state-sponsored cookware? Maybe I should reserve my judgment.
Hungry? You’d better be because the smorgasbord begins with barbecued pork, chicken fried steak, biscuits and gravy, fried okra, corn, black-eyed peas, grits (again?), squash, corn bread, strawberries and pecan pie. In all fairness to Oklahoma, the official meal is meant to reflect the “cultural backgrounds and the state’s historical and contemporary agriculture.
Okay, I’ll bite.
And you? If you were to take a bite of Michigan’s official food, dish, snack, cuisine or meal, what would you be eating?