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What's Your State's Fare?
Posted Aug 14,2007

I'm from Albany, NY, where they don't have anything I'd call "local" in the way of food. Growing up, I ate things like spaghetti, steak, pot roast, and chicken hearts (a foodie from the start, I think I'm the only one who ate this last item), and no matter where I went in the USA, these things - ok, not the hearts -  were always on the menu.

But when I started researching my story on regional foods for the September issue, I was surprised at how differently (at least from a gastronomical standpoint) other folks were raised. A friend from Maine told me she remembered her disappointment when, as a little girl, she discovered that they don't sell lobster rolls at every McDonald's. And, while I was busy eating routine chocolate ice cream cones, I had no idea other kids were getting exciting-sounding things like buckeye candies in Ohio and gooey cake in St. Louis. 

So now I know that there's more than one way to eat ravioli and there's more than one word for ground-up pig parts. What was on the table where you grew up? Remember how you felt when you realized that you couldn't find it once you left home? Is it still hard to find, or is it everywhere now? What do you think is the proper way to make it, and eat it?

Catherine Barker

Posted by Catherine Barker | Comments (45)
Filed Under: Culture, Entertainment, Food and Drink, popular, Travel


Josh Neumann
Aug 14, 2007 4PM #

Someone's probably already mentioned this, but I was too lazy to read through all the comments, so here it is.

I'm from Rochester NY, and I've always been told that nobody else has white hot dogs, but I'm not sure if that's true. However, I don't eat them that often, and I prefer the regular dogs anyway.

Amanda Proctor
Aug 14, 2007 4PM #

I grew up in Lafayette, Indiana. I'm a recent transplant to New York state. Someone else beat me to the famous pork tenderloin sandwich (A HUGE breaded tenderloin pounded out and hanging out the sides of a ridiculously small bun). I remember eating it as a child at the county fairs.Indiana is also known for "sugar cream pie". A vegetarian, now, I'm not craving a tenderloin sandwich, but I might give my firstborn for a frosty mug of Dog 'N Suds root beer *drool*. They also had the best onion rings, breaded mushrooms and "coney dogs". My dad used to pop us in the car on hot summer nights fresh from the bath and wearing jammies and we'd watch the servers skate around taking orders while we stuffed ourselves happy. We slept well on those nights. ;) Another local favorite was the "Frozen Custard" by the park. Best frozen custard I've ever had anywhere. I also miss breaded okra. It was often served deep fried at buffet-style family restaurants. I can't find it frozen ANYWHERE here.

Aug 14, 2007 4PM #

I just read this article in the doctor's office, where I catch up on NG mag...loved the pictures of local foods, hungry now...

Anyway, the state of South Dakota is my birthplace and even though there were many scandi foods we loved, we dreaded Lutefisk for it's jelly like consistency and appearance at Christmas Eve dinner, though enough melted butter could render anything edible.

I live in Oregon now and nobody would know what I was talking about if I asked if they wanted a tavern...which is what a sloppy joe is called in eastern SD. Guess the taverns used to serve these free to bring in the hungry (thirsty) crowds.

Carrie Swain
Aug 14, 2007 4PM #

Im from Massachuesetts and reading these I noticed that no one else from my state had left a comment. Distraught, I racked my brain for foods that I could contribute,(besides boston baked beans. ugh) but like Catherine Barker I felt like my food expirence had been mostly uneventfull. The one thing that stuck out in my mind was more of a New England tradition. What small town hasn't had a good old clambake, with the lobsters piled over the clams in those cardboard bowls. Then I remembered all the little goodies I grew up with..the cranberry relish, pickeled watermelon, apple butter, real clam chowder (without any tomatoes) the veal or chicken patties with an egg fried in the center, and the sandwiches from a local store. (Sandwiches may not seem very signifigant but I swear, people used to come from miles around just to try them. Cross my heart)I guess all these little things I deemed ordinary because for me they were.

Aug 14, 2007 4PM #

i live in buffalo ny but i'm from watertown ny. i want some croghan bologna so bad. does anyone know if you can get it in or around this area????? please help!!!

Diane S.
Aug 14, 2007 4PM #

Hot Dish! growing up in Ninnesnowta.. it was hot dish.. and also pickled herring.. in these wooden buckets that would come out around Christmastime. Mom and dad would always try to get me to try this, telling me it was GREAT stuff.. on a triscuit. YUCK. hot dish usually involved hot dogs and tater tots and soup. My grandparents were from Rochester NY, and every year they'd bring White Hots from Rochester, a whole suitcase full of Zweigles. So those were I guess NY's state fare. at least for Rochester. But pickled herring and hot dish for Minnesota.

Sandie Nash
Aug 14, 2007 4PM #

I grew up in New Hampshire and one of my favorites was gorton and I'm not sure of the spelling but it is ground pork boiled with cinnamon, cloves and finely chopped onion. After the water has boiled out, you put it in a dish in the refrigerator. It's usually enjoyed on toast or crackers for breakfast or snack. A little mustard in good.

Rose Lensing
Aug 14, 2007 4PM #

I grew up in Iowa - number one pork producer in the world - our pork tenderloins are the size of dinner plates ! My fondest memory though were my grandmothers sticky buns - they were about 5 inches high and loaded with pecans - and she would always serve me a small bowl of cocoa wheats - chocolate flavored cream of wheat. Yumm - Iowa claim to food fame has to be Maid Rites - called loose meat in some areas - they were invented here, an awesome albeit messy sandwich.

Jason Evon
Aug 14, 2007 4PM #

I was born outside of Detroit in Pontiac, Michigan and there some foods essential to the Detroit diet. Chili dogs/Chili fries, Fish Fry(Friday fried fish, mostly lake perch), Faygo soda,and Vernors soda.
Since then I have lived in Minneapolis and Chicago most recently. Until now moving to Seattle for the last 8 monthes.
In Minneapolis, there were fried cheese curds, lutefisk, and lefse. Of which is shared thoughout the upper-Midwest. In Chicago, Chicago style deep dish pizza, Chicago hot dogs,and Italian beefs to name a few.
I have not found a lot since being here in Seattle but the obvious ones are salmon and teriyaki. This area has more teriyaki stands then hamburger joints.

Catherine Barker
Aug 14, 2007 4PM #

Clearly, it's time to take a trip to North Dakota. I always love a dish with cultural importance, particularly if it involves potatoes or custard. Mmm.

Oh, and thanks for the tip about lutefisk suppers. I've made a mental note!

Shawna Ping
Aug 14, 2007 4PM #

The breaded pork tenderloin sandwich is an Hoosier original. Being a vegetarian myself I don't eat this sandwich, but Hoosiers across the U.S. know that you can only find the real deal in Indiana.

Rodney Bischof
Aug 14, 2007 4PM #

North Dakota is home to many Scandinavian and German foods that I would say are definitely local/regional treats. One is lefse, a real Scandinavian treat. It is a potato ‘tortilla’ that is cooked on a griddle. It is eaten with butter and sugar. It is a definite must eat.

Another one of my favorites is kuchen. Kuchen is a German dessert. It is a pie-like pastry, with a "cakey" crust and a sweet custard based filling. It can just be the custard or it can be flavored with different fruits. Peach is especially good. Our Daktoa neighbor to the south dubbed kuchen as the state dessert.

These are just two of the local foods from North Dakota and the Upper Midwest. And if you ever visit and someone asks you to go to a lutefisk supper, I would think twice. Lutefisk is cod soaked in lye; but hey, everything is worth trying once! Enjoy your eating experience in North Dakota!

Marilyn Pruitt
Aug 14, 2007 4PM #

I grew up in Middle Tennessee with a Welsh mother and a dad who had been a chef in the Army. Things that are really huge in this area are fried chicken, chicken fried steak, breaded pork tenderloin, fried okra, fried hoecakes (do we see a trend here?) Also huge are beans, greens and cornbread (always made in a scalding hot cast iron skillet -- which was passed down from your grandmother -- and with bacon grease as the fat component.) From my mother's side I grew up with roast lamb, bubble and squeak, trifle, soft boiled eggs and 'soldiers'. I was a foodie, too, at a very young age.

Colin Stover
Aug 14, 2007 4PM #

I grew up in New Jersey along the south side of the Delaware River (Burlington County) and there is a local drink now called "Boost". When I was growing up it was known as "Take a Boost" or "Drink a Toast." Many people have said it tastes like flat Coke, but it has a much more fruity flavor than that.

Lila Hallman
Aug 14, 2007 4PM #

I grew up in Utah the orginal fry sauce came from a family owned company called Arctic Circle Drive In, this malt shop has been in business around 45 years and now sells it fry sauce to the public. Other fast food places have fry sauce but it is not the orginal once you have it your fries there is no other would would want.

Dave Nadal
Aug 14, 2007 4PM #

Pacific Northwest:

Old traditions:
Geoduck fritters...geoduck, the clam with the HUGE foot, used to be called poor man's abalone. Fritters don't seem to be served anywhere anymore, mostly because of the expense: no longer a poor man's dish. Geoduck rustlers harvest illegaly and sell it overseas at a huge profit.

New traditions: the Salmon Dog served at Seattle Mariners' games...just what it sounds like: salmon shaped like a hot dog, served on a bun.

Aug 14, 2007 4PM #

Growing up on a west Texas ranch where cattle, sheep, and goats were raised, we ate lots of fresh meat including venison and dove, but my all-time favorite was cabrito, or barbecued goat kid. Delicious! This custom came, of course, from the Mexican heritage of this area and was a natural considering that goats are abundant in the ranching industry.

Mary-Lu Leveroni
Aug 14, 2007 4PM #

Having grown up on Long island NY - I miss hard rolls, NY potato salad & NYC pizza.
From Syracuse NY, I miss salt potatoes andGiannelli sausage.

Aug 14, 2007 4PM #

A previous blogger, mentioned LIVERMUSH, if you are French [pate' maison], is eaten in SC & NC, either fried or cold, it is a hi class version of Scrapple {made in DE]. It is eaten for breakfast or as a snack on crackers. My wife is from northern IN and they serve breaded tenderloins, pounded thin about the size of a 9 inch plate, have buns to match. It is similiar to weiner schnitzel.
They also have chili fries. An earlier blogger also mention Cinncinati chili and pasta; anyone that has ever lived in DC will remember Hazel's Texas Chili Parlor for their Chili Mac [spaghetti]; a local tradition particularly amongst the GW students.

Aug 14, 2007 4PM #

Conch fritters! Like everything else in South Florida, they come from somewhere else, but these lil' balls of batter, shellfish, and sunshine are legendary at Old Florida places like the Southport Raw Bar (Motto: "Eat fish, live longer, eat oysters, love longer, eat clams, last longer"). Required eating in the Keys, and traditionally accompanied by Key Lime pie and a tallboy, though margaritas have gained currency in some quarters -- a development scorned by traditionalists, except when in the mood for a margarita.

Ellen Dunagan
Aug 14, 2007 4PM #

Growing up in upstate NY was memorable, but when I went to college even further upstate at SUNY Oswego, food became even more important. The Oswego sub shop and NY Pizzeria are two of the places I frequented again..and again..and again...often in the early evening hours. Who says upstate NY can't have great pizza - and subs? Maybe it was that icy cold Lake Ontario that had something to do with it!

Elaine Monaghan
Aug 14, 2007 4PM #

Catherine said she grew up in Albany and couldn't think of any local foods, someone beat me to the Croghan Balogna, but how about Curded Cheese? My husband is from Carthage, a small town next to Watertown, and he has to have Curded Cheese when he visits. He said the best and most fresh is the kind that squeeks on your teeth when you chew it.
We also lived in Hawaii and a local favorite (that you can buy in McDonalds) is Fried Ramen.
P.S. I love chicken hearts too!

Catherine Barker
Aug 14, 2007 4PM #

So now you can have beer, brats, cream puffs, AND toasted ravioli in Milwaukee? You guys are lucky!

Bill Rolfes
Aug 14, 2007 4PM #

Wow, I can't believe that Cincinnati missed the magazine and hasn't been mentioned yet in this blog! There are several local specialties, but I'll mention 2 with significant historical and local cultural significance. They are nice treats that we often enjoy on trips back home from Minnesota:

Cincinnati Chili is absolutely unique and you can get it many "ways" up to a five way, which is spaghetti covered with chili, with beans, shredded cheese, and diced onions. The city has chains of chili parlors serving it up!

Another unique item is goetta - often served fried for breakfast. It is a sort of loaf of pin oats and sausage - not extremely unlike haggis, a Scottish specialty. Apparently many years back the area's Germans evolved it from their Scotch neighbors, using locally available pork instead of sheep innards.

T. A. Sturgill
Aug 14, 2007 4PM #

I grew up in Iowa where we have 3 "local" delicacies. 1) Maid Rites - ground beef, onions, salt and pepper served loose on a bun. 2) Pork Tenderloins - pork tenderloin pounded flat breaded and deep fried the bigger the better, & 3) Pizza sandwiches - imagine taking a mozzarella stick and making it the size of a very large bun. Yummy with salt, pepper, & mustard.

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