Friday, November 12, 2010

Snacking State-by-State

Map of North American food traditions, as outlined by Slow Food USA's RAFT (Renewing America's Food Traditions)

For a while, I have been very interested in exploring the different foods that this country has to offer. The major problem is that I can't travel from state to state. I just don't have that kind of time or money. What I can do is get to know some of the recipes and food traditions from across the country right from my own home. It's not quite the same thing, but it's a start.

The challenge: try to prepare a recipe from each state in the USA, plus the District of Columbia. I will also add Puerto Rico to the mix, for an even 52. My desire is not to find the quintessential dish from each state. That's not possible, save for a small handful of states. Most states are in the opposite boat: every state has several key dishes, and many states have the same one. My desire is not to find the quintessential dish from a given state, just a quintessential one. I know I'll be leaving something out, lest I want to go insane.

The timeline and the goal: one state (etcetera) every few weeks. Here's the frightening part. My goal is to complete this in two years - one state every fortnight (er, two weeks). Notethat there is a good chance I will get off track, and will take longer than this. There's also a small chance that I'll get really motivated and finish this much sooner. But if everything goes as planned, this will end around early November 2012.

This is going to be a major, long-term project, but I am trying recipes all the time. This is just one recipe for each state and then some. Other projects will be going on, other travels will take place, and I'm still racing around the Beltway updating that other long-term project. This is more of a culinary social studies project than anything else.

I will be using a few sources.
  • Whenever possible, I will use cookbooks, internet resources, travelogues and other sources that specifically address the cuisine of the state in question.
  • In doing this project, I will try to also explore a broad cross-section of the US's multicultural landscape in the process.
  • If I know people from a given state who can give me some advice, I am all ears.
  • Note the map at the top of this post. Slow Food USA is championing the restoration of the US's many disappearing food traditions. I know my culinary roadmap will not let me just explore "moose" or "clams" from those areas where those traditions are key, but some will pop up. Except maybe for the moose, if it's too pricey or I can't find any.
  • And of course, I will try to spend as little money doing this as I can.
This state-by-state culinary armchair travelogue starts later this month. I'm going in alphabetical order. First stop: Alabama.


The Salty Pear said...

Hmmm, wild rice. I can handle that. But I think maybe, it ought to come with Turkey, corn and pumpkin pie. But, I guess, we do thanksgiving earlier up here in Canada.

Mycala said...

I'm really looking forward to this -- I love regional food and used to do a good bit of traveling. One of my favorite parts was visiting restaurants and trying the local treats. Here were some of my favorites:

Maine - Lobster roll
North Carolina - Pig pickin' cake and vinegar sauce barbeque
Florida - Conch fritters

My family is PA Dutch and we're proud of our chicken pot pie which is not really a "pie" at all but sort of like a stew with big fat homemade noodles. I'm happy to share the recipe if you want.

John said...

Pear: Wild rice will probably pop up at some point.

Mycala: I'd love the recipe. Sure send it!