A Foodie State of Mind, Or Damn They’re Strange in Flyover Country

Serious Eats links to the above map of food-by-state produced by the hard working folks at I Can Haz Cheezburger, which is actually a lot more interesting than I had anticipated. Sure, lots of the chosen foods are obvious regional specialties or major crops associated with the state (MA clam chowder, Idaho potatoes, Georgia peaches), and then there are the lesser-known items coming from the (let’s be honest) lesser-known states. Michigan and pasties, is there a large population descended from Yorkshire miners in Michigan? Arkansas and jelly pie, an item invented out of the necessities of poverty, like Indiana’s sugar cream pie? And Colorado’s Denver omelette looks an awful lot like a burger to me, rather than fried eggs folded around diced ham, onions and bell peppers.

But that’s not where the real action is happening. For a few states I had no idea how to pronounce the associated food, much less what it was. (And they say the US is much more homogenous than Europe.) Enter the rad powers of Google:

North Dakota – Knoeplah/Knoephla/Knephla: Searching for “knoeplah” as spelled in the original infographic resulted in a bunch of posts from other people confused about what that was referencing. However, a little more digging revealed the Wiki for knoephla, a dumpling commonly used in soups in North Dakota. The word is derived from the German word knöpfle, or little knob/button. Traditionally, knoeplah are used in a thick soup (almost stew) with chicken.

South Carolina – Benne Wafers: My old college roommate lives in N. Carolina, so she has explained the benne wafer craze to me before, but I still needed a refresher. The benne wafer is a delicate, crisp sesame seed cookie, whose name hails from the Bantu word for “sesame,” commonly used by African slaves in the South. Legend has it that eating these cookies will bring you good luck!

South Dakota – Chislic: At first I Googled “chicslic,” which resulted in many NSFW suggestions. Upon correcting my spelling though, the Wikipedia article popped up handily, stating that this dish is composed of cubed red meat (wild game, mutton, beef), usually deep-fried or grilled and served hot on a toothpick. The name is most likely derived from schaschlik, a German dish prepared in a similar style, with the addition of tomatoes, peppers and onions.

Utah – Green Jello: Like any other red-blooded American child, I am familiar with the transluscent, semi-hypnotizing blobs green jello, but what is up with Utah’s fascination with the stuff? Well, the colorful gelatin is apparently the state snack of Utah, whose capital Salt Lake City holds the world’s highest per capita consumption of jello (take that, Iowa). The Mormon Corridor (Utah and parts of surrounding states) is also well known as the “Jello Belt.” Granted, this 2001 decision was not made without controversy. In a curmudgeonly vote against the measure, state senator Ron Allen said, “The suggestion that Jell-O is the carrot sprinkled glue that keeps families together has pushed me over the edge.” Clearly someone did not hug Ronnie enough as a child.

Conclusions for the morning: North and South Dakota was overrun by Germans in the 1800s, the behavior of Mormons is always angel-lo-ic

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