The Most Iconic Food Fact from Every State
True foodies might already know these fun food facts about their state. Learn a little piece of food history from each of the 50 states.
Marcel Proust had his madeleine; Alabama has the Lane cake. The layered bourbon-laced confection makes a cameo in several books, including Alabama native Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and the memoirs of former president Jimmy Carter. If you’re already hungry, you need to try the most delicious food from every state.
Yuma County is known as the Winter Salad Bowl. Arizona is America’s second-largest producer of lettuce, behind California. Don’t miss the one food you have to try in every state.
Quiz: What’s the self-proclaimed edamame capital of the world?
C. Mulberry, Arkansas.
Mulberry it is! Of the top ten soybean-producing states in the United States, Arkansas is the only one not in the Midwest.
Food trucks are an urban staple today, but when Kogi BBQ hit the streets of LA in 2008, finding customers was an adventure. Kogi did it by posting its daily menu and whereabouts on Twitter. The smell of spicy, kimchi-covered Kogi Dogs helped too. “At every stop, it’ll be hundreds of young people and 12 middle-aged copycats in suits and ties asking where I buy my cabbage,” chef Roy Choi told Newsweek.
The Fool’s Gold Loaf—featuring peanut butter, blueberry jam, and a pound of bacon in a sourdough loaf—isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But when Elvis tried one in Denver, he loved it so much that he returned in his private jet to get more for daughter Lisa Marie’s eighth birthday.
The first Subway sandwich shop opened in 1965 in Bridgeport, and it’s fair to say the idea was genius. That original eatery was the brainchild of a nuclear physicist named Peter Buck. Today, Subway is the biggest fast-food franchise in the United States, with more locations than McDonald’s. Check out the strangest food laws in every state.
Until the 1920s, people raised chickens primarily for the eggs. That changed in 1923, when Cecile Steele of Ocean View ordered 50 chicks for her backyard flock—but received 500 by mistake. Undeterred, the entrepreneurial Steele sold the excess birds four months later at 62 cents a pound, effectively hatching the broiler chicken industry.
During World War II, the U.S. Department of Agriculture asked Florida orange growers to ramp up production in order to get vitamin C to the troops. Not long after, a Florida-based company started selling a new product called Minute Maid. If you head out on a road trip, make sure to hit up the best buffet in every state.
Georgia is also home to a lot of kale. It’s the number two producer (after California), as well as the birthplace of the growing health-food chain Kale Me Crazy.
Hawaii and pineapples go together like peanut butter and jelly, right? Not so much anymore. Pineapple manufacturers, including Dole, relocated their operations from Hawaii starting in the 1980s, citing rising costs. That canned pineapple you’re eating likely comes from Ecuador, Honduras, or Costa Rica.
They may be synonymous with Idaho—they’re even on the state’s license plates—but potatoes aren’t native to the state. A missionary named Henry Harmon Spalding brought them west to Lapwai in 1836 and taught members of the Nez Percé tribe how to cultivate them.
In 1893, the organizers of the World’s Columbian Exposition asked Chicago socialite Bertha Palmer, the wife of the owner of the Palmer House Hotel, to provide a dessert for the event. She requested that the chef at the hotel make a “ladies’ dessert” that would fit into a boxed lunch. Today we call them brownies. Do you know what your state’s favorite Thanksgiving pie is?
The top pork producer in the United States, Iowa is home to nearly eight times as many pigs (23.5 million in 2019) as people (3.1 million residents).
Every year, farmers in Kansas typically grow enough wheat to make 36 billion loaves of bread.
The po’boy sandwich was born during the transit strike of 1929, when 1,800 streetcar conductors and motormen took to the streets of New Orleans. The Martin Brothers Coffee Stand and Restaurant provided large sandwiches for free to the “poor boys.” Today, you can order a po’boy with roast beef or fried seafood. Find the best casserole recipe from your state.
Maine’s official state treat is the whoopie pie. “The secret is in the filling, which is cooked. Sour milk and real shortening are involved. But I cannot divulge the recipe, oh no, lest my sisters and I lose our reputations for the best whoopie pies in the county.” —Reader Heidi Sweetwater, Farmington, Maine
The town of Quincy isn’t known as the Birthplace of the American Dream for nothing. It was the original home of not one but two fast-food icons: Howard Johnson’s and Dunkin’ Donuts. Here’s what Dunkin’ Donuts was first called when it opened.
John Harvey Kellogg was the king of cornflakes, but he was almost as famous for his Michigan-based sanitarium and health spa. Among its patients: Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and President William Howard Taft.
Betty Crocker isn’t real! But that didn’t stop this fictional spokesperson, a creation of the Washburn-Crosby Company in Minneapolis (later bought by General Mills), from being named the second-most-popular woman in the nation in 1945, right behind Eleanor Roosevelt.
It gets plenty hot on the bayou. During the late 1920s, Mississippians would beat the heat by sinking their feet in the mud of the river. Somehow, that became the inspiration for Mississippi mud pie, whose dense chocolate resembles the river’s muddy banks. These are the best places to get hot dogs in every state.
Do you suffer from frequent heartburn, perhaps from too much barbecue? So did Nellie Acuff Howe. Her husband, St. Louis pharmacist James Howe, invented Tums for her in 1928.
Rocky Mountain oysters, also known as Montana tendergroins and cowboy caviar—euphemisms all: This dish is made from the testicles of a young bull. This is the best pizzeria in every state.
In 1953, Omaha-based C. A. Swanson and Sons overestimated the demand for Thanksgiving turkey and found itself with 260 extra tons of frozen birds. The solution? Ordering 5,000 trays and assembling the first TV dinners, complete with corn bread dressing, gravy, peas, and sweet potatoes.
Nevada has been home to a proud Basque population since the 1800s. The Basque cake, filled with cherry preserves and cream, is still a favorite way to finish a meal of chateaubriand with béarnaise sauce.
Saltwater taffy was invented in 1883 in Atlantic City. The business became so competitive that a patent dispute over taffy-pulling machines went to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1921.
Locals order their tamales “red” or “green,” depending on their chile pepper preference. Want both? Order yours “Christmas-style.” Here are 8 popular Mexican foods you won’t find in Mexico.
North Carolina produces more sweet potatoes than the other 49 U.S. states combined. In fact, many North Carolinians insist that sweet potato pie—not pumpkin—is the true Thanksgiving dessert.
Do you love digging in to a plate of spaghetti? Thank the farmers in the Sioux State. About 60 percent of the 75 million bushels of durum wheat produced annually to make pasta is grown in North Dakota.
Chocolate gets messy in the summertime. So in 1912, Cleveland-based candy maker Clarence Crane came up with a sweet that could stand up to the heat. Crane borrowed a machine used by pharmacists to make pills and developed a new candy with a hole in the middle. In honor of its shape, he named it a Life Saver.
The onion burger dates to the 1920s, when a resourceful restaurant owner fried up a pile of shredded onions to make a small hamburger go a little further. These are the most iconic diners in every state. Have you been to the one in your home state?
In 2013, Oregon became the first state to designate an official microbe. Why? Because without Saccharomyces cerevisiae—aka brewer’s yeast—you couldn’t make a decent craft beer, and Oregon has more than 280 craft breweries across the state.
The Ocean State is the smallest in the union, so perhaps it’s fitting that it has an official state appetizer: calamari.
South Carolinians ring in the New Year with a helping of Hoppin’ John. The dish of rice and black-eyed peas has roots in the state’s Low Country. Eat it with some collard greens and corn bread and feel lucky all year.
Native Americans have long eaten dried meat with cranberries for sustenance. The Oglala Lakota on the Pine Ridge Reservation updated their age-old recipe of dried buffalo meat and cranberry for the protein-happy to create an energy bar called Tanka Bar in 2006. If you prefer eating in, these are the best supermarkets in every state.
The Chattanooga Bakery was looking for a name for its marshmallow-filled cookie sandwiches, so a salesperson asked some coal miners what size snack they’d like to take into the mines. One man looked up at the full moon and said, “About that big.” The Moon Pie was born.
What’s the difference between Mexican and Tex-Mex food? One telltale sign is cumin, which is rarely used in Mexico but is a staple in Texas chili con carne.
U.S. Senator Mike Lee hosts “Jell-O with the Senator” every week in Washington, DC, in honor of his home state’s official snack. Here’s the most famous invention from each state.
The saffron in your paella or pilaf might come from the Green Mountain State. In 2015, the University of Vermont began cultivating the exotic spice, a crocus flower product.
Virginia and Georgia both have locations named Brunswick, and both lay claim to inventing Brunswick stew. Virginians use chicken, while Georgians opt for pork and beef with hotter spices.
Come spring, West Virginia residents head to the hills in search of “molly moochers,” aka morel mushrooms. The forest fungi are considered a delicacy in the Mountain State and beyond. Calling all caffeine addicts, these are the best coffee shops in every state.
Just because Wisconsin is America’s Dairyland doesn’t mean all the dairy has to come from cows. The state is also our leading producer of goat milk and, of course, goat cheese.
Wyoming is also a fisherman’s paradise, with more than 70 species of fish, including the state fish: the cutthroat trout. If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll definitely want to visit the best ice cream shop in every state.