Regional Foods

Does anyone ever wonder about the foods that become associated with certain cities or states or regions of the nation? Today I was passing by the vending machine in the basement of the library (evil thing, that vending machine.) At any rate, I was suddenly compelled to buy a Tastykake chocolate cupcake. Normally, I like these kinds of highly processed flour- and sugar-based delivery vehicles just fine. But damn if this one wasn’t about the nastiest thing in the world! I am not surprised that now I am having a wee bit of GI upset.

But back to my original question – how did the Tastykake become synonymous with Philadelphia? How did the the Moon Pie and RC Cola become trademarks of the American South? And explain to me the Nut Goodie’s association with the Twin Cities and the state of Minnesota!

Okay, okay, I know the reason for those examples. All the companies that make the products make them in the areas I described. And I suppose that’s how most of these food regionalisms come into play. What I’m wondering even more about than that is how other types of foods (which are essentially The Same across the country) become associated with a place.

Case in point? The sandwich on a long roll. Hoagie? Po’ boy? Sub? Grinder? Hero? Torpedo? What do you call it? What do you like on it? Me? Catfish po’ boy, dressed (in my Louisiana days) or turkey sub with all the fixins (from Sub City in Cedar Falls, IA.) But why do they all have different names? And why is there so much anxiety the first time you go to a new place to order one? Is it because inevitably you will do it wrong and the person behind the counter will become annoyed with you, tapping the sign that tells you how to order, dammit? Or because you don’t know that “dressed” means with lettuce, tomatoes, and mayo? And you feel sheepish for thinking the 13 people in front of you in line were stupid for asking to have clothing put on their lunch? Or that you didn’t realize that the fixins include oil, vinegar, and oregano? Am I the only one who has food anxiety that way?

To get back to the regionalisms, though, what’s your favorite regional food from your hometown or region? Or adopted town/region? I’m enamoured of the aforementioned Nut Goodies from Minnesota. In Philadelphia, I haven’t yet found a “famous” food that I like well enough to rave about. The “fries with” at Pat’s King of Steaks come close. And no, I do not like cheesesteaks, nor the fries from Geno’s. Cheesesteaks are like heart attacks on a bun and they make me want to gag.

Okay, that’s all for my food quiz today. Thanks for playing – feel free to answer in the comment section, or just email me at librarygrrrl at librarygrrrl dot net. And those are 3 rrrs in the word librarygrrrl.