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8 Regional Foods You Might Not Know

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A couple of weeks ago I linked to a map of the US in which each state was labeled with a kind of food associated with the state.

Many sites featured the map, and the comments were full of consternation and alternatives. Sure, Hawaii produces the pineapples, but the people who live there eat Spam. All over the world, people think fried chicken when you say Kentucky, but it's not a particularly native dish nor all that popular in the state. There are foods listed that some state's lifelong citizens had never heard of! So I looked up some of those obscure regional foods to see what they are all about.

1. Skyline Chili (Ohio)

Some of the confusion came because a food was attributed to a state when it is associated with one city. Cincinnati has a very particular way of eating chili, made famous by Nicholas Lambrinides, who opened Skyline Chili in Cincy in 1949. His Greek chili recipe includes spices not seen in American chili recipes elsewhere. The restaurant's recipe is secret, but those who made Cincinnati chili at home use cinnamon, cocoa, and/or allspice. The chili is served over pasta, and toppings are added depending on the diner's taste. Two-way chili is served over spaghetti. Three-way chili is served over spaghetti with Cheddar cheese on top. *Four-way chili is also topped with oyster crackers, and five-way chili sees the addition of kidney beans -which are not in the chili recipe itself. Image by Flickr user Susy Morris.

*Update: Lauren Doyle of Skyline Chili sends a correction on the way the chili is served:

A four-way is actually a three-way topped with either onions or red kidney beans, while a five-way is topped with both onions and red kidney beans. The oyster crackers are actually served on the side, and frequently are topped with a drop or two of hot sauce. These are small but important distinctions... at least, if you know and/or are a fan of Cincinnati-style chili! :)

2. Toasted Ravioli (Missouri)

Toasted ravioli is unfamiliar to many Missourians who live outside of St. Louis. The origins of this dish are in dispute, as several chefs in St. Louis' Italian neighborhood claimed to have originated the dish in the first half of the 20th century, although it may have traveled from Sicily. The ravioli is breaded and deep-fried, then sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and served with marinara sauce for dipping. You'll find toasted ravioli featured at several St. Louis restaurants or you can make your own with this recipe. Image by Flickr user jayne vidheecharoen.

3. Loose Meat Sandwiches (Iowa)

Loose meat sandwiches were not invented for the TV series Roseanne, which surprised me. The sandwich is described as a sloppy Joe without the slop, or a hamburger that falls apart. It is also called a Tavern sandwich, as it was served by Ye Olde Tavern Sandwich Shop in Sioux City, Iowa, beginning in 1934. The Maid-Rite chain has been selling loose meat sandwiches since 1926, so there is some controversy over the sandwich's origin. In Iowa, even national chains such as Dairy Queen serve loose meat sandwiches. If they aren't served at a restaurant near you, you can try them at home with this recipe.

4. Knoephla (North Dakota)

Spelled knoeplah in the map, this is actually knoephla, a dumpling of German origin that is used with chicken, potatoes, and spices to make knoephla soup. This picture is of knoephlah soup made by RoadFood forum member MTFoodie, from a combination of recipes posted in the same thread.

5. Benne Wafers (South Carolina)

Benne is a Bantu word meaning sesame. Sesame was brought from East Africa by slaves and planted in South Carolina, where it flourished. The seeds were used by the Gullah communities for many foods, including crackers and cookies. Benne wafers is a term used to refer to both sweet cookies and savory crackers, depending on the recipe used.

6. Chislic (South Dakota)

Chislic is deep-fried meat served on a skewer or toothpick. The name is believed to be derived from the German schaschlik or Russian shashlik, which were derived from the Turkich shish kebab. The meat can be beef, mutton, venison, or other game meat. It was introduced to South Dakota by a Crimean immigrant named John Hoellwarth in the 1870s. The reason this dish is not well known outside of South Dakota may be because other regions call it shish kebab. Image by Wikipedia member Gomboc2008.

7. Pasties (Michigan)

Michigan citizens cried foul when pasties were assigned to Michigan, as the dish is mainly popular in the Upper Penninsula (UP). Immigrant miners from Cornwall brought the delicacy with them in the 1800s, but other immigrant ethnic groups brought variants on the recipe. Cornish miners valued pasties because they were so portable, therefore easy to take to work for lunch. A fresh-baked pasty would stay warm for hours, even deep in the copper and tin mines. Pasties are made with a pastry shell resembling pie crust, folded over meat and vegetables and baked in portion sizes easily held in one hand. Ingredients vary, so here are several traditional recipes. Image by Flickr user Kevin D Weeks.

8. Jelly Pie (Arkansas)

The item that seemed to cause the most confusion and/or outrage was jelly pie for Arkansas. Many native Arkansans had never heard of it. But the Food Timeline has a recipe for jelly pie tied to Arkansas.

Jelly Pie (Arkansas)
4 eggs
1/2 cup currant jelly
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Cream the butter and add the sugar and beat well. Add well-beaten yolks and jelly, and fold in the whites of eggs. Add lemon juice and bake without upper crust."
---The National Cookbook: A Kitchen Americana, Sheila Hibben [Harper & Brothers:New York] 1932 (p. 368)

I found another recipe in the November, 2002 issue of the Sandyland Chronicle from the 1944 Hempstead County Home Demonstration Clubs Cookbook. It differs in that it doesn't specify any particular type of jelly, which leads me to wonder how varied the resulting pies would be. Another recipe calls for strawberry jelly. It came from "an old copy of Southern Cookbook" which might possibly be from Arkansas. A commenter at the recipe page said the exact same recipe in her cookbook dated back to 1947. A grape jelly pie recipe is said to be from "an old food magazine," but it doesn't specify how old, or whether there's any connection to Arkansas. However, most recipes found by searching for "jelly pie" were for peanut butter and jelly pie, a sweet variant of peanut butter pie. The picture used for the map is clearly a slice of peanut butter and jelly pie, which is not connected to Arkansas in particular. Arkansas jelly pie appears to be a delicacy that has gone into history.

If you are familiar with these foods, let us know what you think about them!

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20 Facts About Your Favorite Coen Brothers’ Movies
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Gramercy Pictures

Ethan Coen turns 60 years old today, if you can believe it. Since bursting onto the scene in 1984 with the cult classic Blood Simple, the younger half of (arguably) the most dynamic moviemaking sibling duo in Hollywood has helped create some of the most memorable and quirky films in cinematic history, from Raising Arizona to Fargo and The Big Lebowski to No Country For Old Men. To celebrate the monumental birthday of one of the great writer-directors of our time (though he’s mostly uncredited as a director), here are some facts about your favorite Coen brothers’s movies.

1. THE COENS THINK BLOOD SIMPLE IS “PRETTY DAMN BAD.”

Fifteen years after Blood Simple’s release, the Coens reflected upon their first feature in the 2000 book My First Movie. “It’s crude, there’s no getting around it,” Ethan said. “On the other hand, it’s all confused with the actual process of making the movie and finishing the movie which, by and large, was a positive experience,” Joel said. “You never get entirely divorced from it that way. So, I don’t know. It’s a movie that I have a certain affection for. But I think it’s pretty damn bad!”

2. KEVIN COSTNER AND RICHARD JENKINS AUDITIONED FOR RAISING ARIZONA.

Kevin Costner auditioned three times to play H.I., only to see Nicolas Cage snag the role. Richard Jenkins had his first of many auditions for the Coens for Raising Arizona. He also (unsuccessfully) auditioned for Miller's Crossing (1990) and Fargo (1996) before calling it quits with the Coens. In 2001, Joel and Ethan cast Jenkins in The Man Who Wasn't There, even though he had never auditioned for it.

3. THE BROTHERS TURNED DOWN BATMAN TO MAKE MILLER’S CROSSING.

After Raising Arizona’s success established them as more than one-hit indie film wonders, the Coens had some options with regard to what project they could tackle next. Reportedly, their success meant that they were among the filmmakers being considered to make Batman for Warner Bros. Of course, the Coens ultimately decided to go the less commercial route, and Tim Burton ended up telling the story of The Dark Knight on the big screen.

4. BARTON FINK AND W.P. MAYHEW WERE LOOSELY BASED ON CLIFFORD ODETS AND WILLIAM FAULKNER.

The Coens acknowledge that Fink and Odets had similar backgrounds, but they had different personalities: Odets was extroverted, for one thing. Turturro, not his directors, read Odets’ 1940 journal. The Coens acknowledged that John Mahoney (Mayhew) looks a lot like the The Sound and the Fury author.

5. THE COENS'S WEB OF DECEPTION IN FARGO GOES EVEN FURTHER THAN THE OPENING CREDITS. 

While the tag on the beginning of the movie reads “This is a true story. The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 1987,” Fargo is, by no stretch of the imagination, a true story. During the film's press tour, the Coens admitted that while not pinpoint accurate, the story was indeed inspired by a similar crime that occurred in Minnesota, with Joel stating “In its general structure, the film is based on a real event, but the details of the story and the characters are fictional.”

However, any and all efforts to uncover anything resembling such a crime ever occurring in Minnesota come up empty, and in an introduction to the published script, Ethan pretty much admitted as much, writing that Fargo “aims to be both homey and exotic, and pretends to be true." 

6. THEY WANTED MARLON BRANDO TO PLAY JEFFREY LEBOWSKI.

According to Alex Belth, who wrote the e-book The Dudes Abide on his time spent working as an assistant to the Coens, casting the role of Jeffrey Lebowski was one of the last decisions made before filming. Names tossed around for the role included Robert Duvall (who passed because he wasn’t fond of the script), Anthony Hopkins (who passed since he had no interest in playing an American), and Gene Hackman (who was taking a break at the time). A second “wish list” included an oddball “who’s who," including Norman Mailer, George C. Scott, Jerry Falwell, Gore Vidal, Andy Griffith, William F. Buckley, and Ernest Borgnine.

The Coens’ ultimate Big Lebowski, however, was the enigmatic Marlon Brando, who by that time was reaching the end of his career (and life). Apparently, the Coens amused themselves by quoting some of their favorite Jeffrey Lebowski lines (“Strong men also cry”) in a Brando accent. The role would eventually go to the not-particularly-famous—albeit pitch-perfect—veteran character actor David Huddleston. In true Dude fashion, it all worked out in the end.

7. JOEL COEN WOOED FRANCES MCDORMAND ON THE SET OF BLOOD SIMPLE.

Coen and McDormand fell in love while making Blood Simple and got married a couple of years later, after production wrapped. McDormand told The Daily Beast about the moment when she roped him in. “I’d only brought one book to read to Austin, Texas, where we were filming, and I asked him if there was anything he’d recommend,” she said. “He brought me a box of James M. Cain and Raymond Chandler paperbacks, and I said, ‘Which one should I start with?’ And he said, ‘The Postman Always Rings Twice.’ I read it, and it was one of the sexiest f*ckin’ books I’ve ever read. A couple of nights later, I said, ‘Would you like to come over and discuss the book?’ That did it. He seduced me with literature. And then we discussed books and drank hot chocolate for several evenings. It was f*ckin’ hot. Keep it across the room for as long as you can—that’s a very important element.”

8. O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? WAS ORIGINALLY INSPIRED BY THE WIZARD OF OZ.

Joel Coen revealed as much at the 15th anniversary reunion. “It started as a 'three saps on the run' kind of movie, and then at a certain point we looked at each other and said, 'You know, they're trying to get home—let's just say this is The Odyssey. We were thinking of it more as The Wizard of Oz. We wanted the tag on the movie to be: 'There's No Place Like Home.’”

9. THE ACTORS IN FARGO WENT THROUGH EXTENSIVE TRAINING TO GET THEIR ACCENTS RIGHT.

Having grown up in Minnesota, the Coens were more than familiar with the idiosyncrasies of the “Minnesota nice” accent, but much of the cast—including Frances McDormand and William H. Macy—needed coaching to get the intricacies right. Actors were even given copies of the scripts with extensive pronunciation notes. According to dialect coach Larissa Kokernot, who also appeared as one of the prostitutes Gaear and Carl rendezvous with in Brainerd, the “musicality” of the Minnesota nice accent comes from a place of “wanting people to agree with each other and get along.” This homey sensibility, contrasted with the ugly crimes committed throughout the movie, is, of course, one of the major reasons why the dark comedy is such an enduring classic.

10. NICOLAS CAGE'S HAIR REACTED TO H.I.'S STRESS LEVEL IN RAISING ARIZONA.

Ethan claimed that Cage was "crazy about his Woody Woodpecker haircut. The more difficulties his character got in, the bigger the wave in his hair got. There was a strange connection between the character and his hair."

11. A PROP FROM THE HUDSUCKER PROXY INSPIRED THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE.

A bit of set dressing from 1994’s The Hudsucker Proxy eventually led to 2001’s The Man Who Wasn’t There. In a barbershop scene, there’s a poster hanging in the background that featured a range of men’s hairstyles from the 1940s. The brothers liked the prop and kept it, and it’s what eventually served as the inspiration for The Man Who Wasn’t There.

12. GEORGE CLOONEY SIGNED ON TO O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? BEFORE EVEN READING THE SCRIPT.

The brothers visited George Clooney in Phoenix while he was making Three Kings (1999), wanting to work with him after seeing his performance in Out of Sight (1998). Moments after they put their script on Clooney’s hotel room table, the actor said “Great, I’m in.”

13. A SNAG IN THE MILLER’S CROSSING SCRIPT ULTIMATELY LED TO BARTON FINK.

Miller’s Crossing is a complicated beast, full of characters double-crossing each other and scheming for mob supremacy. In fact, it’s so complicated that at one point during the writing process the Coens had to take a break. It turned out to be a productive one: While Miller’s Crossing was on pause, the brothers wrote the screenplay for Barton Fink, the story of a writer who can’t finish a script.

14. INTOLERABLE CRUELTY IS THE FIRST COEN MOVIE THAT WASN’T THE BROTHERS’ ORIGINAL IDEA.

In 1995, the Coens rewrote a script originally penned by other screenwriters, Robert Ramsey, Matthew Stone, and John Romano. They didn’t decide to direct the movie, which became Intolerable Cruelty, until 2003.

15. THE LADYKILLERS WAS WRITTEN FOR BARRY SONNENFELD TO DIRECT.

The Coens effortlessly jump from crime thriller to comedy without missing a beat. So when they were commissioned to write a remake of the British black comedy The Ladykillers for director Barry Sonnenfeld, it seemed to fall in line with their cinematic sensibilities. When Sonnenfeld dropped out of the project, the Coens were hired to direct the film.

16. BURN AFTER READING MARKED THE FIRST TIME SINCE MILLER’S CROSSING THAT THE COENS DIDN’T WORK WITH THEIR USUAL CINEMATOGRAPHER, ROGER DEAKINS.

Instead, eventual Academy Award-winner Emmanuel Lubezki acted as the director of photography. The Coens would work with Deakins again on every one of their films until 2013’s Inside Llewyn Davis.

17. IT TOOK SOME CONVINCING TO GET JAVIER BARDEM TO SAY “YES” TO NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

Though it’s hard to imagine No Country for Old Men without Javier Bardem’s menacing—and Oscar-winning—performance as antagonist Anton Chigurh, he almost passed on the role. “It’s not something I especially like, killing people—even in movies,” Bardem said of his disdain for violence. “When the Coens called, I said, ‘Listen, I’m the wrong actor. I don’t drive, I speak bad English, and I hate violence.’ They laughed and said, ‘Maybe that’s why we called you.”’

18. PATTON OSWALT AUDITIONED FOR A SERIOUS MAN.

Patton Oswalt auditioned for the role of the obnoxious Arthur Gopnik in A Serious Man, a part that ultimately went to Richard Kind. Oswalt talked about his audition while appearing on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, in which it was also revealed that Maron was being considered for the lead role of Larry Gopnik (the role that earned Michael Stuhlbarg his first, and so far only, Golden Globe nomination). 

19. THE CAT IN INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS WAS “A NIGHTMARE.”

Ulysses, the orange cat who practically stole Inside Llewyn Davis away from Oscar Isaac, was reportedly a bit of a diva. "The cat was a nightmare,” Ethan Coen said on the DVD commentary. “The trainer warned us and she was right. She said, uh, "Dogs like to please you. The cat only likes to please itself.’ A cat basically is impossible to train. We have a lot of footage of cats doing things we don't want them to do, if anyone's interested; I don't know if there's a market for that."

20. THE COEN BROTHERS PROBABLY DON’T LOVE THE BIG LEBOWSKI AS MUCH AS YOU DO. 

We’re assuming the Coen Brothers are plenty fond of The Dude: after all, he doesn’t end up facing imminent death or tragedy, which is more than most of their protagonists have going for them. But in a rare Coen Brothers interview in 2009, Joel Coen flatly stated, “That movie has more of an enduring fascination for other people than it does for us.”

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Art
‘American Gothic’ Became Famous Because Many People Saw It as a Joke
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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 1930, Iowan artist Grant Wood painted a simple portrait of a farmer and his wife (really his dentist and sister) standing solemnly in front of an all-American farmhouse. American Gothic has since inspired endless parodies and is regarded as one of the country’s most iconic works of art. But when it first came out, few people would have guessed it would become the classic it is today. Vox explains the painting’s unexpected path to fame in the latest installment of the new video series Overrated.

According to host Phil Edwards, American Gothic made a muted splash when it first hit the art scene. The work was awarded a third-place bronze medal in a contest at the Chicago Art Institute. When Wood sold the painting to the museum later on, he received just $300 for it. But the piece’s momentum didn’t stop there. It turned out that American Gothic’s debut at a time when urban and rural ideals were clashing helped it become the defining image of the era. The painting had something for everyone: Metropolitans like Gertrude Stein saw it as a satire of simple farm life in Middle America. Actual farmers and their families, on the other hand, welcomed it as celebration of their lifestyle and work ethic at a time when the Great Depression made it hard to take pride in anything.

Wood didn’t do much to clear up the work’s true meaning. He stated, "There is satire in it, but only as there is satire in any realistic statement. These are types of people I have known all my life. I tried to characterize them truthfully—to make them more like themselves than they were in actual life."

Rather than suffering from its ambiguity, American Gothic has been immortalized by it. The country has changed a lot in the past century, but the painting’s dual roles as a straight masterpiece and a format for skewering American culture still endure today.

Get the full story from Vox below.

[h/t Vox]

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