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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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Food
Let Alexa Help You Brine a Turkey This Thanksgiving
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There’s a reason most of us only cook turkey once a year: The bird is notoriously easy to overcook. You could rely on gravy and cranberry sauce to salvage your dried-out turkey this Thanksgiving, or you could follow cooking advice from the experts.

Brining a turkey is the best way to guarantee it retains its moisture after hours in the oven. The process is also time-consuming, so do yourself a favor this year and let Alexa be your sous chef.

“Morton Brine Time” is a new skill from the cloud-based home assistant. If you own an Amazon Echo you can download it for free by going online or by asking Alexa to enable it. Once it’s set up, start asking Alexa for brining tips and step-by-step recipes customized to the size of your turkey. Two recipes were developed by Richard Blais, the celebrity chef and restaurateur best known for his Top Chef win and Food Network appearances.

Whether you go for a wet brine (soaking your turkey in water, salt, sugar, and spices) or a dry one (just salt and spices), the process isn’t as intimidating as it sounds. And the knowledge that your bird will come out succulent and juicy will definitely take some stress out of the holiday.

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Big Questions
Why Do the Lions and Cowboys Always Play on Thanksgiving?
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Because it's tradition! But how did this tradition begin?

Every year since 1934, the Detroit Lions have taken the field for a Thanksgiving game, no matter how bad their record has been. It all goes back to when the Lions were still a fairly young franchise. The team started in 1929 in Portsmouth, Ohio, as the Spartans. Portsmouth, while surely a lovely town, wasn't quite big enough to support a pro team in the young NFL. Detroit radio station owner George A. Richards bought the Spartans and moved the team to Detroit in 1934.

Although Richards's new squad was a solid team, they were playing second fiddle in Detroit to the Hank Greenberg-led Tigers, who had gone 101-53 to win the 1934 American League Pennant. In the early weeks of the 1934 season, the biggest crowd the Lions could draw for a game was a relatively paltry 15,000. Desperate for a marketing trick to get Detroit excited about its fledgling football franchise, Richards hit on the idea of playing a game on Thanksgiving. Since Richards's WJR was one of the bigger radio stations in the country, he had considerable clout with his network and convinced NBC to broadcast a Thanksgiving game on 94 stations nationwide.

The move worked brilliantly. The undefeated Chicago Bears rolled into town as defending NFL champions, and since the Lions had only one loss, the winner of the first Thanksgiving game would take the NFL's Western Division. The Lions not only sold out their 26,000-seat stadium, they also had to turn fans away at the gate. Even though the juggernaut Bears won that game, the tradition took hold, and the Lions have been playing on Thanksgiving ever since.

This year, the Lions host the Minnesota Vikings.

HOW 'BOUT THEM COWBOYS?


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The Cowboys, too, jumped on the opportunity to play on Thanksgiving as an extra little bump for their popularity. When the chance to take the field on Thanksgiving arose in 1966, it might not have been a huge benefit for the Cowboys. Sure, the Lions had filled their stadium for their Thanksgiving games, but that was no assurance that Texans would warm to holiday football so quickly.

Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm, though, was something of a marketing genius; among his other achievements was the creation of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.

Schramm saw the Thanksgiving Day game as a great way to get the team some national publicity even as it struggled under young head coach Tom Landry. Schramm signed the Cowboys up for the game even though the NFL was worried that the fans might just not show up—the league guaranteed the team a certain gate revenue in case nobody bought tickets. But the fans showed up in droves, and the team broke its attendance record as 80,259 crammed into the Cotton Bowl. The Cowboys beat the Cleveland Browns 26-14 that day, and a second Thanksgiving pigskin tradition caught hold. Since 1966, the Cowboys have missed having Thanksgiving games only twice.

Dallas will take on the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday.

WHAT'S WITH THE NIGHT GAME?


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In 2006, because 6-plus hours of holiday football was not sufficient, the NFL added a third game to the Thanksgiving lineup. This game is not assigned to a specific franchise—this year, the Washington Redskins will welcome the New York Giants.

Re-running this 2008 article a few days before the games is our Thanksgiving tradition.

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