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Food Timeline FAQs: state foods.....Have questions? Ask!

What is the "state food" of Nevada? That's a difficult question to answer. Why? Because cuisine is not easily defined by political boundaries. It is a complicated mix of history, cultural/ethnic influence, and local commodities. Some states and cities are commonly associated with foods (Maryland crab cakes, Boston baked beans, Philly cheese steak, New York style pizza) others are harder to connect with a particular dish. If your teacher asks you to bring in a food that represents a particular state, you have several options:

State cookbooks
Most states have recipe books. Some of these are current (The Legendary Illinois Cookbook, John L. Leckel), others are historic (History from the Hearth: A Colonial Michilimachinac Cookbook, Sally Eustice), some focus on ethnic heritage (The Melting pot: Ethnic Cuisine in Texas, University of Texas at San Antonio), offer history without recipes (Food in Missouri: A Cultural Stew, Madeline Matson), offer insight into a way of life (Floating Kitchens: Cooking with Seattle's Houseboats, Floating Homes Association, Seattle), or are considered classics (West Coast Cook Book, Helen Evans Brown is chock full of historic tidbits). Many vintage cookbooks are now being reprinted in paper (The Kansas Home Cook-Book, Mrs. C. H. Cushing [1886]) or uploaded to the Internet.

You can use the Library of Congress catalog to find these state-specific cookbooks. Run a subject search with these terms: cookery-state name (cookery-New Jersey or cookery-Iowa). State & city library catalogs often offer additional titles. Your librarian can help you find these books and bring them to your library. Old community/church cookbooks and restaurant menus are the best guides to the foods really enjoyed by local people at a particular time. These can be hard to find. Local libraries and historical societies are your best bet. NOTE: Some of the modern "state" cookbooks (the ones you find in airports and museum gift shops) promote current trendy fare and restaurant menus. Think: tortilla soup in Minnesota and chocolate mousse cake in Alaska. While the recipes may be delicious, they do not necessarily reflect the history or traditions connected with their target state.

We recommend:

If you want recommendations for books covering specific states/periods let us know. We have ready access to dozens of local cookbooks and willsend selected recipes too (let us know what you need...cookies? pie? Christmas menu?)

State recipes on the Web
1. Check the state's Dept. of Agriculture, or type "recipe" in the search Services Web site. Just click on the state you need.

2. Local Legacies from the Library of Congress--select your state & check for food festivals, (Lettuce Days, Yuma AZ) and historic restaurants (Louis' Lunch, New Haven CT). No recipes here...but a great place to identify popular foods & culinary claims. Use Google to find more information: keyword "yuma lettuce days" or "gilroy garlic" returns festival page and history.

3. Check foodways notes from Living History Museums in your state. Sometimes you will find recipes. If not, you can always contact the museum for suggestions.

Official state foods
Many states have adopted (by law!) official state beverages, fruits, vegetables, fish, etc. You will usually find these symbols on the kid's page or FAQ page. You can use your own recipe with the state symbol (Alabama's state fruit is the blackberry) as the featured ingredient. If you want to conduct a survey of all states (which ones have adoped milk as the official beverage?) use the symbols link on
this site to go directly to all 50 states. Yes, this will take some time.

A small handful of states have adopted official state dishes or baked goods. NOTE: there are no "official" recipes in recorded in state laws.


State prepared food: Grits


State dessert: Smith Island Cake
Description & recipe here.


State Muffin
The schoolchildren of Massachusetts petitioned for the CORN MUFFIN, a staple of New England cooking, and the Legislature made it official in 1986.

State Dessert
The BOSTON CREAM PIE, created in the 19th century, was chosen as the official state dessert on December 12, 1996. A civics class from Norton High School sponsored the bill. The pie beat out other candidates, including the toll house cookie and Indian pudding.

State Cookie
The CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE was designated the official cookie of the Commonwealth on July 9, 1997. A third grade class from Somerset proposed the bill to honor the cookie invented in 1930 at the Toll House Restaurant in Whitman.

The blueberry muffin is adopted as the official muffin of the state of Minnesota.
New Hampshire
State fish - Brook Trout (fresh water) & Striped Bass (salt water)
State fruit - pumpkin
State vegetable - white potato
New Mexico
State Cookie - Biscochito (type bizcochito the search box):
12-3-4. J. The bizcochito is adopted as the official cookie of New Mexico.
1989, ch. 154, § 1;
New York
State Muffin-- Apple Muffin--1987
" 84. State muffin. The apple muffin shall be the official muffin of the state of New York."
5.08. Official State beverage. The canned, processed juice and pulp of the fruit of the herb Lycopersicon esculentum, commonly known as tomato juice, is hereby adopted as the official beverage of the state."
History 131 v 5. Eff 10-6-65
State meal, H.C.R. 1083, 1988
Rhode Island
"State Drink
Coffee Milk is the official State Drink.
Adopted on July 29, 1993.
Coffee Milk is similar to chocolate milk but is made with coffee syrup. A coffee "cabinet" is coffee milk with ice cream (a coffee flavored milk shake). The main ingredient of this shake is "coffee milk," first introduced to Rhode Islanders in the early 1920's. Coffee milk became so popular in Rhode Island that in 1993 the Rhode Island state legislature voted coffee milk as the official state drink. It's called a "cabinet" because its originator kept his blender in a "kitchen cabinet." Autocrat Coffee Syrup is the preferred syrup in Rhode Island. Autocrat of Rhode Island is a leading provider of premium coffee, syrup, and coffee extract since 1895."
Rhode Island State Symbols
South Dakota
State Dessert is kuchen
Title 1 Chapter 11 § 512. State pie.
The state pie shall be apple pie.
Added 1999, No. 15, § 1

Major commodities
If you need to know which commodities (fruits, vegetables) are produced in a particular state you can use the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture's
National Agriculture Statistics database.

What if your state does not seem to have an *obvious* traditional food/recipe?
Excellent...this gives you quite a lot of latitude. All you have to do is make the connection between the food and your state.

A selected list of traditional state foods
The following list was culled from a variety of
sources and provides selections for every course: appetizer, bread, soup, salad, entree & dessert. It is by no means exhaustive. Some states/cities are well known for several foods. In these cases, we selected a few representative dishes. For states not commonly associated with a particular popular dish we selected a commodity from its state symbols. Please note: this list does not reflect the rich ethnic diversity and cultural heritage blending together to compose American cuisine as a whole. It is meant only as a starting point. If you have any suggestions or comments about the traditional foods in your state please let us know!

The following foods work for quick projects or tight deadlines.
If you are writing a state report and want more information
or concentrating on a specific period (colonial Connecticut? Civil war Ohio? Gold Rush California?)
please let us know!

Alabama pecan pie. More info here.
Alaska salmon, halibut, seafood & game recipes More info here.
Arizona chile con queso, tortillas & salsa. More info here.
Arkansas current favorites I. More info here
California style pizza, cobb salad, avocados, figs, walnuts & garlic. About California Gold Rush foods. More info here.--see also: Monterey, Los Angeles, San Francisco & San Diego
Colorado Rocky Mountain rainbow trout. More info here.--see also: Denver
Connecticut nutmeg. More info here.--see also: Hartford
Delaware crab puffs. More info here.
District of Columbia Senate bean soup
Florida pompano (fish), orange juice & Key lime pie. History of Florida agriculture. More info here. See also: Miami
Georgia peaches, peanuts, pecans & Vidalia onions. More info here.
Hawaii Luaus, loco moco, pineapple, fresh fruit & Spam. More info here.
Idaho potatoes. More info here.
Illinois Native American foods (select group, economy, food), recipes. More info here.--see also: Chicago &
Indiana Pork tenderloin sandwich, pork & beans [Van Camps], sugar cream pie, Conner Prairie recipes. More info here.
Iowa Quaker Oats, loose meat sandwiches, Des Moines Squash & traditional Dutch recipes More info here.
Kansas wheat bread & Chicken fried steak. More info here.
Kentucky burgoo, Kentucky hot brown, Derby Pie, Chocolate gravy & Woodford Pudding. Kentucky Derby menus. More info here.
Louisiana king cake, Natchitoches meat pies, pralines, Tabasco sauce, popular recipes & Creole cuisine circa 1904. More info here.--see also: New Orleans
Maine lobsters, potatoes, blueberries, beans & recipes. More info here.
Maryland crab cakes, beaten biscuits, & fried chicken. More info here.
Massachusetts clam chowder, cod cakes, graham crackers & cranberries, Pilgrim Thanksgiving notes. More info here.--see also: Boston
Michigan cherries, mint, beans, UP Pasty More info here. --see also: Mackinac Island & Battle Creek. More info here.
Minnesota wild rice, walleye, blueberries &! SPAM & Butter sculpture. More info here.
Mississippi mud pie, pralines, pecan pie, cajun fried pecans, sweet potato pie, sweet potato crunch, & shrimp. More info here.
Missouri Springfield-style cashew chicken, Ozark pudding, crayfish & Frontier foods. More info here. See also: St. Louis & Kansas City
Montana buffalo burgers, Homesteader foodways (p. 31+). More info here.
Nebraska Kool-Aid, Nebraska products, beef [Omaha steaks], Runza sandwiches, watermelon & Czech recipes from Wilbur. More info here.
Nevada Native American foods. . More info here.
New Hampshire corn chowder--see also: Portsmouth. More info here.
New Jersey
New Mexico biscochito (sugar cookies), roasted chilies & pistachios, recipes & more recipes More info here.
New York apple muffins, Jell-O & salt potatoes. More info here. --see also: Brooklyn, Buffalo, Long Island, New York City, Rochester & Thousand Islands
North Carolina Barbecue, Moravian cookies, sweet potatoes, Livermush & Native American fare. More info here.
North Dakota perch, Cream of Wheat [1893], German heritage recipes. More info here.
Ohio Early settler foods, Shaker lemon pie, Buckeye candy & tomato juice (official state beverage). More info here.--see also: Cincinnati
Oklahoma State meal: fried okra, squash, cornbread, barbecue pork, biscuits, sausage and gravy, grits, corn, strawberries, chicken fried steak, pecan pie, and black-eyed peas. More info here.
Oregon hazelnuts, blackberries, marionberries, peppermint & Dungeness crab. More info here.
Pennsylvania shoofly pie, & scrapple, A.P. cookies, Lebanon bologna, recipes.More info here.--see also: Philadelphia & Pittsburgh
Rhode Island johnnycakes [cornbread], coffee milk, cabinets, the New York System & more! More info here.--see also: Providence
South Carolina rice, Benne wafers & Frogmore stew. More info here.--see also: Charleston
South Dakota kuchen [coffee cake]. Kuchen & other popular foods.
Tennessee stack cake. More info here.
Texas Breakfast tacos, sweet onions, kolache, chili, barbecue & Pan de Campo. More info here. see also: San Antonio
Utah honey, Utah scones, Greek immigrant fare, green Jell-O & pastrami burgers. More info here.
Vermont cheddar cheese, common crackers & maple sugar candy. More info here.
Virginia ham, peanuts, Brunswick Stew & colonial Virginia recipes. More info here.
Washington Dungeness crab & apples. More info here.
West Virginia Golden Delicious apples & apple butter. More info here.
Wisconsin Colby cheese, cranberry pie, recipes More info here....see also: Milwaukee & Sheboygan
Wyoming beans (great northern, pinto, navy), jerky, Shoshone lamb & Army bread at Ft. Laramie. More info here.

Baltimore [MD] Pit Beef
Battle Creek [MI] Kellogg's cereals I & II
Boston [MA] baked beans & brown bread, Boston cream pie & Parker House rolls
Brooklyn [NY] Coney Island boardwalk foods & egg creams
Buffalo [NY] Buffalo Wings, Beef on Weck & Sponge Candy
Charleston [SC] Huguenot torte
Chicago [IL] Cracker Jacks, deep dish pizza, Italian beef sandwiches, Chicken Vesuvio, Oscar Mayer brand products & more!
Cincinnati [OH] pork, Skyline chili & opera creams
Denver [CO] Denver sandwich
Hartford [CT] election cake
Kansas City [MO] Kansas City Style Barbeque
Los Angeles [CA] California rolls
Long Island [NY] duck & potatoes
Mackinac Island[MI] fudge
Miami [FL] Cuban food, Miami style
Milwaukee [WI] German [Fest] dishes, popular fare & local recipes courtesy of Milwaukee Public Library (1960s-1980s)
Monterey [CA] jack cheese
New Orleans [LA] Gumbo, Po'Boys, Muffulettas, Bananas Foster
Philadelphia [PA] cheese steak, sticky buns, Philadelphia-style vanilla ice cream, soft hot pretzels with mustard, pepper pot soup
Pittsburgh [PA] City chicken, cookie tables, Italian wedding soup, & Pittsburgh-style steaks (black on the outside, red on the inside)
Portsmouth [NH] orange cake
Providence [RI] Diners I & II
Rochester [NY] Fanny Farmer's chocolates, French's Mustard, Ragu Sauces, Birds Eye Foods, White Hots (hot dogs), Chicken French & Garbage Plate
St. Louis [MO] toasted ravioli & gooey butter cake
San Antonio [TX] chili
San Diego [CA] Fish tacos & Carne Asada Fries
San Francisco [CA] sourdough bread & Cioppino
Sheboygan [WI] bratwurst
Springfield [IL] Horseshoe sandwiches
Thousand Islands [NY] dressing

USA apple pie

Sources used for recipes & history:
American Heritage Cookbook, Meals & Recipes, volume 2, American Heritage [magazine]
American Regional Cookbook, Nancy & Arthur Hawkins
Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink, John F. Mariani
Fifty States Cook Book, Culinary Arts Insititute
Recipes from America's Restored Villages, Jean Anderson

FoodTimeline library owns 2300+ books, hundreds of 20th century USA food company brochures, & dozens of vintage magazines (Good Housekeeping, American Cookery, Ladies Home Journal &c.) We also have ready access to historic magazine, newspaper & academic databases. Service is free and welcomes everyone. Have questions? Ask!

About culinary research & about copyright
Research conducted by Lynne Olver, editor The Food Timeline. About this site.
© Lynne Olver
30 January 2015