Tell Us Your Favorite Food, and We’ll Tell You Where You’re From
You can change up your look, you can work on your accent. But when it comes to where you're from, your tastebuds never lie.
Your taste, your town
Just as your favorite ice cream flavor can reveal hidden personality traits, your favorite foods can reveal where you’re from. Seriously. Repeat childhood exposure to any food tends to promote a preference for that food that can last a lifetime. That means the foods you enjoyed with your family and friends during childhood are more likely to be at the top your list today—or even your go-to comfort food. And that’s why we’re willing to bet we can guess where you’re from…if you call any of these foods your favorites.
We’re not talking about the sandwich made with ground beef and tomato sauce. We’re talking about the double-decker deli sandwich served on three slices of super-thin rye bread and made up of two super-thin-sliced deli meats (my own favorite from my childhood in New Jersey is turkey and beef tongue), plus Swiss cheese, coleslaw, and Russian dressing. It was invented in New Jersey, and if you grew up in New Jersey, it’s the only acceptable Sloppy Joe, and you can spend literally hours arguing with other Jersey natives about which deli makes the best, and which deli made it first.
Verdict: If your idea of a Sloppy Joe can only involve deli meats, coleslaw, and thin-sliced rye, and if you call it a “regular Joe” or a “Jersey Joe” to distinguish it from the stuff your out-of-state friends make with Manwich, then you’re probably from New Jersey.
Rocky Mountain Oysters
To be absolutely clear, they’re not seafood, and the people who love them most likely grew up land-locked. What we’re talking about when we talk about Rocky Mountain Oysters are the testicles of a bull—or sometimes a pig or a sheep. Peeled, cut into bite-size pieces (or not), and deep-fried, Rocky Mountain Oysters are “cowboy food,” and can be found wherever cattle-ranching is prevalent.
Although Eagle, Idaho, claims to have the “World’s Largest Rocky Mountain Oyster Feed” during its Eagle Fun Days, a festival held during the second weekend of July, you’ll find “testical festivals” in Montana, Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Colorado, and Ohio. And even if you can’t make it to a festival, many restaurants and bars in Montana, Idaho, Kansas, and Wyoming serve Rocky Mountain oysters all year long.
Verdict: If you wax poetic over this tender, fried delicacy, you’re most likely from one of the aforementioned states. If you call them “tendergroins,” you’re probably from Montana, in which case you’ve probably partaken of this local delicacy while spending a summer day at the Montana State Fair.
Fried cheese curds
Cheese curds are an essential product of the cheese-making process, according to Eat Curds, the website devoted to all things cheese curd. Before cheeses like cheddar are formed into blocks or wheels and aged, they start out as curds. Fresh cheese curds have a slightly rubbery texture and squeak when you eat them, and are best eaten the same day they’re produced.
Cheese curds are an important part of poutine, which is the unofficial national comfort-food of Canada but is also enjoyed all over the United States. They’re available wherever dairy production is in high gear. But “there’s nothing more Wisconsin than a cheese curd,” according to Eat Curds, which displays a vast number of places where you can find them fresh in Wisconsin.
Verdict: If you like cheese curds apart from your poutine, and if you like them fresh out of the cheese-making vat—and if you understand why it’s important that they’re squeaky when you eat them, we’re going to have to guess you’re from Wisconsin, which is, after all, “America’s Dairyland.”
If you read “clam chowder” and wonder which version we’re referring to, then you’re not from New England. In New England, there’s only one kind of clam chowder, and it’s cream-based and includes potatoes and onions. In 1939, a bill was introduced into legislature in the state of Maine that would make the use of tomatoes in clam chowder illegal.
Verdict: If you wouldn’t even think of eating a “clam chowder” that involves anything resembling tomatoes, then you’re probably from New England. And no matter where you’re from, when in New England, be sure to give traditional “clam chowder” a try. Just try not to think about the calories. If you’re watching your waistline, these are the soups to eat instead.
Lobster with drawn butter
Sure, lobster can be found virtually anywhere, even in places so far from the ocean that the smell of sea-water is purely hypothetical. But there’s only one place where the lobsters are so fresh, so tender, and so mind-bogglingly sweet that they should, and generally are, prepared only by steaming (or boiling) in seawater (or saltwater) and served whole, with nutcrackers, a slender pick, and only a small cup of melted, unsalted butter for added flavor. And that’s Maine, where lobstering has been an industry since the year 1600 and which is home to 5,600 independent lobstermen.
And there’s a special reason why lobster from Maine is so special: From mid-June to November, lobsters in the cold, clean waters of Maine shed their shells and reveal new, larger ones underneath—the result: Maine New Shell Lobster. As the lobsters grow into their newly formed shell, there is a gap between the meat and the shell that seawater fills, allowing it to naturally marinate the meat, resulting in what many (especially natives of Maine) will agree is the sweetest, most tender, most “lobster-y lobster” on the planet.
Verdict: If you probably wouldn’t eat lobster that doesn’t come from Maine, or if you’d go so far as to admit that you wouldn’t eat lobster outside of Maine’s state lines, then you’re probably from Maine. If it doesn’t bother you that you’ve made a meal out of an animal that might have otherwise lived to be 140 years old, then you’re definitely from Maine!
It’s not the Indian bread, which is spelled “chapati.” A Chipati is a type of sandwich. It’s actually been trademarked, and if you know what it is or if you still dream about it well into adulthood, then either you grew up in the Ann Arbor, Michigan area, or you went to school at the University of Michigan. The chipati was invented in the 1970s at Pizza Bob’s on State Street in Ann Arbor. It’s made with wheat-flour-based “Chipati bread” that somewhat resembles pita bread that’s stuffed with lettuce, tomatoes, green peppers, sweet red peppers, mushrooms, cheese, and “Chipati sauce,” which might be described as oregano-flecked French dressing.
Verdict: If you even know what a chipati is, let alone feel it’s the best sandwich you’ve ever tasted, then you’re definitely from Ann Arbor, or you spent your college years there.
If you watched the series, Fortitude, which is currently streaming on Amazon, then you know that Lutefisk is codfish that’s been salted and soaked in lye for two days (until its pH reaches 12, which is caustic enough for a chemical burn) and then soaked in water for another six days, upon which it’s steamed for 25 minutes and served in all its stinky, gelatinous glory.
If you watched Fortitude, you also know that “the truth about lutefisk is you should never eat lutefisk.” But try telling that to Norway and Sweden, where the dish originated. And try telling that to Madison, Minnesota, which has dubbed itself the “lutefisk capital of the world.” But lutefisk is really a thing all over the state of Minnesota, where “lutefisk dinners” are annual traditions at scores of Lutheran churches and Nordic fraternal groups. That said, the Swedish-Americans tend to prepare their lutefish with allspice seasoning, while the Norwegian-Americans tend to prefer it unseasoned.
Verdict: Although lutefisk is served wherever you’ll find large numbers of Scandinavian-Americans, if you’ve got an opinion on how it should be prepared, then you’re probably from Minnesota, which, by the way, is the setting for the iconic Sinclair Lewis book, Main Street. Find out the most iconic book set in each of the 50 states.
This mildly sweet ring of cake-y bread dough that’s been twisted into a ring and decorated with brightly colored icing and sprinkles is synonymous with the celebration of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, where king cakes can be found starting in early January and all the way up until Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. Typically, a tiny plastic baby trinket (or a representative bean) is baked into the cake, and whoever finds it has to host the next year’s celebration. They may also get to be “king” for the day.
King cake originated in Europe and came to be associated with the Catholic celebration of Epiphany (on January 6) in the Middle Ages. French versions tend to be made with flaky pastry. The version served in Louisiana, and specifically, New Orleans, is more like that which originated in Spain.
Verdict: If your idea of king cake involves a cake-bread dough that’s decorated in the colors associated with Mardi Gras (green, gold, and purple), then you’re probably from Louisiana, and quite possibly from New Orleans.
Actually, it doesn’t even have to be stew. It could also be reindeer dogs, as in hot dogs made with reindeer meat. For that matter, just about anything you can make with meat not only tastes better, but is way healthier, when made with reindeer, according to its fans.
Apparently, these 350-pound animals store fat outside their muscles, which means there’s no marbling—just incredibly lean meat. Reindeer meat is also a rich source of omega-3 and essential fatty acids, so much so that it’s comparable to fish, according to scientists at the University of Norway. True connoisseurs like to eat it raw, and it’s safe to do so, at least in Alaska because it’s herded cleanly and safely on Alaska’s tundra, specifically on St. Lawrence, Unimak, and Umnak Islands.
Verdict: If you when you think of reindeer, you’re thinking of a delicious dish that is best served raw, rather than as the beasts that lead Santa’s sleigh on Christmas, then you’re probably from Alaska. If you don’t mind eating reindeer despite that some people keep reindeer as pets, you’re almost definitely from Alaska.
Shoofly Pie isn’t actually a pie, but a dark, sweet, crumb-topped cake that is synonymous with the Pennsylvania Dutch, who invented it in the 1880s to eat for breakfast along with a cup of strong, black coffee. Despite that it’s a cake, it may sometimes be baked in a pie crust to make it easier to eat out of hand.
Shoofly pie contains no eggs, most likely because many of the Pennsylvania Dutch do not use electricity, and eggs don’t store well without electricity. Its rising agent is baking powder, which Pennsylvania Dutch bakers began to use in the late 1870s. Some say the name comes from a brand of molasses, “Shoofly Molasses,” which was named after “Shoofly, the Boxing Mule,” a popular circus animal that toured in Pennsylvania in the 1800s. Others say it’s just so darn sweet that attracts flies.
Verdict: Shoofly pie can be sampled all over the Pennsylvania Dutch Country, according to the Amish Country News. If you’re a fan, you’re probably from Pennsylvania, and possibly from Lancaster County. If you’ve never been to the Amish Country, think about staying at the Red Caboose Motel, which is one of the most unusual hotels in the nation.
For bagels, we’re going to go at our guessing game from a different angle and say that if you’re willing to eat a bagel outside of New York, then you’re probably NOT from New York (here’s why bagels are so much better in New York). And the more inclined you are to eat a bagel outside of New York, the further your hometown probably is from New York. Three notable exceptions exist here:
- Some people who grew up in other areas of the country may take issue with non-New York bagels (usually, this means that they, themselves, grew up in New York, or come from a New York-based family).
- If you’re a New Yorker, you will be willing to eat a bagel outside of New York if it was shipped from New York, as was formerly the case with H&H bagels, which for many decades epitomized New York bagels and were shipped all over the world.
- New Yorkers do not lose their New York cred for eating a non-New York bagel if while doing so, they make sure to remark (and hopefully, more than once), “This isn’t a bagel! This is a roll! How can they call this a bagel?”
Why are New Yorkers so snobby about their bagels? Some say it’s the water. Any bagel worth its poppy-seeds is actually a “water bagel.” True New York bagels are always water bagels, which means they’re boiled in water before baking. But without New York’s water, well, good luck with that, folks. And here’s another fun fact: Whereas sliced bagels are subject to sales tax in New York, whole bagels are not.
No, we’re not talking about throwing some meat on a preheated propane-grill, flipping it once, and calling it a day. We’re talking about “barbecue” barbecue—which isn’t just a style of cooking meat, but a culture in and of itself. Barbecue involves three essential elements: meat, wood smoke, and some kind of sauce, and it’s done nice and slow over low, indirect heat by which the meat is flavored by the smoking process.
The first barbecue may have taken place in Alexandria, Virginia in 1769, and may have been attended by George Washington. The core region for barbecue is the Southeast. While barbecue is found outside of this region (such as Kansas and Texas), the 14 core barbecue states contain 70 of the top 100 barbecue restaurants, and most top barbecue restaurants outside the region have their roots there.
Verdict: If your idea of barbecue is quickly searing a steak and veggies over a hot grill, then you’re clearly not from the Southeast (and you should be calling it “grilling,” as opposed to “barbecue”). And depending on some of your barbecue-ing choices, we can probably guess more specifically where you’re from in the Southeast:
- Favor a mustard-based sauce? You’re probably from South Carolina.
- Does your barbecue involve the whole hog, literally? You’re probably from North Carolina.
- If your barbecue involves chicken and a white barbecue sauce made from mayo and vinegar, then you’re almost invariably from Northern Alabama.
- If your sauce is tomato-based plus bourbon/wine, vinegar, peppers, and corn, you’re probably from Virginia.
Ever wonder why the “bagel-snobs” don’t quite relate to the hospitality that the “barbecue-brigade” tends to extend? Find out why Northerners don’t quite get Southern hospitality.
Before you scoff, consider that SPAM was an American staple during World War II. It’s still quite popular in Hawaii, which still imports most of its food. In fact, Hawaii consumes about six million cans of SPAM per year (that’s around five cans per person in Hawaii). At least a dozen varieties of SPAM are available for purchase in Hawaii. And no, they don’t eat it straight out of the can. They cook it in wonderful and creative ways.
Verdict: If you are well-versed in the many varieties of SPAM and can think of multiple gourmet dishes that incorporate it, then you are most likely from Hawaii.
Interested in trying all the SPAM dishes that gourmet cooking has to offer? Here are the things you should know before booking your trip to Hawaii.
These days, everyone knows about In-N-Out Burger, but this hamburger chain is California-based, and most of its locations are still in California. The first In-N-Out opened in 1948 in a suburb of Los Angeles. It was the first drive-through hamburger stand in California. If you’ve visited California, you may well have enjoyed an In-N-Out Burger. You might also have sampled the goods at one of the newer locations in Arizona, Texas, Utah, and Oregon. However, if you didn’t grow up on In-N-Out, then your mastery of the “secret menu” is probably not all that masterful. Sure, you could access the secret menu on the company’s website. But, just try ordering a “3×3, Protein Style, with Animal fries and a Neapolitan” if you didn’t grow up in California. You’ll feel like fraud every single time.
Verdict: Anyone can love an In-N-Out Burger, but it takes a California native to know how to order one off the secret menu. Here’s how to order off the Starbucks secret menu.
Most parts of the country have some version of chislic, which is skewered, cubed meat. But if you grew up in South Dakota, you call it “chislic,” and you probably have some definite ideas about what kind of meat it involves and what to order on the side. Depending on your choices, we can probably guess what part of South Dakota you grew up in:
- If you like your meat battered and deep fried, then you’re probably from Pierre.
- If your meat of choice is deep fried mutton, and you like it served with garlic salt, soda crackers, and hot sauce, you’re probably from Sioux Falls.
- If your chislic has to be deep fried beef with a side of Ranch dressing, then you’re probably from Watertown.
- If your chislic has to be deep fried beef with a side of toast and Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, you’re probably from Redfield.
Ah, very tricky. If you tell us your favorite food is scrapple (which is a mush of pork scraps and trimmings combined with cornmeal, wheat flour, buckwheat flour and spices), then we’re going to assume you’re from either Pennsylvania or Delaware. In fact, we’re inclined to think you’re from Pennsylvania, since scrapple was invented there. Specifically, it developed out of Pennsylvania Dutch customs.
However, Delaware has claimed this down-home dish as its own. Certainly, you can sample scrapple in Pennsylvania, but in Delaware, you can celebrate scrapple at either the Apple Scrapple Festival in Bridgeville or the annual Scrapplegasm dinner in Wilmington.
Verdict: If you’re enthusiastic enough about scrapple to say it’s your favorite food, we’re going to guess you’re from Delaware. We might also guess that you’re a sucker for tourist attractions. If so, then you’re in luck because we’ve got the lowdown on the best tourist attractions in every state.
Gooey butter cake
Who doesn’t love a gooey buttery cake? But if you say your favorite food is, literally, “gooey butter cake,” then we know that you either come from St. Louis, Missouri, or you’re a fan of celebrity chef, Paula Deen, who popularized it on her now-defunct eponymously-named Food Network show. The thing is, if you’re a fan of Paula Deen, then you probably think of it as “ooey gooey butter cake.”
Whatever you may call it, we’re talking about a flat and dense cake made with flour, butter, sugar, and eggs that was invented by accident in the 1930s when a baker used the “gooey butter” (intended as a coating for gooey things like stollen and Danish pastries) instead of the regular baking butter. Needless to say, the cake came out “gooey” but quickly won a following.
Verdict: If gooey butter cake is your favorite, then you’re probably from St. Louis. If you call it “ooey gooey butter cake,” you probably are just a fan of the Food Network. If that’s the case, then you might not realize that the Food Network’s chefs keep a lot of their best secrets close to the apron.
You might have first heard of “loose meat” (it’s literally loose meat: unformed, finely ground hamburger meat) from watching the television show, Roseanne. Even though Roseanne took place in Illinois, we know darn well that if you count loose meat among your favorite foods, you’re probably not from Illinois, but from Iowa. In that case, it’s likely you’ve enjoyed a loose meat sandwich or two or three from the iconic Maid-Rite, which basically has one item on the menu. Can you guess what it is? Hint: It’s loose meat.
Loose meat is so big in Iowa, that you can even order it at the Dairy Queen.
Verdict: If you’re saying “loose meat,” we’re guessing Iowa. Can’t get there in time to satisfy your loose meat craving? Try one of these phenomenal burger recipes.
Moon Pies are practically worshiped all over the South. In fact, starting in 2008, Mobile, Alabama has been dropping a 12-foot mechanical moon pie to ring in the New Year. But Moon Pies got their start in Tennessee, when coal miners outside of Chattanooga got their hands on some marshmallow fluff (which originated in Massachusetts) and started dipping their graham crackers into it. That led to a rush on graham crackers, which led quick-thinking Earl Mitchell, Sr., a salesman for Chatanooga Bakery, to create a sort of sandwich, layering marshmallow fluff between two graham crackers. After a while, they became round, and chocolate-dipped. They became “Moon Pies” when Mitchell’s grandson remarked, adorably, that the indentations where bubbles had popped looked “like the moon.”
Verdict: If your favorite food is Moon Pies, you could really be from anywhere because really, they’re that good. However, you’re probably from the South, and more than likely, you’re from Tennessee and love Moon Pies as much as you do because you’re from where they’re from.
Special bonus for foodies: Here are the foods you’ve been eating all wrong and a dozen anti-aging foods that might add years to your life.