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The Most Iconic Food Fact from Every State

True foodies might already know these fun food facts about their state. Learn a little piece of food history from each of the 50 states.

alabama lane cakeLaura Spiegler/Shutterstock

Alabama

Marcel Proust had his madeleine; Alabama has the Lane cake. The layered bourbon-laced confection makes a cameo in several books, including Alabama native Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and the memoirs of former president Jimmy Carter. If you’re already hungry, you need to try the most delicious food from every state.

Still life wild red summertime berry of bramble species/Closeup of Dark and Rosy Red Edible Salmon BerriesIngrid Curry/Shutterstock

Alaska

Alaska is renowned for its wild salmon, but the wild salmon­berries are plenty tasty too. Be careful, though—bears also adore them. In fact, many Alaskans wear “bear bells” when they go picking to avoid surprising their large berry-loving rivals.

Romaine Lettuce Heads in a Farm Field in Yuma Valley ArizonaBerns Images/Shutterstock

Arizona

Yuma County is known as the Winter Salad Bowl. Arizona is America’s second-largest producer of lettuce, behind California. Don’t miss the one food you have to try in every state.

Fresh steamed edamame sprinkled with sea salt on a rustic tabletop.Foodio/Shutterstock

Arkansas

Quiz: What’s the self-proclaimed edamame capital of the world?

A. Tokyo.

B. Beijing.

C. Mulberry, Arkansas.

Mulberry it is! Of the top ten soybean-­producing states in the United States, Arkansas is the only one not in the Midwest.

kogi bbq food truck californiaBarry J Holmes/Shutterstock

California

Food trucks are an urban staple today, but when Kogi BBQ hit the streets of LA in 2008, finding customers was an adventure. Kogi did it by posting its daily menu and whereabouts on Twitter. The smell of spicy, kimchi-covered Kogi Dogs helped too. “At every stop, it’ll be hundreds of young people and 12 middle-aged copycats in suits and ties asking where I buy my cabbage,” chef Roy Choi told Newsweek. Here’s what all 50 states look like designed out of food

colorado fool's gold loafFanfo/Shutterstock

Colorado

The Fool’s Gold Loaf—featuring peanut butter, blueberry jam, and a pound of bacon in a sourdough loaf—isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But when Elvis tried one in Denver, he loved it so much that he returned in his private jet to get more for daughter Lisa Marie’s eighth birthday.

subway sandwichPrachana Thong-on/Shutterstock

Connecticut

The first Subway sandwich shop opened in 1965 in Bridgeport, and it’s fair to say the idea was genius. That original eatery was the brainchild of a nuclear physicist named Peter Buck. Today, Subway is the biggest fast-food franchise in the United States, with more locations than McDonald’s. Check out the strangest food laws in every state. 

Chicken broilers. Poultry farm. White chicken walkinng in a farm garden.Ivdonata/Shutterstock

Delaware

Until the 1920s, people raised chickens primarily for the eggs. That changed in 1923, when Cecile Steele of Ocean View ordered 50 chicks for her backyard flock—but received 500 by mistake. Undeterred, the entrepreneurial Steele sold the excess birds four months later at 62 cents a pound, effectively hatching the broiler chicken industry.

Fresh mandarin oranges textureAnastasiia Malinich/Shutterstock

Florida

During World War II, the U.S. Department of Agriculture asked Florida orange growers to ramp up production in order to get vitamin C to the troops. Not long after, a Florida-­based company started selling a new product called Minute Maid. If you head out on a road trip, make sure to hit up the best buffet in every state.

fresh raw green kale packed in plastic box ready to sell isolated over white backgroundGregory Gerber/Shutterstock

Georgia

Georgia is also home to a lot of kale. It’s the number two producer (after California), as well as the birthplace of the growing health-food chain Kale Me Crazy.

 Hawaiian pineapples backgroundShulevskyy Volodymyr/Shutterstock

Hawaii

Hawaii and pineapples go together like peanut butter and jelly, right? Not so much anymore. Pineapple manufacturers, including Dole, relocated their operations from Hawaii starting in the 1980s, citing rising costs. That canned pineapple you’re eating likely comes from Ecuador, Honduras, or Costa Rica. Don’t miss this guide to the best comfort food in each state. 

Raw potato food . Fresh potatoes in an old sack on wooden background. Top viewVal_R/Shutterstock

Idaho

They may be synonymous with Idaho—they’re even on the state’s license plates—but potatoes aren’t native to the state. A missionary named Henry Harmon Spalding brought them west to Lapwai in 1836 and taught members of the Nez Percé tribe how to cultivate them.

Flat lay composition with fresh brownies on parchment paper. Delicious chocolate pieNew Africa/Shutterstock

Illinois

In 1893, the organizers of the World’s Columbian Exposition asked Chicago socialite Bertha Palmer, the wife of the owner of the Palmer House Hotel, to provide a dessert for the event. She requested that the chef at the hotel make a “ladies’ dessert” that would fit into a boxed lunch. Today we call them brownies. Do you know what your state’s favorite Thanksgiving pie is? 

Popcorn texture backgroundandersphoto/Shutterstock

Indiana

A native of Brazil, Indiana, Orville Redenbacher started producing his own popcorn when he was 12. His special hybrid—only one kernel in every 45 doesn’t pop!—helped build an empire.

grilled and barbecue ribs porkgowithstock/Shutterstock

Iowa

The top pork producer in the United States, Iowa is home to nearly eight times as many pigs (23.5 million in 2019) as people (3.1 million residents). Find the best slow cooker recipe in every state

Kansas Wheat Field Harvest 2019MS7503/Shutterstock

Kansas

Every year, farmers in Kansas typically grow enough wheat to make 36 billion loaves of bread. These are the top fall recipes from every state.

Cold Refreshing Classic Mint Julep with Mint and BourbonBrent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Kentucky

In honor of the Kentucky Derby, some spectators at Churchill Downs sip mint juleps in silver-plated cups—at $1,000 a drink—for ­charity.

Homemade Shrimp Po Boy Sandwich with French FriesBrent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Louisiana

The po’boy sandwich was born during the transit strike of 1929, when 1,800 streetcar conductors and motormen took to the streets of New Orleans. The Martin Brothers Coffee Stand and Restaurant provided large sandwiches for free to the “poor boys.” Today, you can order a po’boy with roast beef or fried seafood. Find the best casserole recipe from your state

Close up Traditional chocolate and Pumpkin Whoopie pies made with vanilla cream cheese. Background for bakeries, cafes, restaurantsHalinskyi Maksym/Shutterstock

Maine

Maine’s official state treat is the whoopie pie. “The secret is in the filling, which is cooked. Sour milk and real shortening are involved. But I cannot divulge the recipe, oh no, lest my sisters and I lose our reputations for the best whoopie pies in the county.” —Reader Heidi Sweetwater, Farmington, Maine

layered cake with chocolate-nut cream in a blue dish on a linen tableclothOlga_Ignatova/Shutterstock

Maryland

Maryland’s state dessert, Smith Island cake, dates back to the 1800s, when women made the multi­-layered yellow cakes to send along with their husbands when they went oystering.

dunkin donutspancha.me/Shutterstock

Massachusetts

The town of Quincy isn’t known as the Birthplace of the American Dream for nothing. It was the original home of not one but two fast-food icons: Howard Johnson’s and Dunkin’ Donuts. Here’s what Dunkin’ Donuts was first called when it opened. 

Flat lay composition with healthy cornflakes and milk in bowl on wooden table. Space for textNew Africa/Shutterstock

Michigan

John Harvey Kellogg was the king of cornflakes, but he was almost as famous for his Michigan-based sanitarium and health spa. Among its patients: Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and President William Howard Taft.

betty crockerMuhammad ZA/Shutterstock

Minnesota

Betty Crocker isn’t real! But that didn’t stop this fictional spokesperson, a creation of the Washburn-Crosby Company in Minneapolis (later bought by General Mills), from being named the ­second-most-popular woman in the nation in 1945, right behind Eleanor Roosevelt.

Chocolate cake "Mississippi Mud"Brownie with marshmallow and nutsSEAGULL_L/Shutterstock

Mississippi

It gets plenty hot on the bayou. During the late 1920s, Mississippians would beat the heat by sinking their feet in the mud of the river. Somehow, that became the inspiration for Mississippi mud pie, whose dense chocolate resembles the river’s muddy banks. These are the best places to get hot dogs in every state.

tums medicineSheila Fitzgerald/Shutterstock

Missouri

Do you suffer from frequent heartburn, perhaps from too much barbecue? So did Nellie Acuff Howe. Her husband, St. Louis pharmacist James Howe, invented Tums for her in 1928.

montana rocky mountain oystersJosh Bergeron/Shutterstock

Montana

Rocky Mountain oysters, also known as Montana tendergroins and cowboy caviar—euphemisms all: This dish is made from the testicles of a young bull. This is the best pizzeria in every state.

swanson tv dinnersAP/Shutterstock

Nebraska

In 1953, Omaha-based C. A. Swanson and Sons overestimated the demand for Thanksgiving turkey and found itself with 260 extra tons of frozen birds. The solution? Ordering 5,000 trays and assembling the first TV dinners, complete with corn bread dressing, gravy, peas, and sweet potatoes.

homemade gateau basquebonchan/Shutterstock

Nevada

Nevada has been home to a proud Basque population since the 1800s. The Basque cake, filled with cherry preserves and cream, is still a favorite way to finish a meal of chateau­briand with béarnaise sauce.

stonyfield farmAnthony Rathbun/AP/Shutterstock

New Hampshire

Samuel Kaymen and Gary Hirshberg were running out of money for their organic farming school, Stonyfield Farm, in 1983. So they put their cows to work, started making yogurt, and launched a successful brand. These famous companies originally had very different names

Saltwater taffy full frame background.Michelle Patrick/Shutterstock

New Jersey

Saltwater taffy was invented in 1883 in Atlantic City. The business became so competitive that a patent dispute over taffy-pulling machines went to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1921.

Tamales, Mexican dish made with corn dough, chicken or pork and chili, wrapped with a corn leafAGCuesta/Shutterstock

New Mexico

Locals order their tamales “red” or “green,” depending on their chile pepper preference. Want both? Order yours “Christmas-style.” Here are 8 popular Mexican foods you won’t find in Mexico

Selection of various flavors of fresh bagels on a neutral wood table backgroundlazyllama/Shutterstock

New York

Why do bagels have holes? So the Jewish immigrants who sold the yeasty rolls on New York City’s Lower East Side at the turn of the 20th century could stack them up on sticks to take to customers.

Sweet potatoes piled for marketPaul Pellegrino/Shutterstock

North Carolina

North Carolina produces more sweet potatoes than the other 49 U.S. states combined. In fact, many North Carolinians insist that sweet potato pie—not pumpkin—is the true Thanksgiving dessert. Try one of these best Thanksgiving recipes of all time.

Yellow long spaghetti on black background. Thin pasta arranged in rows. Yellow italian pasta. Long spaghetti. Raw spaghetti wallpaper. Thin spaghetti. Food background concept.Telekhovskyi/Shutterstock

North Dakota

Do you love digging in to a plate of spaghetti? Thank the farmers in the Sioux State. About 60 percent of the 75 million bushels of durum wheat produced annually to make pasta is grown in North Dakota.

Closeup of white round mints inside individual clear packagesArtist ALICIA HAYES/Shutterstock

Ohio

Chocolate gets messy in the summertime. So in 1912, Cleveland-­based candy maker Clarence Crane came up with a sweet that could stand up to the heat. Crane borrowed a machine used by pharmacists to make pills and developed a new candy with a hole in the middle. In honor of its shape, he named it a Life Saver. Check out the most popular candy the year you were born.

oklahoma onion burgerBrent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Oklahoma

The onion burger dates to the 1920s, when a resourceful­ ­restaurant owner fried up a pile of shredded onions to make a small hamburger go a little further. These are the most iconic diners in every state. Have you been to the one in your home state?

oregon craft beerBon Appetit/Shutterstock

Oregon

In 2013, Oregon became the first state to designate an official microbe. Why? Because without Saccharomyces cerevisiae—aka brewer’s yeast—you couldn’t make a decent craft beer, and Oregon has more than 280 craft breweries across the state.

shake shack liberty shellDW labs Incorporated/Shutterstock

Pennsylvania

As the anti-chain chain, Shake Shack loves to localize its menus. Which means that in Philadelphia you can dig into a Liberty Shell, a cannoli shell filled with vanilla custard, strawberry puree, and lemon ricotta.

fried squids or octopus (calamari) with sauce - unhealthy foodsgowithstock/Shutterstock

Rhode Island

The Ocean State is the smallest in the union, so perhaps it’s fitting that it has an official state appetizer: calamari.

Homemade Southern Hoppin John with Rice and PorkBrent Hofacker/Shutterstock

South Carolina

South Carolinians ring in the New Year with a helping of Hoppin’ John. The dish of rice and black-eyed peas has roots in the state’s Low Country. Eat it with some collard greens and corn bread and feel lucky all year.

tanka bar south dakotaChet Brokaw/AP/Shutterstock

South Dakota

Native Americans have long eaten dried meat with cran­berries for sustenance. The Oglala Lakota on the Pine Ridge Reservation updated their age-old recipe of dried buffalo meat and cranberry for the protein-happy to create an energy bar called Tanka Bar in 2006. If you prefer eating in, these are the best supermarkets in every state.

moon piesLouella938/Shutterstock

Tennessee

The Chattanooga Bakery was looking for a name for its marshmallow-filled cookie sandwiches, so a salesperson asked some coal miners what size snack they’d like to take into the mines. One man looked up at the full moon and said, “About that big.” The Moon Pie was born.

Chili con carne in frying pan on dark wooden background. Ingredients for making Chili con carne. Top view. Chili with meat, nachos, lime, hot pepper. Mexican/Texas traditional dish Chili con carne Elena Eryomenko/Shutterstock

Texas

What’s the difference between Mexican and Tex-Mex food? One telltale sign is cumin, which is rarely used in Mexico but is a staple in Texas chili con carne. 

jell-odesigns by Jack/Shutterstock

Utah

U.S. Senator Mike Lee hosts “Jell-O with the Senator” every week in Washington, DC, in honor of his home state’s official snack. Here’s the most famous invention from each state. 

Natural-Remedies-to-Boost-Your-Sex-DriveElvira Koneva/Shutterstock

Vermont

The saffron in your ­paella or pilaf might come from the Green Mountain State. In 2015, the University of Vermont began cultivating the exotic spice, a crocus flower product.

South American food Brunswick Stew pulled meat with vegetables on chicken broth and barbecue sauce close-up in a pot on the table. horizontal top view from aboveAS Food studio/Shutterstock

Virginia

Virginia and Georgia both have locations named Brunswick, and both lay claim to inventing Brunswick stew. Virginians use chicken, while Georgians opt for pork and beef with hotter spices.

Overhead shot of six plain donuts in a white bakery box. Wood table background. Aimee M Lee/Shutterstock

Washington

In 1923, brothers Thomas and Walter Belshaw ­pioneered an automated doughnut maker in Seattle. Krispy Kreme and Dunkin’ Donuts still use Belshaw equipment today.

Morel's are distinctive mushrooms. They are prized by gourmet cooks, particularly for French cuisine.Don Bendickson/Shutterstock

West Virginia

Come spring, West Virginia residents head to the hills in search of “molly moochers,” aka morel mushrooms. The forest fungi are considered a delicacy in the Mountain State and beyond. Calling all caffeine addicts, these are the best coffee shops in every state.

fresh dairy homemade products - cottage cheese, goat cheese, organic yogurt and milk on white backgroundoxyzay/Shutterstock

Wisconsin

Just because Wisconsin is America’s Dairyland doesn’t mean all the dairy has to come from cows. The state is also our leading producer of goat milk and, of course, goat cheese.

Flat lay composition with raw cutthroat trout fish on grey tableNew Africa/Shutterstock

Wyoming

Wyoming is also a fisher­man’s paradise, with more than 70 species of fish, including the state fish: the cutthroat trout. If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll definitely want to visit the best ice cream shop in every state.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Jen McCaffery
Jen McCaffery is an associate editor for Reader’s Digest. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Prevention, Rhode Island Monthly, and other publications and websites. When she’s not writing or editing, she’s growing veggies or trying to figure out the way home from assorted trails.