As the presidential election creeps closer and closer, you might find yourself wondering, "But what does the government do, exactly?" The short answer is, absolutely nobody knows, especially not the pols themselves. Washington, DC is basically the Upside Down. But, every once in a while, our government does something so meaningful that a single beam of light tears through the bureaucratic haze, alerting the people of its presence and restoring our faith in democracy and confidence in the American dream. That's right -- I'm talking about signing some weird-ass foods into official state law.
We at Thrillist salute these here United States for standing by these 19 totally offbeat official state foods, from the Gilfeather turnip to the Natchitoches meat pie and every stop in between.
North Dakota: Chokecherry
This official state berry sounds like something out of Fifty Shades of Grey, looks like those toxic holly wreath berries, and tastes strongly astringent, equal parts tart and bitter. But, it's loaded with antioxidants and therefore super, super good for you, so load it up with sugar and spread it on some toast -- there are definitely worse fruits in the world.
Louisiana: Mayhaw jelly & Natchitoches meat pie
When it comes to local customs, Louisiana proudly takes the cake for absolute strangest. Where else can you find alligator burgers, 24-hour drive-thru daiquiri bars, and an annual festival called Mudbug Madness all within the same ZIP code? It's no surprise that the official state foods -- mayhaw jelly, a sweet, zesty preserve made from a cranberry-like fruit native to the bayou swamps, and Natchitoches meat pie, a deep-fried hand pie stuffed with ground beef, ground pork, onions, peppers, and garlic -- are about as Loo-see-annah-centric as it gets.
Connecticut: Mystic Pizza
Leave it to a state as pizza-obsessed as Connecticut to turn a Julia Roberts movie into an official dish. That being said -- excellent film, fantastic cast, damn fine pie. We're here for this. Keep your eyes peeled for Connecticut's upcoming official state snack food, Gilmore Girls toaster pastry.
This official state beverage has been ruining T-shirts and jacking up YMCA campers across the country since its 1927 invention in Hastings, Nebraska. And, if the Corn Huskers have their way, the Kool-Aid Man, with his obnoxiously cheery disposition and string of excellent '90s TV ads, will keep on keeping on until every kid in America knows the joy of loading a shower head with red powder and watching it scare the pants back on their parents.
South Dakota: Kuchen
German settlers introduced the good people of South Dakota to their future state dessert back in the 1870s, calling this curiously doughy cake-like creation "kuchen" -- which is just German for "cake." Very clever, blondies.
Indiana: Hoosier pie
What's a hoosier? Literally no one knows for sure. But Indiana's state pie -- aka sugar cream pie or, um, "finger pie" because it was traditionally stirred with a single finger (actually dry-heaving right now) -- is simple: a single crimped crust filled with flour, butter, salt, vanilla, brown sugar, and heavy cream. If being a Hoosier means you get to chow down on these caramel custard tarts, count us in.
New York: Yogurt
New York, we gotta talk. You've got your pizza, your bagels, your Buffalo wings, your hot dogs -- hell, you can even claim the black and white cookie! But you turn around and make yogurt your official state food? An unadorned cultured dairy product? That's so... vanilla.
Alabama: Lane cake
At first glance, the Heart of Dixie's official dessert looks like it could double as a prop on the set of The Help -- soft white sponge cake, frosted, and layered with a creamy pecan, raisin, and coconut filling. That's until a 6-year-old digs in and realizes that tasty cream center is 30-40% straight bourbon whiskey. Even lil' Scout Finch fell prey to the Lane cake's boozy ways, blowing up Miss Maudie's spot for baking one "so loaded with shinny" it made her "tight." That probably explains the whole ham costume situation.
Ohio: Tomato juice
Wait -- tomato juice? Without vodka? Hate to break it to you, Buckeyes, but the only time it's acceptable to drink virgin tomato juice is when you're 30,000ft in the air and don't have $7 to spend on a nip.
Maine: Whoopie pie
Everybody's familiar with Maine's affinity for Moxie, but lesser known is its penchant for chocolate cake baked into bun form and injected with fluffy whipped cream. Fact-checkers take note: this Depression-era delight is an official state "treat," not to be confused with blueberry pie, which holds the state dessert title. But the real question is, who knew that ol' Vacationland still loves makin' whoopie? (I'll see myself out.)
Vermont: Gilfeather turnip
That there's even a thing called the Gilfeather turnip is hilarious in itself, but the fact that a local government went out of its way to make this obscure turnip-rutabaga hybrid an official state food is downright silly. It's also the most Vermont thing in the history of time. Namaste, you nutty northerners.
New Mexico: Bizcochito
These simple, cinnamon- and anise-spiked butter cookies are the baked-good version of a Spanish indigenous-American frontier smoothie, a New Mexico-centric whir of cultural influences that would also probably be improved with a scoop of ice cream. They were also the very first cookies ever to be elevated to official state status -- it's not called the Land of Enchantment for nothing.
For reasons difficult to trace, Mormons have long been associated with the jiggly treat -- an LDS-heavy stretch of Utah called the Mormon Corridor even earned itself the nickname the Jell-O Belt -- so the state eventually embraced the stereotype and proclaimed the family-friendly treat its own. It was promoted to official state snack food in 2001 and to this day, Salt Lake City accounts for the nation's highest per-capita Jell-O consumption. Go figure.
Oklahoma: Fried okra, squash, cornbread, barbecue pork, biscuits, sausage and gravy, grits, corn, strawberries, chicken-fried steak, pecan pie, and black-eyed peas, eaten as a single dish
I'd like to start by establishing that, unlike every other state in the union, Oklahoma has pivoted a single state food into an ENTIRE STATE MEAL. Sure, each one of these foods is undeniably delicious and each would make a solid official food, but this massive, multiple-course culinary extravaganza is fit for Trump's 400lb bedridden hacker. Crippling dust storms aside, I'm guessing Oklahomans are kicking back and living the good life -- who the hell has time to put that whole mess together, let alone the capacity to fork the whole thing down? Oklahoma, you're one strange (and potentially diabetic) bird.
Rhode Island: Coffee milk
Rhodey takes old-school coffee with cream a step further by stirring sweet, caffeinated coffee-flavored syrup into a tall glass of milk, a concept ushered in by Italian immigrants long ago. Apparently some locals refer to this official state drink as "coffeemilk" (all one word), while the rest of us just go with "glorified melted Frappuccino."
Texas: Tortilla chips and salsa
In a bizarre twist of events, Texas decided it loved chips and salsa so much it wanted to marry it -- despite the fact that this crispy side dish was actually created in Los Angeles. Maybe I'm just salty about it dissing Frito pie and chicken-fried steak, but an LA original? Do better, Tex. Either way, the next time Taco Cantina stiffs you on chips and salsa refills, call up Rand Paul's daddy and let him hear it. It's your state-sanctioned right, for crying out loud.
North Carolina: Scuppernong grape
According to the internet, a scuppernong grape is really just a plump green muscadine grape variety originally cultivated for wine production. Nowadays, folks prefer their scuppernong in jelly, an earthy, pleasantly tart, hot-pink spread that really knows how to set off a piping-hot buttermilk biscuit. What makes it official state food-worthy, though, is its name, which, when repeated ad nauseam, is a fantastic way to annoy your co-workers.
This full pound and a half of flaky, fruit-filled pastry, baked into a giant oval and finished with a thick smear of sugary icing, is the stuff of munchie-fueled dreams. This sweet treat was brought to the States by Danish settlers, and went on to take over the state, particularly the southern half. Word on the prairie is that a distillery in Middleton, Wisconsin even makes a Kringle Cream liqueur from Wisconsin cream, rum, sugar, and some additional Kringle-y materials -- so, yes please. Wisconsinites, hang on to your mormor's recipe -- it's only a matter of time before some blood-sucking, flannel-clad "innovator" catches on and turns this ginormous breakfast Danish-sweet pretzel monster into the next Watermelon Water™.
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