Every red-white-and-blue cranny of America has its culinary quirks rooted in regional tradition or local predilections. From Alabama to Wyoming, each state has foods that might look unappetizing or downright disgusting to an outsider -- but to homegrown kids, they’re a little slice of home.
Some have gross names that belie their tastiness. Some have delicious names that belie the fact that they're some dead animal's reproductive organs. Some are just… well, gross. But hey, if you love them, there's nothing wrong with that. We're not here to judge.
Oh wait, yes we are. Here are the grossest, weirdest foods from every state in the US.
Alabama: Ambrosia salad
Technically, ambrosia may be the nectar of the Greek gods, but even Zeus might think twice before sticking his lightning bolt into a bowl of this stuff. It's the perfect dish for anyone who believes salads would be drastically better if you got rid of literally all vegetables and replaced them with a kitchen-sink collection of mass-produced sugar bombs. A refrigerated mix of sweetened fruit, like canned pineapple and mandarin oranges, gets tossed with mini-marshmallows and shredded coconut, as well as a creamy dairy item, such as cottage cheese, sour cream, or Cool Whip. It looks like something straight out of a '70s dinner party that probably gave all the people in attendance food poisoning.
Sometimes called "Eskimo ice Cream," akutaq's origins involve no actual dairy, because Western Alaska's rough territory for cattle farming and it's really hard to milk a seal, OK? The original version of the stuff was essentially a mixture of seal and/or other animal fats (moose! Walrus!) with whatever wild berries were on hand, though sugar and milk are sometimes added nowadays. We mean no disrespect to the ingenuity and steadfastness of the native Alaskan peoples (hey, you work with what you've got) when we say Ben & Jerry’s probably isn't rushing an akutaq flavor to market anytime soon, even if our Alaskan friends who've sampled the stuff assure us it's actually pretty decent.
Arizona: Mesquite pods
While taking in the stark beauty of the Arizona desert, you might notice some of the vegetation appears to have 8in-long, chartreuse-colored spiders crawling out of its branches. Chill. Not only are these lil' wormy monsters harmless legumes, they're actually edible. And, more importantly, they (especially the honey-mesquite variety) taste like organic Skittles. You can pop them right off the branch and eat the pods like jumbo green beans, or mash them into a fine powder to make flour, jelly, or even cocktails. See, Skittles do grow from trees. They're just a little uglier. The only catch is the alien that eventually hatches inside your stomach if you eat more than three.
Arkansas: Buffalo ribs
Driving in the Ozarks, you're gonna run into a catfish joint or two, and many will also serve buffalo ribs. If you're wondering where the hell the buffalo roam in Arkansas, you'll need to look under water: They're actually the ribs of the buffalo fish. The ribs look like they were pulled straight from an enormous animal (maybe a dinosaur?), which is a tad disconcerting considering they're from a freshwater fish. If you can get over the looks, you'll be treated to a fried-and-flaky white fish. It's strange that in a state with damn good normal BBQ ribs, the populace would also eat ones that look like they were pulled straight from a T. rex's ribcage and fried. That's just how they roll in the Natural State.
California is like the entire country encapsulated: There are snow-capped mountains, beaches, deserts, and forests populated by hippies, entrepreneurs, farmers, and celebrities. Naturally, the cuisine is as kaleidoscopic as an acid trip in the Haight circa '67. But when it boils down to the grossest culinary tradition, we're going to single out a homegrown movie star and her stab at creating a food empire. Goop. It's aggressively wholesome. Nauseatingly au naturel. Enragingly "clean." The Gwyneth Paltrow brainchild -- a cookbook/online shop/wellness curator/what-the-hell-are-you-anyway -- is a mere symbol of California's gross-but-"healthy," trend-humping food scene. From barren bone broths in Mason jars to detox systems that could easily be mixed up with Goop's extensive skincare selection, Goop abounds with… well, super-expensive Goop. It's enough to make you want to consciously uncouple with your lower intestine. Also, it's called Goop.
Colorado: Shredded wheat
Colorado gave us the dulcet tones of John Denver and a lifetime's worth of weed jokes, but it also gave us shredded wheat, that crispy-then-mushy fiber bomb that is nobody's favorite cereal. It's a precursor to all those drab/gross "active lifestyle" foods that Coloradans swear by. And by "active lifestyle" we mean "actively pooping in a nursing home."
Connecticut: New Haven clam pie
There are people who think pizza should always be minimalist. Then there are people who throw any and all types of crap on it, no matter how weird it is (see: pineapples). But both constituents can agree that Connecticut's weird obsession with loading clams atop white-sauced pies seems a little suspect. Clams are good. Pizza, obviously, is good. Clam pizza looks like this. Yeah. When introducing clams -- naked, slippery, slug-like -- to almost any food, you'll end up with a white-hot mess. Even the grace of pizza can't ease their alien appearance. Now this is where it gets complicated. If you can get over the damn unpretty appearance and actually try one of these salty, savory, deeply flavorful pies, your taste buds will cover for your eyeballs. This beautiful nightmare is probably the second-best thing to ever come out of Connecticut. No. 1 of course being the UConn women's basketball team. Respect.
Delaware: Slippery dumplings
When you add the word "slippery" in front of any food, it instantly becomes unappetizing. Slippery pancakes. Slippery salads. Slippery beef Wellington. See?! Such is the tragedy of the vastly underappreciated slippery dumplings. It doesn't help that the dish looks like the inside of a chicken pot pie… that a golden retriever ate then promptly puked back up. Slippery dumplings are a Crock-Pot miracle of savory chicken and thick noodles in a rich, gravy-like chicken broth. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder (sucks for slippery dumplings), and yeah… so is taste. But what this dish lacks in looks it brings in homestyle comfort. These things are like that really ugly kid from high school who turned out to be a demon in the sack. Except they won't tell all your friends at school the next day. Despite the name, you can trust these slippery, slippery dumplings.
Florida: Gator tail
If Florida men are known for anything, it's not following the rules. Shit, it's not just the men: Everyone from Florida has just a little bit of crazy tucked behind their flowing and opulent rat tails. But seriously, while the Sunshine State abounds with hot food destinations, its redneck, DGAF roots really show through with their predilection for gator tails. They stick it in stews. Mash them into burgers. They eat them along with gator ribs, for Jeb's sake! But while eating a (literal) cold-blooded killing machine might make some northerners queasy, the people of Florida dig right in. To be perfectly honest… it tastes just like chicken. Rubbery, succulent chicken. Reptile wins. And so does Florida. For once.
Georgia: Ham hocks
They sound like a crude-yet-SFW male porn star name and smell like a boiling plate of concentrated Slim Jim grease. If you're thinking this disconcerting mound of meat looks like a dismembered swine knuckle -- you have an oddly accurate, yet still disturbing, imagination. These are indeed pig knuckles. And even the long, rich Southern tradition of sticking them in a stew or serving them up solo alongside collard greens can't erase images like this. Ham hocks are what you would certainly call an "acquired taste." Sadly, if you didn't start munching on these paws very early in life, you'll probably never get into them. It's kind of like learning to be ambidextrous, but with way more pig grease.
Hawaii: SPAM musubi
When you go to Hawaii, a few things are certain. You'll relax on a beautiful beach. You'll probably get sick of hearing ukuleles. And at some point, you'll be confronted with SPAM musubi, which is like a nice piece of nigiri, but with the highly processed Minnesotan canned meat product where sashimi-grade tuna should be. SPAM has been a favorite in Hawaii ever since it because a sought-after export from the mainland in the early days of its statehood, largely because it lasts forever. For mainlanders, it has baggage as a mystery meat. In Hawaii, it has clout as, well, a mystery meat. But hey, you're in Hawaii. If the worst thing that happens is you discover you still don't like SPAM, you're in good shape.
Idaho: Sturgeon eggs
Most Idahoans subsist on a steady diet of steak, fried chicken, tots, and tallboys. But the state is also the prime producer of American beluga. Which is a fancy way of saying American caviar. Which is a nice way of saying big-ass sturgeon eggs from Idaho's rivers. It apparently tastes like popping a salty miniature balloon full of fish goop and butter in your mouth. Also, it sells for more than $100 an ounce. So if you see it on a menu in Idaho… get the steak, fried chicken, or tots.
Illinois: Gravy bread
If you're at all familiar with the Chicagoland delicacy that is Italian beef, you know that some indulgence-minded locals (which is many of them) like to order their sandwich dipped in the warm vat of beef juice for extra flavor/sloppiness. Well, gravy bread is kinda like that, except there's no sandwich. It's just a wet, soggy roll saturated in spiced beef juice. And no joke -- some people even order this for DELIVERY, meaning you get a slightly cold, wet, soggy roll saturated in beef juice. It doesn't taste too terrible -- everyone loves to dunk bread in soup, right? -- but even its adherents can admit it's mildly horrifying.
Indiana: Brain sandwich
While hardly ubiquitous in the Hoosier State, brain sandwiches (not a euphemism) still have their strongholds, particularly down around the southern tip in and around Evansville, with the Hilltop Inn being the most celebrated purveyor of the delicacy. They had to switch it up from cow brains to pig brains because of mad cow, but the brain train is still chugging along. Mercifully, the brains are breaded and fried, which -- along with a hit of mustard -- can make just about anything at least palatable. But there's an unmistakable mushiness that makes it hard to escape the reality that you've gone full-zombie. Alton Brown did not seem to mind too much.
Iowa: Loose meat
On a fundamental level, what is essentially a combination of ground beef and carbs can only achieve so much grossness. That said, Iowa;s famed loose-meat sandwiches (most associated with the Maid-Rite chain) are doing themselves as few aesthetic favors as possible with an admittedly solid foundation. It looks like a Sloppy Joe that forgot to get dressed, or a burger that just gave up on life. The taste ain't gonna hurt ya -- again, it's bread and meat -- but it isn't likely to win any sandwich beauty contests, either. Also, "loose meat" just isn't the most appealing phrasing. Maybe an image makeover is in order.
Pronounced "bee-rock" but best said in the style of an angry old German man attempting to clear his throat, bierocks are also sometimes called "cabbage rolls" because back in the day Germans would find a way to stuff cabbage into anything. These days you'll frequently find them in small Kansas towns heavy on German ancestry. You'll bite into one and notice that the innards kinda resemble cat food (cheese optional!), then probably keep eating because they actually don't taste so bad and are basically the forefather of the Hot Pocket. They're not winning any beauty contests, though.
Kentucky: Lamb fries
Look, you're actually down here. If you're gonna chomp on some deep-fried testicles -- yep, "fries" are a euphemism for gonads -- you might as well go with lamb rather than some promiscuous sheep. You might not want to think about how they're made: parboiled, sliced in half, and then submerged in boiling hot oil. Brutal. They kind of taste like clam strips. Except, you know, way less fishy. And way more nutsack-y.
You think frog legs are questionable? Try eating what's best described as a "large, semi-aquatic river rat" boiled in a Crock-Pot for four hours. Don't worry, it has a demi-glace! For real, the nutria is a bayou classic… despite the off-putting nature of eating what is most definitely a giant rodent. If you've had rabbit (which is even too much for some people) you might draw parallels -- it's similarly rough, tough, and chicken-y. Hey, for the longest time the people down there simply used what they had around. And what they happened to have around were hordes of enormous, terrifying, yellow-toothed water rodents. It's admirable, in a way. Unfortunately, no amount of Cajun spices could erase those nightmare-fueling teeth from our brains.
You think Maine, you think lobster. Strip out their cultural acceptance and there is a certain inherent grossness in the lobster, what with its resemblance to a big ol' bug, but we're not going to march in here and straight-up claim that lobster is gross when lobster rolls exist. But there IS a certain byproduct of cooking lobster that most assuredly qualifies, and it is called tomalley, which you probably know simply as "that gross mushy green stuff." Biologically speaking, it's the lobster's liver and pancreas, and while it's deep with flavor you've likely unknowingly encountered in soups and sauces and the like, some Mainers swear by eating the stuff straight up. Let's just say there's a reason it hasn't caught on as a popular lobster roll topping.
Maryland: Stuffed ham
Americans have a proud tradition of stuffing foods into other foods -- look no further than your Thanksgiving turkey for evidence. But something about this particular incarnation, which looks a whole lot weirder than it sounds, just doesn't sit right. Particularly popular in Southern Maryland, the stuffed ham consists of a corned ham (brined, not smoked) that's deboned, hacked at a bit more to open up stuffin' space, filled up with greens (kale and cabbage are common choices), wrapped in cheesecloth, and boiled. The result: a boiled ham that looks like it's erupted in cracks with some dark green phlegmatic disorder. Once sliced up, it's just a plate of ham 'n greens, but surely there are tastier, less frightening-looking ways to achieve this flavor combo?
Massachusetts: Marshmallow Fluff
In ye olde New England, classics are typically gut-sticking dishes with hardscrabble roots: Boston baked beans, creamy clam chowdah. Hell, even scrod -- which sounds like the wet bunch in Sully's nether regions five hours after the packy run -- is young, tender fish. But in Marshmallow Fluff -- a creepy white substance with connections to neither land nor sea -- Massachusetts salutes its all-processed American destiny: Literal tubs of the stuff, blindingly white and strangely shiny, are the apex of lab "food." Fittingly, the sandwich named for this sticky white stuff, fluffernutter, could be confused with insider-speak for a porn warm-up. Spackle it on white bread with peanut butter -- two other processed foodstuffs with enough sugar to kill a small deer -- and you've got yourself a straight, sweet shot to diabetes.
Michigan: Some shit your neighbor killed
You can get a coney on every corner of Detroit and Flint and a pasty on every mile marker in the Upper Peninsula. And everywhere in between, you'll probably run across some dude in a camo hat selling venison chili, possum jerky, whitefish dip, or God knows what else he killed with his 10-year-old son and gutted on the spot. Sometimes it's delicious. Sometimes you chip your teeth on buckshot. But hey, you gotta take chances.
Minnesota: Pickle dog
The state only gets approximately three weeks of decent weather after its hellish winter. So when the tundra thaws out, these people want to go apeshit. And they do it at their notorious state fair, where the most aggressively disagreeable delicacy is probably the pickle dog. This is not a hot dog with a pickle on it. This is a lone dill pickle covered in loose, messy sauerkraut, drenched in Thousand Island dressing, and wrapped in a thick-cut slice of roast beef. It's honestly like you lost a bet and had to eat a sandwich made of the weirdest combo of food your (ex-) friend could find in your fridge. It's not pretty. But hey, it's summertime in Minnesota. It doesn't last, and sometimes you need to grab life by the pickle and take some risks.
"Koolickle" is not the new Future ft. Bieber and Pharrell single. It is a pickle soaked in Kool-Aid. Yes. You read that right. In Mississippi, they eat that. Willingly. And the result is uglier than the love child of the Kool-Aid Man and the Vlassic stork. It looks like the centerpiece of a Stephen King novel. But if you give it a chance, it's not that bad. After all, it's beloved for a reason. The brine and sugar and artificial flavors blend together in every bite to deliver one of the more bizarre taste combos you might ever stumble across.
Missouri: St. Louis-style pizza
Nobody outside of Missouri truly appreciates St. Louis' pizza, probably because they've never had Imo's Square Beyond Compare®. A yeast-free, cracker-thin crust is topped with aggressively spiced, slightly sweet tomato sauce and St. Louis staple Provel cheese. The processed oddity comes in ropes reminiscent of TWIZZLERS Pull 'n' Peel and is only available in the depths of Middle America (Missouri). Because of its consistency, one bite of the crunchy, slimy square -- oh yeah, it's cut into squares because how can you fold a cracker? -- will burn the roof of your mouth, then just sort of stay there. The burn lingers, which sucks because pizza is supposed to be your friend. But on the other hand, it's kind of brilliant because you don't have to spring for extra cheese; there's still some left on the roof of your mouth.
Montana: Rocky Mountain oysters
Montanans don't flock to the annual Testicle Festival to feast on fried gonads just to be gross. They're actually a delicacy, and once you get past the fact that you're eating reproductive organs, they're surprisingly flavorful. They're basically kind of like sliced, fried meatballs. Except they used to produce bull semen.
Nebraska: Hot beef sundae
The visual trickery of making "sundaes" out of savory foodstuffs has become a popular trope at state fairs all over the country, but Nebraska has a particular affinity for them and was on the bandwagon early. You get the idea -- the mashed potatoes are the ice cream, the roast beef is chocolate. Top it with some gravy (caramel?) and a cherry… tomato and you have yourself quite the dessert-looking food pile! It'll taste fine, but have you ever found yourself tearing into some roast beef and potatoes and thought to yourself, "I wish this looked more like ice cream." No. No, you have not.
Nevada: That plate of food you made at a casino's all-you-can-eat buffet
No one goes to Vegas to eat responsibly. And you will not find a grosser plate in the state than the ones tourists assemble while eating at its many legendary all-you-can-eat buffets. Where else will you see a scoop of expensive caviar laying next to a soft taco partially covered in marinara sauce from the spaghetti next to it. You'd be rightfully shamed if you ate that plate for dinner in your house, or somehow convinced a chef to serve it to you in a restaurant, but if you're at a Vegas buffet, anything goes. You shovel those fish eggs into your mouth after housing a huge chocolate sundae, you beautiful creature, you. No one's going to tell you what you can eat today.
New Hampshire: Grape-Nuts ice cream
The Granite State may have taken its nickname a bit too literally with this WTF ice cream. Take one delicious, creamy cold treat and then completely ruin it with grandpa's favorite cereal. New Englanders may argue that this adds a crunchy counterpoint to the lush dessert. But the texture (and flavor) of concrete pebbles -- and the chipped filling -- is something we need like buckshot in the back of the head. We just expected more from a state whose motto is "Live Free or Die," like maybe one dessert worth the heart disease.
New Jersey: Pork roll
It sounds like a raunchy teen comedy. In its unsliced form, it looks like a hot dog stuffed with helium, a Goodyear blimp of meat. Basically, it's a devastatingly salty processed pork product that's an unassuming-but-nuclear threat to the cholesterol of anyone who's ever lived in the Garden State. The first time you bite into a pork roll, egg, and cheese (PRE&C, SPK), it feels the Boss himself just struck a power chord on your freakin' taste buds. You see, it only looks like Chris Christie. It plays like Springsteen. When placed between two bagel halves and paired with cheese and scrambled egg, it defies all logic. It jumps space and time. Your head will thud with the question: Why and how is this so good? And your body will answer: Shut up and just go with it, dummy. If you like ham, there's a good ch… actually, you know what, buddy? We don't care if you like it or not. Get out of our state, jerkoff!
New Mexico: Carne adovada
Pork? Unquestionably delicious. Red chile? Also tasty. And yet when you look at a plate of carne adovada, it resembles a plate of wet dog food in marinara sauce. Which is crazy, because how friggin' delicious is carne adovada? The pork is tender, the red chile adds a hit of heat, and if you eat it at a place like Mary & Tito's in Albuquerque, you get it paired with a plate of perfectly cooked sunny-side eggs and hash browns. If you're not from the Southwest and the look of carne adovada grosses you out (as it well should), we recommend you just close your eyes and start chewing.
New York: Garbage plate
Contrary to popular belief, New York doesn't begin in Coney Island and end somewhere around 125th St. And you'll be happy to know they are into some weird shit up there -- the adorably named garbage plate is proof enough. Remember when you were 5 and you took everything in your parents' fridge, put it in a bowl, and microwaved it? Well, they've been selling a grown-up facsimile of that pile o' crap in Rochester, Buffalo, Saratoga, and all of upstate New York even before the Bills were around to start losing football games. Legend has it a college student showed up at Nick Tahou Hots and asked for a plate with "all the garbage" on it. He got the entire kitchen: hamburgers, cheeseburgers, grilled cheese, eggs, home fries, baked beans, haddock, macaroni salad, Italian sausage, chicken tenders, and… look, I can't keep naming the ingredients or I will kill your data plan. It was everything. The point is, the garbage plate is a white-hot tornado of trashy, obnoxious brilliance. Just like the best Bills fans, actually.
North Carolina: Livermush
It never had a chance. It's called… livermush. Could anything called livermush ever be appetizing? Both "liver" and "mush" are so gross on their own, not even a space wants to be stuck between them. And shockingly, livermush is not grosser than the sum of its parts. Pig liver, head parts, and cornmeal make up these little bars that look like burnt Pop-Tarts. It might be a Southern staple, but from the outside looking in, it's the world’s most nauseating door stop. It looks like a cinder block. How are you going to adore a food that could double as the foundation of the YMCA?
North Dakota: Lutefisk
This gelatinous end product of whitefish -- it's dried, soaked in lye for days, and then boiled -- came to the Midwest courtesy of the same immigrant population that ensured the state's dependence on high-SPF sunscreen, and over the years it's been waning in popularity. Which is a shame because… actually, no. That's not a shame at all. Shit's gross. Sorry, Bjorn. We love the meatballs though.
Ohio: Cincinnati chili five-way
There's nothing inherently gross about Cincinnati chili, per se, if applied right. But here's a real question: Would you put spaghetti sauce on a hot dog? Probably not. So why would you put chili on spaghetti, then cover it in cheese, beans, and onions? Also, a chili five-way is disappointing to hardcore TLC fans every single time.
Oklahoma: Fried rattlesnake
While you can technically experience this treat anywhere rattlers are found, killed, sliced up, and fried, not everywhere has entire festivals dedicated to these noisy, toothy characters. While some have -- shockingly -- likened the taste to chicken, the New York Times likened it to "sinewy, half-starved tilapia." Paper of record, indeed! If you should find yourself hungry in Oklahoma, may we recommend an onion burger instead?
Oregon: Crimes against ice cream
Oregon's ground zero for the ultra-fancy, ultra-weird ice cream craze, as evidenced by the constant lines for boutique parlors like the delicious Salt & Straw. Sometimes these flavors are weirdly great (big ups to blue cheese and fig!). Other times, well… blood pudding ice cream is a thing. Nope. Especially when smaller, less-capable confectioners start mimicking the pros. Which is to say, if you're ever in a small town of less than 300 people and somebody offers you corn ice cream in a Parmesan cone… maybe get the mint chip.
Have you ever baked a Funfetti cake and then left it out in the sun for 16 years? You'd probably end up with something looking like scrapple. Yes, people actually put this in their mouths. Like North Carolina's livermush, it's meat cake (meat log? Meat brick?) made with parts of animals that normally get sold to the glue or dog food factories. A Pennsylvania Dutch delicacy mush, it's pork scraps and trimmings mixed with buckwheat, flour, cornmeal, and spices. You can chop it straight from a loaf and eat it solo or fry up a slice and stick it between some Wonder Bread. But should you? A scrapple a day keeps the doctor away. But that's just incidental, it also keeps everyone else in the world away. Because you smell like scrapple, man.
Rhode Island: Chop suey sandwich
Chop suey -- an American-Chinese dish that consists of meat, eggs, vegetables, and often noodles cooked in a starch-thickened sauce -- isn't exactly the most attractive of dishes. Slapping it between two hamburger buns doesn't make it any prettier. But while the chop suey sandwich is uglier than a subway rat in a Christmas sweater, it is also insanely delicious. It packs all the umami and salty flavor of your favorite Chinese takeout dish and places it conveniently between two pieces of bread. The good news is you don't have to use chopsticks. Sure, it's messy, but hey, that's what napkins were invented for.
South Carolina: Chitterlings
Oh, whatever. You eat intestines when you eat hot dogs. So why do outsiders wince when they're served up alongside delicious Lowcountry fare (and also in most legit soul food joints)? Oh, right. Because they're straight-up intestines, fried or boiled. Get 'em fried. And maybe get them at the annual Chitlin Strut, which helps distinguish the actually delicious sides by throwing them a whole festival, complete with a beauty pageant. Why would something super gross be affiliated with beauty pageants? Oh… wait, there's a whole TLC series that answers that very question.
South Dakota: Chislic
It may sound like an off-brand Chicklet, or some sort of prairie disease, but chislic is, in fact, dice-sized meat cubes (lamb, beef, wild game) seasoned and thrown into a deep fryer, then served to be eaten with toothpicks. It's actually delicious, though the sight of shriveled-up cubed meat in a basket might make you feel like you have a strong case of the chislics.
Tennessee: The Fat Elvis
When we think of the King, we prefer to think of him jump-starting adolescence in the country by gyrating in his "Jailhouse Rock" garb, not bursting out of a jumpsuit due to a steady diet of peanut butter/banana/bacon sandwiches.That's not an inherently gross combo, mind you. But in a state known for great BBQ and hot chicken, a food that will make you think of/resemble Elvis in his last days is, in and of itself, something of an abomination… especially when you eat one at a cafe near Graceland.
Texas: Deep-fried butter
Nothing embodies the true extravagance of Texas quite like the array of fried food found at the Texas State Fair. For three weeks in October, Texans can indulge in artery-clogging cuisine such as fried Oreos, fried Twinkies, and deep-fried Jell-O. But in 2009, Abel Gonzales -- king of all fried foods at the fair -- concocted a way to just straight-up deep-fry butter. By freezing a slab of butter and wrapping it in biscuit dough, the dairy melts into the dough as it enters the fryer, creating a taste similar to the butteriest piece of toast you've ever had. The concoction became so popular that after Gonzales won the Most Creative Big Tex Choice Award, Oprah Winfrey visited the booth in Dallas to try some of it herself. Vendors continue to try to outdo each other each year with more and more ridiculous fried food creations, but deep-fried butter will forever be lauded as the pinnacle of grossly indulgent Texas State Fair food.
Utah: Jell-O salad
Utah's relationship with Jell-O is sprawling and complicated (hint: read about it here), but basically, Mormons love to bring it to big church gatherings. A nice slice of the jiggly stuff is fine, totally fine. But Utah goes over the line here. Like a bored 1950s housewife with a bangin' new copy of Good Housekeeping, they STILL make Jell-O salads. Like, Jell-O with fruits and vegetables floating around inside. Jesus and Brigham Young -- look at this. Honestly, Dwight's stapler might be more appealing than this SLC delicacy.
Vermont: Raw milk
If there's one area in which Vermonters take their love of all things local, organic, and nauseatingly farm-to-table too damn far, it's drinking unpasteurized baby sustenance from a wrinkled cow udder. Listen, we're all for getting back to Mother Nature, man. But maybe dying and diarrhea from E. coli are some of the better things left to the pre-industrial era. That shit is gnarlier than a barefoot, dreaded Deadhead on the third day of a festival. Let's just stick with the raw kale, Moonbeam.
Virginia: Brunswick stew
Inherently, there's really nothing gross about this hearty, delicious stew of veggies and meat. It's the perfect meal for adaptability, and adapt is apparently what people did when the northern flying squirrel became endangered, causing cooks to resort to, ugh, chicken and rabbit and… whatever else they had access to. Which could be pretty much anything. Which is to say, if you have an aversion to critters -- airborne or otherwise -- ask what's floating in that there bowl.
Yes, at some point some beachcomber wandered the shores of the Pacific and spotted what appeared to be a gigantic penis clamped in a clam-shaped mousetrap and declared, "You know, I'ma eat that." It's basically a clam, and it tastes just fine. But you will Google how to pronounce it (hint: it's nothing like how you say "geography"). And you will see a picture. And it will make you feel sick.
Washington, DC: U Street Taco
The nation's capital is a bit shorthanded when it comes to foods that are truly native to its borders, with the half-smoke made famous by Ben's Chili Bowl probably being the most noteworthy. Well, a few years ago the enterprising folks at Washington City Paper gave DC a horrifying late-night Frankenfood to call its own, taking one of said half smokes and wrapping it in a jumbo slice. Trying a bit too hard? Perhaps. Kinda gross? Definitely. Would we try it after a night of DC drinking? Probably.
West Virginia: Fried squirrel
While the squirrel is hardly uniquely West Virginian, these rats with better PR do have a bit of culinary cache in some Appalachian communities. West Virginia has a more casual attitude toward consumption of certain types of critters than most states, as evidenced by the annual West Virginia Roadkill Cook-Off -- which does not mandate actual roadkill be used, but still. Whether said squirrel was dispatched with a gun or a car, there's just something off-putting about consuming America's most prevalent bushy-tailed tree dweller in a big ole fricassee.
Wisconsin: Butter burger
Let's just get this out of the way: A butter burger absolutely does not taste BAD. How could it with that name? But in a state perhaps best known for its dairy-related excesses, shouldn't there be some kind of limit? There's definitely a moment when you're digging into a traditional butter burger at Solly's when you notice melted butter slowly pooling on the plate below you and pause to question every life decision that's led you to that point. You don't pause long enough to stop eating the burger, because it's covered in butter. But you're still a bit grossed out.
Wyoming: Chuckwagon breakfast
Nah, it's not really that gross. Wyoming folks -- all 600 of them -- eat pretty well, actually. This is just a big ol' breakfast cooked over a fire, cowboy-style. Beans, eggs, the whole shebang. But the word "chuckwagon" reminds us of old dog food commercials, and the whole experience can also really get screwed up by flies. Or coyotes. Whatever, it's Wyoming.
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