Tasting America

Published 9:24 pm Friday, April 10, 2009

Like many people, it is one of my lifelong dreams to rent or buy an RV and just hit the open road. Unlike most people though, my motive for wanting to travel is not so much to see America, but to taste it. It seems that every state, or at least every region, has some delicacy or local treat for which it is most famous. I would like to die having tried them all.

Just the other day, our former editor, Ashley McKnight-Taylor, e-mailed me a link to webpage on bonappetit.com that will make my work much easier when I hit road, bib and fork at my side. The Web site has captured the essence of every state by gathering the best delicacy to buy, eat and drink while in that state. The page suggests everything from rabbit with house-cured pancetta and sweetbreads in Arkansas to bitter rhubarb and strawberry punch in Rhode Island to something called a ramp dinner in West Virginia.

Being the foodie that I am, just thinking about all these culinary adventures makes my mouth water. And, thanks to this webpage, I now have a state-by-state to-do list of sorts to optimize my efficiency when I take a bite out of America.


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One point over which Ashley and I had a little discussion via email, however, was the ham sandwich as the representative meal to have when in the fine state of Virginia. It was Ashley’s opinion — and an interesting one at that — that Virginia is highly underrated as a seafood haven in this country. Naturally, though, in other parts of the country, when people think Virginia, they think ham. So I expected no less than the traditional from the list in that regard.

But my position is that some things get to be traditional for a reason. They’re good and have been good for quite some time. And that’s very true of Virginia ham. So, I do respect the list for honoring the best of what each state does.

But being from North Carolina, I would have gone absolutely batty if they hadn’t mentioned chopped pork barbecue — vinegar-based, not the western North Carolina red-sauce garbage, either. But the list did my state proud, so I offer no protest.

The thing I like about lists like this is that they fire up people’s regional pride and get them to take notice of what’s good in their area. That is the main reason I want to taste America, one state at a time. I love to see people get excited about where they’re from and what they like to eat. Because, when you think about it, the tastes and textures of the place where you grew up or live are really what make it feel like home.

So, America, make sure you leave a place setting for me; I can’t wait for a taste.

Troy Cooper is the page designer of the Suffolk News-Herald. He can be reached at troy.cooper@suffolknewsherald.com.