11 Regional Food Traditions Only Locals Know About
Pumpkin shows, potato festivals and meat raffles? We love these quirky food traditions.
Alabama: MoonPie Drop
What better way to ring in the new year than with a snack? Mobile has a tradition of watching a giant moon pie, instead of the traditional ball, drop called the—what else?—MoonPie Over Mobile. As the 12-foot, 600 pound and, alas, fake MoonPie descends during the midnight countdown, the crowd receives actual MoonPies to eat at the same time. There are a lot of other New Year’s traditions involving food and good luck, too.
Florida: Strawberry Festival
Other than The Beatles’ song “Strawberry Fields Forever,” the annual Florida Strawberry Festival is likely the biggest ode to the fruit ever seen. The yearly celebration of the strawberry harvest in late February-early March in Eastern Hillsborough County spans nearly two weeks and more than 10,000 acres of farmland, attracting approximately 500,000 visitors. The festival has all the usual carnival attractions families love, which we can totally get behind, but the strange part is all the eating contests including strawberry spaghetti and strawberry-garlic mashed potatoes. Check out these strawberry recipes that you don’t have to travel to Florida to enjoy.
Georgia: Peanuts and Coke
There are a lot of strange food combinations out there that actually taste amazing when you dare to try them, i.e. pineapple and pizza, chocolate and cheese, pickles and peanut butter. The combination of peanuts and Coke is pretty standard, especially as far as baseball parks are concerned. But it’s pouring the peanuts inside the Coke that makes for a weird Georgia tradition. According to the National Peanut Board, it’s about as southern a tradition as biscuits and gravy. Here are some more southern drinks you might not have heard of.
Idaho: Potato Drop
Idaho has pretty much become synonymous with potatoes. It makes sense then (sort of) that instead of a yearly ball drop on New Year’s Eve, people in Boise, Idaho watch as a giant potato descends at the countdown to midnight.
The state and the whiskey are practically synonymous. Most of the world’s bourbon is made in Kentucky, and that is where its long, brilliant history began. There are festivals every year dedicated to bourbon such as the Bourbon & Beyond Music Festival. Bourbon was used as medicine to treat everything from fevers to snakebites to teething and it took the place of paper money back in the 1800s. By the way, this is the difference between bourbon and whiskey.
Louisiana: King cake
People from New Orleans adore their king cake tradition. Every year starting on Three Kings’ Day (aka January 6) through the Mardi Gras season, local bakeries pump out hundreds of king cakes topped with yellow, green and purple sugar. They are the signature dessert at any self-respecting resident’s party this time of year, and inside each cake, a tiny plastic baby is hidden. The lucky person who gets the slice of cake with the baby tucked inside has to host the next party.
Maryland: Lemon sticks
The lemon stick treat is a Maryland staple dating back more than 100 years. Every year at Baltimore’s spring festival, people give out lemon halves with peppermint sticks shoved in the center as an edible straw. Apparently, it is a sweet and tangy treat that can’t be beat. Every state has one food you have to try.
Minnesota: Meat raffle
Yes, this is exactly what it sounds like. In Minnesota, communities frequently host raffles where the prize is a nice, fresh cut of premium meat. Head down to your local Minnesota market, restaurant or bar and throw in a few bucks for a chance to win some dinner.
Ohio: Circleville Pumpkin Show
Circleville, Ohio celebrates the harvest season with great vigor every October during the Pumpkin Show. People enter their pumpkins to be judged, host parades and even compete to become Miss Pumpkin. Speaking of pumpkins, here’s how to carve a pumpkin.
South Carolina: Chocolate Groom Cake
The southern tradition of a bride presenting her groom with his own special cake on or right before the wedding day still persists in South Carolina. The classic choice of flavor for the cake is chocolate, and the cake can be made to resemble the shape of something important to the groom, like a hobby or a building from his college. The bride apparently only gets the main wedding cake. Somehow, that doesn’t seem very fair.
South Dakota: Potato Days
The people of Clark, South Dakota sure love their spuds. The yearly Potato Days Festival in early August is a means of honoring their favorite crop and having fun for the whole family. Here, mashed potatoes aren’t just for eating—they’re for wrestling. Next, read up on the most popular pie in each state.