Need ideas about regional American foods.
May 13, 2011 10:25 AM   Subscribe

Need ideas about regional American foods.

I'm teaching a summer school class for middle schoolers involving cooking regional (US) foods and I need ideas. What regional foods would be interesting to preteens? I don't necessarily need recipes, although that would be great, too. What home-make-able foods come to mind?
posted by orangemiles to Food & Drink (33 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
posted by MonkeyToes at 10:30 AM on May 13, 2011

Pinto beans and cornbread is a staple meal in much of the South and Southwest.
posted by workerant at 10:30 AM on May 13, 2011

Cheesesteaks, chicken spiedies, whoopie pies...

another Previously and another
posted by knile at 10:31 AM on May 13, 2011

You would probably enjoy poring over The Food of a Younger Land a book assembled by Mark Kurlansky about the huge regional variations in American cuisine before things started getting much more standardized. Comes with some recipes.
posted by jessamyn at 10:31 AM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

Fried Chicken?
posted by litnerd at 10:34 AM on May 13, 2011

Stuffed Quahogs, if you can get the ingredients. Delicious, and basically non-existent off of Cape Cod.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:35 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yikes! How did I miss those links? Thanks, all.
posted by orangemiles at 10:36 AM on May 13, 2011

Lowcountry Boil, Georgia and the Carolinas.

Also, there is a lot of regional variation in barbecue style, all of which are delicious.
posted by phunniemee at 10:36 AM on May 13, 2011

Whoopie Pie has a funny name and an interesting, even controversial, history. and it's home-bakeable.

General Tso's (or Gao's) Chicken would maybe be even more of an interesting American dish to talk about but not sure if it practical to cook it for the kids.
posted by Bwithh at 10:37 AM on May 13, 2011

hmmm... although General Tso's Chicken is not really regional...

however Cashew Chicken is
posted by Bwithh at 10:38 AM on May 13, 2011

Kind of low brow, but for that age group, making hot dogs and topping them off per the various regional standards would be fun, and easy.
posted by COD at 10:41 AM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

How about a taste test between Hellman's and Duke's mayonnaise? But don't let the kids in on the secret that they're both the same mayo with different names.
posted by emelenjr at 10:45 AM on May 13, 2011

If you need a drink, try an Egg Cream! Note that it has no eggs or cream. It's pretty simple to make.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:45 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Do you want foods that they can actually cook at home or just want to know regional foods to talk about, because those can be different things. For example, I'm from Evansville, IN, which is actually a bit famous (in terms of regional foods) for Brain sandwiches, but I wouldn't have middle schoolers make those. I'd lean towards the more fun foods myself - like the new england frappe vs milkshake difference (milkshakes are frappes here, while here milkshakes are some else entirely, plus, as a bonus you get the whole new england obsessed with ice cream bit in there, I think we have the largest consumption of anywhere else in the US). Other than that, I'd say whoopie pies are good, your differences between crumbles across regions, Kuchens are big in Southern Indiana, you could also do regional BBQ differences, making the different sauce types should be fun and yummy. You could make the different types of pizzas (California, Chicago, NY), as well.
posted by katers890 at 10:53 AM on May 13, 2011

Are you mostly looking for foods that are deeply rooted in and identified with particular places (like low-country shrimp and grits in Charleston, SC, or runzas in Nebraska) or for foods that differ across regions (like NYC pizza vs. Chicago pizza vs. California pizza or Texas chili vs. Cincinnati chili vs. New Mexico chile)?
posted by dersins at 10:57 AM on May 13, 2011

Cincinnati chilli
posted by mmascolino at 11:14 AM on May 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

Cheese curds (especially deep fried) and brats!!!

Those are my 2 suggestions for Wisconsin :P
posted by symbioid at 11:24 AM on May 13, 2011

Frito pie immediately came to mind as being both regional and suitably acceptable to the preteen palate.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:33 AM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

Gooey Butter Cake and Toasted Ravioli From St. Louis.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 11:42 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Barbecue sauces would be relatively easy to make yourselves-- so many regional differences there.

they're both the same mayo with different names.
emelenjr, you take that back! (yes, I check luggage just so I can bring Duke's back with me from trips south...)
posted by travertina at 11:50 AM on May 13, 2011

Emelenjr, you mean Hellman's and Best Foods are the same. I've done my own taste test and almost every southern state has their own regional mayonnaise : JFG-TN, Blue Plate-LA, (owned by the same company but made differently) Duke's-NC, Bama-AL, Mrs Filbert's(?), Sauer's-VA( these four ditto).

If I'm missing anything else, feel free to fill in.
posted by brujita at 11:52 AM on May 13, 2011

Western NY State talking here. Buffalo: Chicken wings, Beef on Weck. Rochester: Garbage Plate, White Hots.
posted by tommasz at 12:13 PM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

American Chop Suey!
posted by Sal and Richard at 12:31 PM on May 13, 2011

Sourdough bread (I think you'd buy a starter?) is something I miss outside of California! You could talk about different regional/cultural breads. And bagels!

Paula Deen, who is TV's Queen of Southern cooking, has a great recipe for banana pudding. It'd be a good one for the start of the course because it's super easy but fun.
posted by radioamy at 12:39 PM on May 13, 2011

Also I have no idea why, but I have heard that in Nebraska it's very common to eat cinnamon rolls on top of chilli. I don't get it, but my friend swears by it.
posted by radioamy at 12:40 PM on May 13, 2011

That was some hasty typing. Yes, I meant Hellman's vs Best Foods.
posted by emelenjr at 12:41 PM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Other parts of the country will try in vain to do a decent taco, but no one makes them like they do in Southern California. This goes for most Mexican food, but I have never had good pastor or fish tacos outside Los Angeles or San Diego. People I know from CA who move out of state gorge themselves on burritos and tacos from grungy little places immediately upon visiting home.
posted by slow graffiti at 3:43 PM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Order any variety of 'submarine sandwich' (or whatever you call it regionally) and call it a hoagie. Now you have Philadelphia!
posted by Mael Oui at 8:16 PM on May 13, 2011

There's Seattle teriyaki and the Italian beef sandwich from Chicago.
posted by azuresunday at 4:36 AM on May 14, 2011

New England Clam Chowder comes to mind. There is also a book called The New Glorious American Food which has a lot of recipes sorted by region.
posted by Bearded Dave at 4:50 AM on May 14, 2011

You might be interested in checking the following out of the library: David Rosengarten's It's All American Food (it's broken down by cultural/ethnic roots and time periods as I recall, but also by region; you have to look carefully at how it's organized...when I first skimmed through it I was confused by this), Cheryl and Bill Jamison's American Home Cooking, New England Cookery by Judith Jones, and Edna Lewis' The Taste of Country Cooking.

off the top of my head, probably forgetting a zillion things:

Upstate NY: split white hots, the special "hot sauce" with ground beef and clove (and the thin distinctly condimented and bunned burgers that go with them), spiedies

NY: pizza of course

Ashkenazic Jewish: latkes, brisket, NYC-style deli food (reubens/corned beef, matzo ball soup, egg cream, etc.), kugel, matzo brei, borscht, challah, tsimmes, pierogi, sauerbraten, use of schmaltz and gribenes, bagels, strudel, blintzes, charoset, cheesecake

Pittsburgh/Pennsylvania Dutch: the frywich thing, the general obsession with putting fries inside everything, scrapple, apple butter, Amish pies

Chicago: sausage and dogs (no ketchup!!), pizza

St. Louis: that other pizza

California: tacos, hippie pizza, slow foods/Asian+Continental+American fusion cuisine

New England: clam chowder, brown bread, Boston-style cornbread (superior!), dark gravy, lobster/seafood rolls, fried clams and oysters, molasses-y baked beans, creamy slaw

South/Midwest: catfish, fried chicken, grape soda, sweet iced tea, grits, that other cornbread, fried okra, hush puppies, fried pie, boiled peanuts, Kool-Aid pickles, chess pie, vinegar pie, sweet potato pie, soul food-style cooked greens, Hoppin' John, cola ham, white gravy, mustard slaw, barbecue/pulled pork/smoked ribs, BBQ spaghetti, Arnold Palmer, ambrosia, sweet potato casserole with marshmallow topping, Texas sheet cake

New Mexico: bizcochitos, the whole cuisine based around different chiles

Mexican: salsas, ceviche, agua fresca, pozole, soft tacos with super fresh ingredients, barbacoa, chilaquiles, carnitas, tortas, elote, paletas, all of those amazing intricate baked goods, tres leches cake, sopapilla, huevos various ways...

Tex-Mex: fajitas, chimichangas, taco salad and the hard-taco or cheesy-loaded type of taco, enchiladas as most Americans know them, nachos, chili
posted by ifjuly at 8:26 AM on May 14, 2011

Every middle schooler should learn to make hotdish.
posted by RedEmma at 10:29 AM on May 14, 2011

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