The United Steaks Of America: What Is Your State's Signature Protein?
Americans sure do love our meat. We eat more of it per year — a whopping 270 pounds! — than the residents of any other country except Luxembourg. But only a handful of states even name meat items amongst their official foods, which is a little weird. So Slate writer L.V. Anderson has kindly taken it upon herself to create the "United Steaks of America" map and accompanying descriptions, featuring a different meat item assigned relevantly to each state — check it out, the graphic is really cute.
How about your state's meat? Do you feel a sense of regional pride, having learned of it? I, for one, am not sure that I identify with the appropriate meats at all. Having grown up outside Atlanta, Georgia, I should feel some affinity for ham hocks (the pig's ankle or calf). But the truth of the matter is that I spent much of my time in the south deliberately avoiding previously perfectly good veggies (such as collards, green beans, and black-eyed peas) that had been tragically simmered to their mushy deaths in pools of slimy pig fat and gristly bits.
Then I spent a few years in Phoenix, Arizona, where the official meat is carne asada: "skirt (or flank) steak marinated with garlic, jalapeños, and lime juice and then grilled, carne asada can be served in tacos, burritos, nachos, or quesadillas, or on top of fries." I did come to appreciate carne asada fries in my final days there — the dish is just as magical as it sounds: a pile of fresh French fries topped with nacho fixins and bite-sized pieces of the marinated steak. However, most of my time in Arizona was spent eating vegan (that's a story for another time...) so I was much better-acquainted with the region's falafel and fake "meat"-peddling joints.
As for now? I live in New York City, and its meat is the hot dog. But, like many of you, my primary hot dog associations are of course from childhood (which I spent in the south!) Though New York gets credit for innovating the hot-dog-plus-fruity-shake combination, New York food cart "dirty water" dogs — the most ubiquitous ones here — are actually the worst thing ever. No thanks.
As you can see, maybe the problem is that Americans move around so much that state boundaries — and cuisines — are too porous to permit easy characterization, meat preferences included. If the United Steaks of America does inspire you, pace yourself in trying all of the states' representative meats, though: a high-protein diet in middle age apparently can increase your risk of cancer and diabetes. Happily, this risk abates when you're older, so hang in there and go hog wild later.
Here are some of the standout state "meats":
1. Florida: Alligator
2. California: Tofu
3. Montana: Rocky Mountain Oysters (aka bull testicles)
4. Rhode Island: Hot wiener
5. Kansas: Burnt ends
6. Mississippi: Pork rinds
7. Maine: Surf and turf
8. West Virginia: Squirrel!
9. Utah: Gelatin
10. Hawaii: Spam