Regional Cuisine - Local Dish Recipe Origins
Recipes are often born accidentally. Such was the case with the cheeseburger, coined in Pasadena, California. Legend has it that in the mid-1920s, a teenage short-order cook named Lionel Sternberger accidentally dropped a piece of cheese on a burger he was grilling at a café. Residents of areas all around the country are often proud to call these unique local recipes their own. Here are five favorites from around the country that you can make if you're in the mood for something tasty, regional, and a little bit historied.
Chicago Popcorn Mix: Also called Chicago Style Popcorn, residents have hotly debated which company created the recipe. The mix combines caramel popcorn and cheddar cheese popcorn and was either born in Garrett Popcorn Shops of Chicago or G.H. Cretors of Chicago (inventor of the first popcorn machine). If you'd like to try a unique popcorn mix, make it with our Caramel Pop Corn recipe and experiment with cheddar cheese sprinkled in.
Cuban Sandwich: Every so often, a battle heats up about which city invented the Cuban Sandwich: Tampa or Miami. The Cuban is roast pork, baked ham, Swiss cheese, and yellow mustard topped with dill pickles and served hot or cold on Cuban bread. There are some variations, but food historians tend to name Tampa's Ybor City as the owner of the original Cuban. Experiment with your own version of a Cuban sandwich by starting here: our BBQ Pulled-Pork Sandwich. Then add ham, cheese, and whatever else makes it uniquely yours.
Cheese Curds: If you love cheese but don't happen to live in Wisconsin, you can still be a cheesehead and make this cherished local recipe wherever you call home. Cheese curds, a Wisconsin delicacy, are a sort of byproduct of the cheese-making process. Although they're typically cheddar, they can be made with Colby, Monterey jack, or mozzarella. You know you're eating a cheese curd because it squeaks when you bite down. The next best thing to a cheese curd is our Bacon Mac N' Cheese Bites recipe, which will cure those cheese cravings.
Biscuits: Who would think there's a Biscuit Capital of the World in Natchez, Mississippi? There is, thanks to Regina Charboneau, a native who catapulted her hometown into biscuit heaven by launching a biscuit festival in 2008. The event even includes the crowning of a biscuit queen. She brought her Paris culinary training and combined it with her Southern roots to make some of the butteriest, flakiest biscuits on Earth. She owns a bed and breakfast where guests flock to try her biscuits. Become a biscuit expert yourself and hone your skills with our easy Buttermilk Biscuit recipe.
Whoopie Pies: You see packaged whoopie pies in the store, and they're also known as gobs in Pennsylvania. They weren't the invention of the bakery industry. Instead, they came to life as an Amish specialty in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The pies were invented when someone started making them from leftover cake batter to avoid wasting food. The first whoopie pies were sold commercially, however, in Lewiston, Maine, around 1925. They came from Labadie's Bakery, which is still open today. The chocolate cake-like sandwiches filled with fluffy white frosting were once made from batter with vegetable shortening. For unique versions of whoopie pies you can whip up at home, try out Strawberry Whoopie Pie, Chocolate Chip Red Velvet Whoopie Pie, or Red, White, and Blue Whoopie Pies (all made with butter).
If you come across a local recipe that you're hoping to try, visit Food Lion. Search the site, and you'll likely find adaptations on old or new locally invented recipes. You never know — you may end up creating a recipe that becomes your community's own culinary lore.