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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


July 13, 2002 - Issue 65


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Did You Know?


States have taken both the serious and the not-so-serious approach to food-related symbols. Here's a look at some of their efforts:

• Oklahomans either were really hungry, or indecisive when they offered a resolution (not a law) for a state meal that consisted of a choice of many foods: fried okra, squash, cornbread, barbecue pork, biscuits, sausage and gravy, grits, corn, strawberries, chicken-fried steak, pecan pie and black-eyed peas. But not all at one meal.

• Delaware's state fish has many names, including the weakfish, sea trout, gray trout, yellowmouth, yellow fin trout, squeteague and tiderunner.

• Georgia's official crop, peanuts, constitutes nearly 50 percent of the U.S. supply.

• Few states honor commercially made products. However, Nebraska did with Kool-Aid as the official soft drink, based on its creation there in the late 1920s. And Utah recognized Jell-O in a resolution in 2001 as a favorite snack of Utah.

• Georgia honored a folk-life play, "Swamp Gravy." In food terms, swamp gravy is a concoction stirred up from whatever is available. For the play it's a medley of family stories, tall tales and folklore from southwest Georgia.

• Fish are a popular symbol. Three states each honor walleyed pike (Minnesota, Vermont and South Dakota), salmon (Maine, Oregon and Alaska) and catfish (Tennessee, Nebraska and Missouri).

Other fish fall into two main categories: varieties of trout (19 states) or bass (12 states), including freshwater and saltwater species.

• Several states include flowers of fruit trees as their official foliage (peach blossom in Delaware, orange blossom in Florida, sunflower in Kansas, apple blossom in Michigan).

• Arkansas wasn't sure whether the tomato was a fruit or a vegetable, so the state covered all the bases by declaring it both the official fruit and the official vegetable in 1987.

• Trees were noticed, often for the nuts they offered (pine nuts with the piñon tree in Nevada and New Mexico), the pecan tree in Texas (though it also has the pecan as its state nut) and three states with the sugar maple because of its sap that is made into syrup (West Virginia, Wisconsin and Vermont, which also has maple as its state flavor).

• As for official mammals, ten states have the white-tailed deer and three each have bison and black bear. Others include Texas' longhorn steer, Colorado's Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, Utah's Rocky Mountain elk, Alaska's moose and Connecticut's sperm whale.

• And then there are the odd categories, ones even stranger than the state crustacean (two states -- Maryland with blue crab and Louisiana with crawfish).

• Louisiana has its state doughnut (beignet), Massachusetts its state bean (baked navy, what else?), New Mexico its cookie (biscochito) and also an official question ("Red or green?," which has to do with sauce, not stoplights).

• North Carolina has its own state blue berry (guess what that berry is?) and a red berry, too (strawberry). South Dakota has its state dessert (kuchen) and Utah a state cooking pot (Dutch oven). Massachusetts also named a state folk hero (Johnny Appleseed).

• Minnesota has the only state photograph, which became official in 2002. The photograph of an elderly man saying a prayer at the table, titled "Grace," was taken by Eric Enstrom in 1918 in Bovey, Minn.

• The legislation for Vermont's state pie -- apple -- specifies that "a good faith" effort be made to meet one of three conditions when serving the pie: either with a glass of milk, with a slice of Cheddar cheese weighing a minimum of one-half ounce, or with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream.

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Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.

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