The Weekly List: State food trivia



Maine and Pennsylvania both claim the whoopie pie/photo by Arnold Gatilao via Wikimedia Commons

Lots of people know that Pennsylvania is famous for pretzels and who doesn’t associate New York with bagels? But where did pancake mix come from? What about Moon Pies? And which states might challenge each other to a whoopie pie smackdown? A little culinary excavation reveals state secrets.


The first barrel of tequila produced in the U.S. was from Nogales in 1936. Gotta do something with all that cactus. 


Ever see a photo of Mark Twain sucking on a lollipop? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean he never tried one. The Connecticut Yankee’s home state is credited with the world’s first lollipop, made by the New Haven-based Bradley Smith Co. in 1908. The story goes that George Smith named the candy after a racehorse called Lolly Pop. The first Lolly Pops sold for a penny. 


Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The modern American chicken industry began in Delaware in 1923, when Mrs. Wilmer Steele of Ocean View became the first to raise chickens for meat rather than eggs.

Maine vs. Pennsylvania

The world’s largest whoopie pie was made for charity in 2011 in the city of South Portland, Me., and the state has named it the official treat. But Pennsylvania claims (quite vociferously) that the confection made of frosting sandwiched between two round cakes is a product of Amish and Pennsylvania Dutch culture that goes all the way back to cave paintings (OK, exaggerating here). Can’t we all be whoopie pie lovers, not fighters?


Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix was created in St. Joseph in 1889 from Missouri-grown wheat. The first nationally distributed ready-mix food was created by speculators Chris Rutt and Charles Underwood, who were looking for a something to do with the bankrupt mill they had just purchased. The name was reportedly inspired when Rutt watched minstrels in blackface perform a popular song called “Old Aunt Jemima.”

New York

The 19th century industrialist Cornelius Vanderbilt reputedly was a big old grouch. When he complained to the cook in a Saratoga Springs restaurant that his fried potatoes weren’t crispy enough, the cook – a man named George Crum, also said to be a big old grouch — purposely overcooked and over-salted them, hoping Vanderbilt would leave. Instead, he loved them. “Saratoga chips” – known today as potato chips – are the country’s best-selling snack food, with $9 billion worth sliding down our gullets each year.

New Jersey

Anyone with even a passing knowledge of Snookie (seriously? You need to watch more television) knows that the Garden State is no bastion of temperance. But in 1869 Welch’s grape juice was created in the town of Vineland by a Methodist doctor who opposed serving wine during communion services. Welch called his product “unfermented wine.” As if.


Designed as a filling snack that miners could carry with them, Moon Pies were created in 1917 by the Chattanooga Bakery. Company lore says that they got their name when a salesman asked a miner how big the snack should be and he framed the moon with his fingers. But hey — the name probably doesn’t matter much. Who wouldn’t eat graham crackers slathered in marshmallow and chocolate (wait a minute, isn’t that a “s’more”…?)












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5 Responses to The Weekly List: State food trivia

  1. Profile photo of Jamie Schler
    Jamie Schler February 3, 2013 at 3:54 am #

    I love this and hope you guys come up with more fun food trivia! And isn’t it funny that those of us who grew up eating both Moon Pies and S’mores never put the two together or considered them the same thing?

    • Profile photo of Michele Kayal
      Michele Kayal February 5, 2013 at 7:34 pm #

      Jamie, thanks so much for your comment! The moon-pie/S’mores separated at birth thing didn’t occur to me until I was actually writing the story! So our elementary school palates can be forgiven. Thanks so much for writing.

    • Judy Gray July 3, 2013 at 10:05 am #

      I think the reason that there was no “relationship” is that s’mores are warm, gooey goodness, usually made around a campfire but a moon pie can be packed away in a child’s lunchbox. When my kids were younger, they use to microwave moonpies slightly to make them all warm and gooey . . . yum!

      • Profile photo of Michele Kayal
        Michele Kayal July 4, 2013 at 6:35 am #

        Judy, your kids are geniuses.

  2. Profile photo of Betty Ann Besa Quirino
    Betty Ann Besa Quirino February 28, 2013 at 11:55 am #

    What an interesting round up of state food trivia! Who knew? Thanks for sharing these fun facts!