Regional Ingredients and Foods

In today’s world, it is difficult to find foods that haven’t traveled far beyond their origins. However, there are ingredients that are used in specific ways, mainly out of necessity. While the ingredient may be common, the way it is prepared may not be. Are there foods that you feel are common to your area but apparently is not heard of beyond it? These may be foods that nearly every bar or restaurant near you serves or even recipes that your grandma and everyone else makes. Maybe it isn’t restricted to a particular county but a region of the country such as the Northeast or the Midwest or Southwest. What foods do you eat that you have a hard time finding elsewhere?

One of the foods that I find rather Midwestern or at least common to particular areas of Illinois is zucchini bread. While zucchini is not a regional ingredient, after all it is called courgette in the UK and elsewhere, zucchini bread seems to be extremely common in the Midwest. I have a few cookbooks from different locations and a couple will have more than one recipe for zucchini bread. Those in particular come from community based cookbooks, such as cookbooks created by church organizations. Because of the fact that there are multiple contributors, there are multiple versions for zucchini bread as if it is another bread in the banana bread family. However, unlike banana bread where the banana flavor is important, zucchini bread does not require that you taste the zucchini. As far as I am aware, zucchini bread is mainly to use up zucchini that has grown way past saute size or at least that is why my family would make it. My family has grown zucchini that were very close to if not longer than 2 feet in length. There is very little you can with fresh zucchini of that size. My family has since decided to toss some of the grated zucchini into soups and stews. I am not sure of the origin of zucchini bread but I have a feeling it originated in the Midwest. Please feel free to correct me on the origin of zucchini bread if it originated elsewhere. Regardless, zucchini bread seems to be created due to a need to use up excess produce before it spoils, and zucchini bread is not the only product like this.

When I studied abroad in Valencia, I came across orange wine in the Mercat Central. Now some may think of grape wine that is orange in color, but that is not what I am referring to. I am describing wine that is quite literally made of oranges. This not something I have come across before in the US although I would not be surprised if it exists in alcohol stores. Now while I did not ask for the background regarding orange wine (my Spanish was not that confident in understanding), I feel that orange wine or other orange based products make sense in consideration of sweet oranges and the production thereof. If a farmer has a larger harvest than they can probably sell before the produce expires, the farmer will look for a way to extend the life of the harvest as best they can. Orange wine sounds and tastes like a fantastic way of utilizing excess oranges or at the very least a niche product that differentiates itself from the typical product. Again orange wine would appear to be a regional product, although this one could find its way beyond its original boundaries.

Whether it is a product that is made by the individual with the common garden or a farmer with more harvest than the market can hold, regional products are a fascinating look at the agriculture and community of a particular area. The ingenuity and creativity of the people who create the food are showcased in these regional dishes. If you have local cookbooks, especially community based ones, what foods pop up over and over? Which foods does everyone have their own version of? Are there products that you have discovered to be regional after moving to a new place? Please comment below and thanks for reading.

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