America is a huge country with immense variation in climate and topography and a diverse population drawn from hundreds of nations around the world. These factors add up to incredible variety in what we eat.
Despite the unstoppable expansion of homogenous fast-food places across the land, every region, every state, probably almost every town and city has its own way of cooking and combining foods and discovering things to eat that other places disdain or ignore.
The most vivid showcases for American regional food variations — and imagination — are state and county fairs, known for their sometimes silly but often tasty (and frequently heart-burning) inventions. These are some good examples of the strangest fair foods ever.
24/7 Tempo has assembled a list of some of the strangest foods not just at fairs but in America in general, state by state. Some of the most unusual foods, not surprisingly, come from the South, one of the country’s richest culinary regions. Find out, for example, what iconic Southern foods everyone should try.
“Strange” is, of course, a subjective term. For instance, most of us don’t eat a lot of the more specialized organ meats — pig’s intestines (chitterlings), fish liver, duck tongues — but to people in whose cultures these are daily fare, they’re anything but weird. (A few such things are included here.)
The items on this list are not what most people would consider the best traditional American dishes.
They include unlikely mash-ups (New Mexico’s green chiles on an ice cream sundae, Massachusetts’ chow mein sandwiches), localized ingredients (Louisiana’s nutria, Washington’s geoduck), and sometimes specific creations unique to a single restaurant (North Dakota’s 5th Bro hot dog, New Jersey’s Overloaded Oreo bagel).
It should be stressed that just because these foods might be considered strange, they aren’t necessarily unpleasant. Some of them may seem like bad ideas, but many of them are genuinely delicious. And all of them are worth at least considering if you’re someplace where they’re served.