One of the greatest things about food is how it has the ability to define us. Whether it’s a family dish that’s been passed down for generations, a recipe that’s used to celebrate our religion, or something that’s indicative of our culture, food has a way of tracing our roots back to their beginnings and defining who we are.
Food not only defines us as people, but it’s also telling of where we come from, too, especially within America’s borders. Visit Chicago and you’ll immediately become familiar with their pizza specialty: deep-dish; there’s no question as to where a Boston cream pie recipe came from; and you’re unlikely to meet anyone who doesn’t know that a classic cheesesteak comes from Philly.
In their newest cookbook, Recipes Across America, Taste of Home pays tribute to some of America’s most defining dishes, with more than 700 regional recipes that span the country, all the way from Maine to Arizona. The collection, which will be available in early September, was compiled from Taste of Home’s readers’ recipes and diligent research as to which recipes are the most defining of particular areas, which are the highest quality from their database, and which receive the most feedback from users on their site.
"I like to call it our contribution to the local food movement. All of our recipes come from readers from around the country," Taste of Home’s editor-in-chief Catherine Cassidy tells The Daily Meal. The recipes are not only indicative of a particular region in the country, but some go as far as representing a particular neighborhood within a city. Like how the Cobre Valley Casserole recipe, which there are "hundreds of versions of," on the site, says Cassidy, was chosen based off that particular reader’s method and choice of ingredients, and therefore is a great representation of that reader and her specific neighborhood.
The book is "almost like a social studies book, too," Cassidy explains, because it includes the great folklore behind each recipe; why it’s called what it is, quotes from the readers and their experiences with the recipe, and additional twists that can be used to add to each recipe. "The book really provides so much richness around each of these recipes," says Cassidy, because "it’s as much about the story behind the recipe as it is about the recipe itself."
Paging through the book not only gives you a history lesson on our country’s various regions, but it also gets you inspired to get into the kitchen. Each recipe was carefully chosen and tested by the editors of Taste of Home, and they're representative of that certain level of trust Taste of Home has with their readers. Some recipes were chosen because they’re a particularly easy version of that dish, others for their ingredients, like with the Cobre Valley recipe, and some were chosen because they came from the source of the original, iconic recipe itself. For example, the Philly cheesesteak recipe from Pat’s King Steaks isn’t just a local Philadelphian’s take on it — it was actually given to Taste of Home from one of the founder's grandsons and is included in the book (and here) for you to try an authentic and close-to-perfect recipe of the classic sandwich.
Taste of Home’s Recipe Across America is like taking an American road trip in your kitchen, and they’ve shared 10 definitive recipes with us today for you to get a taste of what American cooking is all about. Buckle up and join us to see which recipes define America, and visit Taste of Home's website to preorder the cookbook before it goes on sale September 12.
Anne Dolce is the Cook editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @anniecdolce