Oct 9, 2012

United Tastes of America: Delaware's Culinary Tradition

As one of the Mid-Atlantic states, Delaware is of course renowned for its fantastic seafood. However, there’s so much more surprising information about Delaware’s culinary history than meets the eye.
Delaware was settled by the Dutch and the Swedes early in 17th century and fell under English rule in the latter half of the century. A number of German settlers also populated the area, providing the colony with even more cultural diversity. All of these nations have enjoyed a culinary tradition of rich and hearty foods which ultimately impacted the cooking practices of Delaware. Meat and dairy products were widely consumed as well as sweet pastry items, often incorporating the tantalizing fruits of the New World.
Chicken is without a doubt the most important fowl in Delaware. Now, to eliminate confusion, while Delaware is known as the Blue Hen State, the Blue Hen Chicken’s historical association with the state isn’t a result of its widespread consumption. Rather, the Blue Hen was used for cock fighting, a sport frequently enjoyed amongst the soldiers of the American Revolution. The Blue Hen Chicken continues to be bred in Delaware today and is the official state bird.
The most important chicken in regards to Delaware’s culinary tradition is the broiler chicken. The broiler chicken industry began in Delaware in 1923 with a woman named Cecil Steel who found herself with an overwhelming surplus of young chicks. In order to eliminate this problem, Steel decided to butcher the chickens at a young sixteen weeks, meaning that the chickens would be smaller and able to cook more quickly. Steel called her chickens “broilers” because of the quicker cooking time, and they became a huge hit. So today, chicken remains one of the most widely consumed foods in the state of Delaware.
   Peaches are a particularly important crop for Delaware. The area’s early Scandanavian settlers were highly intrigued by this new and delicious fruit and began to grow peach orchards. Peach production only increased over time, and in the late 19th century, Delaware was the biggest peach-producing area not only in the United States, but also in the entire world. Unsurprisingly, peaches have become a primary staple of Delaware cuisine, and peach pie is one of their most beloved desserts.
Due to its coastal location, the fishing industry in Delaware is huge, making seafood a state-wide favorite. Delaware’s preferred fruits of the sea are weakfish, the state fish, and crabs. Weakfish is also known as Sea Trout and is a popular fish along the entire U.S. Atlantic coastline. The fish can grow to be very large (one meter long with a weight of 19 pounds!) and provides a significant amount of food to Delawarians. Crabs, however, are a particular favorite in Delaware, the blue crab being one of their most harvested and consumed foods. No beach party in Delaware would be complete without steamed crabs and ice cold beer!

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