iReport: Veggie-ography of America
July 5th, 2011
09:15 AM ET
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Food says so much about where you’ve come from, where you’ve decided to go, and the lessons you’ve learned. It’s geography, politics, tradition, belief and so much more and this week, we invite you to dig in and discover the rich, ever-evolving taste of America in 2011. The week will culminate with a Secret Supper in New York City, and Eatocracy invites you to participate online starting Monday July 11th at 6:30 p.m. E.T.

You can tell a lot about a place from the kinds of vegetables (and fruits) eaten there. Crops vary from place to place, and growing season to growing season.

As part of the cultural census for CNN's Defining America, we took a look at the things people eat for dinner.

When we looked at the submissions that came in, it was interesting to see how the people who responded to the assignment were consuming different sorts of produce around the country.

Joy Huber of Seward, Nebraska, showed us a locally themed "Cornhuskers lunch" as a tribute to the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers. To represent her state's most famous crop, she served a meal with corn on the cob featured prominently, along with red-and-white foods for the school colors. Huber also served grilled beef with the meal, another local favorite.

"In the Midwest, dishes are based around beef with lots of cattle farmers, pork and chicken."

Michael Arnold, 46, of Marshall, North Carolina, made a dinner of a garden salad, chicken Parmesan, basmati rice, collard greens, sliced apple and a glass of red wine. He grows the collard greens in the garden. Still, he added, acceptance of the greens isn't universal where he lives.

"Many of my friends hate collards even though we live in the South and they are common," he said.

The East Coast is home to some lovely berry harvests. Berry picking is a family Fourth of July tradition for Janie Lambert of Hughesville, Maryland. She usually picks blackberries with the kinfolk, but this year the group picked the many raspberries in the patch and made a pie out of them. The berries are also good for munching, she says.

Down in the Gulf region, Ariel Gratch of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, headed to a local farmer's market to pick up the necessary ingredients for stuffed tomatoes with asparagus. Gratch says he discovered a new love for vegetables after growing up a picky eater and consuming "mainly fried chicken, French fries and fish sticks" for a long time. Then, one day he tired of ramen noodles and started experimenting.

"The more I cooked, the more willing I became to try new things. Additionally, dating a vegetarian and trying to keep kosher in the deep South kind of forces me to eat a lot of vegetables."

California was veggie-heavy. In San Diego, California, Tricia Berry is a vegetarian, and she says that getting to eat plenty of plant-based foods is one of the good things that comes along with being an empty nester. She shared a photo of an eggplant Parmesan meal with us. Ingredients include eggplant, tomato sauce, almonds, mozzarella cheese, panko crumbs and olive oil. One of her goals is to make sure there will be plenty of protein. With summer seasonal fruits around, she enjoyed a salad of cantaloupe and blueberries.

And in Culver City, California, we saw a vegetarian version of southern soul food from Ron Hudson. The meal features collard greens, mustard greens, corn on the cob, black-eyed peas, and macaroni and cheese.

What do you eat where you live? Do you grow any of your own food? Share your photos and participate in the CNN iReport cultural census, part of CNN's Defining America series. We want to hear from you.

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Filed under: Buzz • Cultural Identity • Culture • iReport • Vegetarian

soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Noxious Sunshine

    Living in Arizona, we largely ate Mexican food.. Or well.. I still eat it even here in Nashville (my fiancee is Mexican).. Staples are El Milagro tortillas, grilled cactus, spicy tomatillo salsa, and carne asad/al pastor/costillas de res marinada, etc.. If we're with my parents, thwn she's either making fried chicken, steaks, or standing rib roast.. Usually with canned veggies & instant mashed potatoes (mom got lazy on us over the years lolz)

    July 6, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  2. AleeD

    Raised on the W. Coast of Florida by a Bronx native & a Mass native, my veggie-ography isn't typical anything. I still live here and have a hard time describing to anyone what Florida cuisine it. It varies too much from county-to-county. It's not Southern, citrus, palm fronds and Cuban sandwiches (or that plant that grows between the rows). Probably the most common denominator is seafood ..... but this is about veggies.

    I'd be interested to know what other Florida residents & natives see as veggies specific to where they live.

    July 6, 2011 at 8:16 am |
    • Rydon

      Hi AleeD, Waving from Tampa!

      Strawberries, Strawberries and more strawberries! Asparagus, tomatoes, and of course oranges!

      There is a good amount of Cuban food. I'd never heard of Flaun (sp) until moving to Tampa 11 yrs. ago.

      July 15, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
  3. Jacques Cousteau

    Sea turtles are my favorite.

    July 6, 2011 at 7:55 am |
  4. CA

    Mapping America By What it Eats?! Really. I can guarantee you that the VAST majority of people rarely eat like what is shown above.

    July 6, 2011 at 6:12 am |
    • Matt

      You must not get out much.

      July 6, 2011 at 7:46 am |
      • Smitty

        Sorry Matt – I get out often & CA is correct. You have to go hunting for the dishes featured. Stuffed tomatoes with asparagus in theBig Easy? Who are we kidding here! If it was fried okra, I'd buy it.

        July 6, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
  5. mommawombat

    In the Ozarks, I can make a wonderful summer meal of sliced garden tomatoes, cucumbers in salt and vinegar with sweet onions and green peppers, corn on the cob and fresh green beans made with hot bacon grease and cooked until they fall apart. Best part of it is is that it all is straight out of my garden. This is wonderful by itself or throw a barbecued pork steak or slab of ribs with it, and you have the best the Ozarks has to offer!

    July 6, 2011 at 1:23 am |
  6. Penny Taylor

    Here in Spokane Washington, heart of the Inland Empire, we enjoyed a dinner this evening of Poached Salmon with lime and garlic, barley pilaf with carrot, onion, celery and green pepper, fresh ripe watermelon and strawberries. Unsweetned iced tea is a favorite drink and tonight we had lemon ginger iced tea.

    July 5, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
    • JB

      The "Inland Empire" is the San Bernadino-Riverside CA area. They outnumber your area a thousand to one. Sorry.

      July 6, 2011 at 7:47 am |
  7. JB

    What a crock. Californians are junk food junkies. I moved to San Francisco thinking that everyone would be eating tofu and sprouts, but they head for Inn N Out burger, cholesterol laden Filipino food, or taco trucks when they're hungry.

    July 5, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
    • Smitty

      That'll teach you to buy into stereotypes. San Franciscans are grazing omnivores with an appetite for anything and everything. Always been, always will be. My mother's family cookbook that spans multiple generations covered a panacea of home made enchilada sauce (HOT!), chop suey (a San Francisco dish), marinara sauce and the puffy French toast my wife made last Sunday.

      July 6, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
  8. Michelle

    @ Smitty –
    I agree with you about the traditional California veggies. I'm from Oregon and my parents are from California. But remember that there are tons of soul food restaurants on the West Coast and many Californians of Southern origin still eat Southern foods like collard greens – especially African Americans and people whose families came from the South during the Depression.

    July 5, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
    • Smitty

      Hi @Michelle,

      There are soul food restaurants here and most are good. we also have great Asian, European and African food. However, that is not California or West Coast regional food. You can't take an exception, even if it's good, and claim it as indicative of our region.

      I was born and raised in San Francisco and ate Chinese/Italian/Mexican often. All of that is a part of my native or comfort food. But again, not local food. Local food is what we grow and eat in abundance. For us, a local meal was sometimes just a big artichoke and crusty French bread (you call it sourdough).

      The author missed the mark by a mile. FYI –

      July 6, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  9. Wayne

    Squirrel heads and home fries is the perfect country meal.

    July 5, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
  10. Smitty

    What a joke – regional – REALLY? We don't eat collard or mustard greens in CA. Mustard is just a weed here except to Yiayia who loves her free horta. We eat artichokes and asparagus, fresh tomatoes, summer squash and every kind of lettuce and spinch. In the winter it's Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, broccholi & fall squash. If you don't like Brussels sprouts, you haven't had them halved & sauted with bacon. ...and meat. From Fresno north (except for Berkeley) we eat meat. Tri-tip originated in Santa Maria. Gotta seceed from LaLa Land.

    July 5, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  11. Conrad Shull

    Do the story "vegan" and it goes down hill fast.

    July 5, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  12. jillmarie

    I love the stuffed tomato recipe- I make baked tomatoes all the time- I'll try his recipe out. So easy to make and yummy sounding!

    July 5, 2011 at 11:35 am |
  13. Chris

    That chicken parm does not look right...

    July 5, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • Kathleen

      You're right. I thought it was beans, until I read differently. Still looks like beans, though . . .

      July 5, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
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