I remember when I first learned that salt potatoes are a regional dish. I was shocked that the rest of the country is oblivious to what is clearly the best way ever to prepare potatoes. Salt potatoes are so popular in Upstate New York I can not imagine a family picnic, carnival or fireman’s chicken barbecue without them. Turns out salt potatoes aren’t just good eating, these Upstate New York picnic mainstays have a pretty interesting history behind ’em.
In A Taste of Upstate New York: The People and the Stories Behind 40 Food Favorites (New York State Series), author Chuck D’imperio explores the history and stories of iconic regional foods of Upstate New York, including the salt potato. The book is well thought out, including foods that have caught on in popularity and have become household names, and others that have remained relatively unknown outside their respective regions, loved by locals, while the rest of the country is barely aware of its existence.
Today Upstate New York has many culturally distinct regions. Local foods reflect its origins, so it is incredibly fitting that D’imperio has divided A Taste of Upstate New York: The People and the Stories Behind 40 Food Favorites (New York State Series) into 8 regions. Along with specific iconic dishes for each region there is a section on food and drink traditions that are rooted in Upstate New York culture, must visit restaurants, and some pretty fun and unusual food festivals that take place in Upstate New York. You could totally map out a foodie road trip with this book as your guide.
While I am sure many food adventures will be inspired by D’imperio’s book this summer, it isn’t just for foodies. Even if culinary tourism doesn’t appeal to you here is why you should read this book : Regional food always has a story that says something about the people and area from which it comes. This book is just as much about the history of the people and places that have brought us our favorite local dishes as it is about the food, from immigrant canal workers to the queen of the grape pie, the stories behind the food are just as interesting as the actual fare.
I really enjoyed this book, in fact I will be ordering a physical copy for my bookshelf. I have to be honest though, I would have liked to see Genny Cream Ale get more than a passing mention, but that is probably because Rochester is in such close proximity to my hometown 😉
And just out of curiosity, what the heck is the rest of the country serving with chicken barbecue if they don’t make salt potatoes??
I would like to thank Syracuse University Press along with NetGallery for my advance copy of A Taste of Upstate New York: The People and the Stories Behind 40 Food Favorites (New York State Series) to review.