Alright folks, like any good traveler I must follow the rules of the road. Since I won’t actually be traveling to all 50 states in 50 weeks but merely cooking my way through each state it seems appropriate to have some rules of the road for each dish. Just as if I were actually traveling to each state, preparing to cook something from each state I must prepare for time constraints, available resources and finances. As my old Army First Sergeant was fond of saying- “Always prepare for the worst so the best will be a surprise.” When traveling or cooking it’s always best to have a plan. Let’s start off by packing my bags…
1. Plan your route-
All good travelers start their journey by planning their route. Having a good idea of where you are going and where you would like to end up and what you’d like to see along the way is just common sense. However, I’m not one of those travelers that schedules every second of my trip. I allow myself time to get lost, to find those hidden treasures a place offers off the beaten path. I think cooking my way through all 50 states I should plan for detours along the way.
2. Be prepared for anything-
Travel, like cooking is an adventure. I can say I’m a pretty efficient traveler. I pack all the essentials as well as emergency kits depending on where or how I’m traveling. A change of clothes in my carry-on bag has come in handy many times over. So with cooking I am prepared with most of the essentials like pots, pans, spices, kitchen gadgets and recipes. But even the best traveler or cook can’t be prepared for every eventuality… if I run across something in a recipe most people won’t have in their kitchen I’ll explain what it is, where you can find it and about how much it should cost. I’ll even photograph it for you so you’ll know what you are looking for during our cooking adventure. And like me if I can’t find it I’ll give you alternatives or substitutions.
3. Prepare for the climate and dress accordingly-
Okay, I’m not going to wear a parka while cooking a dish from Alaska or a bikini while cooking a dish from Florida (trust me nobody wants to see me cook in a bikini)… but climate changes in cooking are just as influential as they are in travel. Some foods are seasonal, and knowing that I can’t get fresh produce in the dead of winter will probably alter what dishes I choose to cook. Another issue we all face is dietary issues, which can significantly alter the prep of a dish. I will give you each recipe as it’s supposed to be prepared, but because I have some dietary restrictions I’ll also prepare the recipe with those in mind and show you how you can do the same.
4. Manage your time so you can enjoy everything-
I have set a deadline for this adventure, and given myself Sunday as a day to prepare, cook, photograph and enjoy each dish. But I do feel that researching each region should be a priority too. So during the week I’ll research and shop for each Sunday’s dish and give myself one day to fix it. If the dish takes more than one day to prepare, it probably won’t make it to my table. Contrary to popular knowledge I do have a life outside of this experiment and I can only schedule one day of time for all of this. Doesn’t mean you can’t try it- but most of what I’ll be choosing to cook will be based on these road rules and if it doesn’t fit the criteria, it isn’t going to make it to the table.
5. Manage your finances so you can afford it-
Obviously I’m not a rich woman, most of us have to live on a tight budget these days. Keeping a budget in mind I probably won’t be able to afford to make some dishes a region is known for simple because ingredient will be out of my budget. But I will do my best to plan accordingly so I can give you and myself a taste of what a region has to offer. If you happen to live in a certain region and are willing to send me the ingredient I can’t afford… well I won’t stop you!
6. And last but not least take in the sights and enjoy the atmosphere-
I love taking pictures. I encourage you to send me photos of the place if you live there or have visited the state I’m cooking and share recipes that are local to that state. With your permission I’ll post your photos along with each recipe, and give you credit of course. I will do my best to provide you with maps of each state/region, links to each state’s board of tourism, links to restaurants in the area, links to places you can purchase ingredients and of course photos from the kitchen. I like to show photos of dishes in progress because I’m a visual learner… if I can see how it’s supposed turn out and mine doesn’t look anything like it- then I’ll be able to learn from my mistakes. Rest assured I’m going to make mistakes… I’m going to share it all with you… because to me cooking is a community event- we’re in this together. And if I get a cook’s version of a flat tire, well you all need to know the best AAA in the area who can fix it, right? Besides if you can’t get a good laugh out of this, then what’s the point?
So those are the rules- I’ll do one main dish, dessert, appetizer, side dish or beverage from each state as long as it follows the rules of the road. I’ve thought about going alphabetically, but to make this journey as accurate as possible I’ve decided to cook as I would travel. So if I were going to visit all 50 states of the United States I’d want to start in Maine and work my way west across to Alaska. So this Sunday we’ll begin our journey with the foods of Maine. If anyone has any great recipes, photos or anecdotes about Maine they want to share… send them along. So until tomorrow- may all your journeys be safe and all your eats be good!