Taste Of Tradition

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From state flag to state tree, Oklahoma has an official something for everything, even a meal. Oklahoma’s Official State Meal includes a variety of foods that just about every Oklahoman would recognize and most likely love. The meal is meant to be reflective of the cultural backgrounds and the state’s historical and contemporary agriculture, according to the Oklahoma Historical Society.

Oklahoma’s Official State Meal became one of the State Emblems by virtue of House Concurrent Resolution 1083, approved in 1988 by the Forty-first Legislature.

The types, variety and sheer quantity of foods in the state meal, which can be divided into breakfast, lunch and dinner, generally typify traditional Southern foodways. Meats include barbecued pork, chicken-fried steak and sausage with biscuits and gravy. Vegetables include fried okra and squash, grits, corn and black-eyed peas. Breads include cornbread and biscuits. Dessert consists of either strawberries or pecan pie.

“I think it’s representative of Oklahoma, but more of the past than today,” says Michael Dean, Oklahoma Historical Society public relations director.

Dave Cathey, food editor of the Oklahoman and writer of the column “Food Dude,” agrees that the state meal is definitely representative of Oklahoma and its people, but it could use some modifications.

“I think it’s true to Oklahoma, but at the same time it doesn’t have a great representation of American Indian culture,” he says. “There’s nothing on there that is really pre-statehood. I think it would be cool to add items to represent the foundation of the land.”

While corn and squash were originally American Indian dietary staples that were later breaded with corn meal and fried in pork grease, Cathey still thinks there could be a better representation of the culture.

With America’s growing waistlines and more than one-third of U.S. adults being obese, Cathey also mentions the need for healthier options within the state meal.

“The meal is very accurate,” he states. “These are the kinds of foods that are most popular and a source of pride in Oklahoma, but it is not very health-friendly. With the stigma our state has of being one of the heavier states, I think a few modifications could be done.”

He continues, “I would hate to lose the tradition of the meal, but to modify it with healthier options would be nice.”

Dean agrees.

“It might not be the healthiest. If I were to make changes to the meal it would to add fresh, Oklahoma-grown fruits and vegetables,” he says.     

Most of the items found listed as part of the state meal can be found in small restaurants and cafes throughout the state. Cathey says Cattlemen’s Steakhouse in Oklahoma City’s historic Stockyard City is a great place to sample the state meal. Also, the Rock Café off of Route 66 in Stroud, Okla. “Really just about anywhere in Oklahoma has the food choices,” Cathey says.

For fresh produce, such as okra, corn or squash, Cathey mentions Peach Crest Farms in Stratford, Okla. “They have some of the best options and they’re even starting to sell items in local stores,” he adds.

No matter where you go to find the official state meal, it continues to reflect the cultural orientation of many Oklahomans – with one exception: Cathey jokingly says that a side of ranch dressing should also be included.

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