In his new book, Food: A Love Story (Crown Archtype, $26), New York-based stand-up comic Jim Gaffigan attempts to break down the geography of American food based on his travels around the country. With the permission of the publisher, we’ve republished the map here, along with his explanation from the book, which came out Tuesday.
People look at a map of the United States and see different things. Some people see red states and blue states. Some see North and South. Some see East and West. I see food. I’m not saying the geographical areas of the United States actually look edible to me (not yet, anyway), although I once saw a potato chip shaped like Alaska. Unfortunately, I ate it before I could take a photo. Anyway, my point is, I travel a great deal as a stand-up comedian. I’ve performed in all 50 states and eaten my way through pretty much every major city. After my fourth or fifth lap of performing and eating across our beautiful and delicious country, I started to think of the geography of our country as it relates to food.
My food geography of the United States, while unscientific, is very personal (and brilliant, in my personal opinion). My hope is that one day, schools, businesses, and prisons will have the Jim Gaffigan American Food Map hanging in their libraries and/or bathrooms. We all have our unique dreams.
I believe the United States is composed of five major food areas:
– Seabugland (Northeast Coast)
– Eating BBQland (Southeast/Parts of Midwest)
– Super Bowl Sunday Foodland (Midwest/Parts of East)
– Steakland (Texas to Upper West)
– Mexican Foodland (Southwest to Texas)
And smaller unique areas:
– Wineland (Northern California)
– Coffeeland (Pacific Northwest)
Some of my geographic areas of food blur into other food geographic areas. The great example would be Texas, which is a convergence of Mexican Foodland, Eating BBQland, and Steakland. I’m not being generous here. It would be unfair not to put Texas in all three of these major food geographical areas. They just do things bigger in Texas. Louisiana and New Orleans in particular are unique to the food geography of the United States. It’s almost as if the Mississippi River flowed all its special food excellence down, and it drained into New Orleans. There are, of course, other exceptions to my regional distinctions, but first let’s explore these major areas of the Jim Gaffigan American Food Map.
And there you have it. Subsequent chapters do dive into what’s served in the food areas illustrated on Gaffigan’s map, which you can read about in the book.