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16 foods that made places famous

food, 16 foods that made places famous

Fork in the road

Sampling the local cuisine is one of the best things about travel but there are some foods so indelibly linked to a place that they are named after it. Some are places many of us have only heard of because of the food. From Parma to Stilton, here are the foods that have helped to put towns, cities and regions on the map.

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Champagne

Many of the finer things in life were created by accident and Champagne is arguably the finest. In the 1400s, too-cold temperatures disrupted the fermentation of wine and caused excess carbon dioxide bubbles. It wasn’t exactly an instant hit but people slowly began to crave the bubbly wine. In the 17th century, monk Dom Pierre Pérignon helped develop a method of producing white wine from red grapes, a huge step towards the champers we love to quaff today.

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Champagne

Today, many other sparkling wines are made using the Champagne method (where a secondary fermentation happens once the fizz is bottled), but only bubbly produced this way in France’s Champagne region can be legally labeled with the name. Dom Pérignon remains a byword for fine fizz, although the best-selling Champagne is Moët & Chandon, followed by Veuve Clicquot.

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Eccles cakes

These flaky pastry pockets, packed with earthy, tart currants, are perhaps what the Lancashire, UK town of Eccles is most famous for. James Birch, who owned a shop in the town center, was the first to sell them commercially, around 1793. But their history predates that – they were served at ‘Eccles wakes’ festivals, which celebrated the feast of St. Mary.

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Eccles cakes

The pastries are also, somewhat less appealingly, known as squashed fly cakes or dead fly pies because of the black, shriveled currants. They don’t have protection designation of origin which means they can be produced outside the town. But family-owned (and local) company Real Lancashire Eccles Cakes is the world’s largest producer, baking around 600,000 cakes per week.

food, 16 foods that made places famous

Cheddar

One of the world’s most famous and best-loved cheeses originated in the village of Cheddar in Somerset, UK, and it has an extra mature history. The first known reference to Cheddar cheese was in 1170 when King Henry II purchased 4,644kg (10,240lbs) of the stuff. Originally the cheese had to be produced within 30 miles of Wells Cathedral to be called Cheddar but during the Second World War, cheese-making was industrialized and standardized.

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Cheddar

Now the name isn’t protected but if a cheese is labeled West Country Farmhouse Cheddar, it must only be produced in Somerset, Devon, Dorset or Cornwall. There are versions of Cheddar sold in pretty much every deli and supermarket, and it remains the most popular variety in the UK, accounting for more than half of all cheese sales.

food, 16 foods that made places famous

Mississippi mud pie

The origins of this pie are clear as mud. Most theories suggest it does come from the state of Mississippi, perhaps going back to the early 20th century, and most agree it takes its name from its resemblance to the gooey, chocolate-brown banks of the Mississippi River. It’s also been claimed the dessert was invented by a San Franciscan chef.

a piece of cake and ice cream on a plate

Mississippi mud pie

Its appeal can hardly be disputed, though – unless you don’t like chocolate. The family favorite has layers of brownie, chocolate custard and, sometimes, whipped cream, encased in a crumbly chocolate crust.

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Yorkshire pudding

Is it even a British roast dinner without a golden, puffy Yorkshire pudding or two? The first known recipe appeared in a 1737 book called The Whole Duty of a Woman, which called it dripping pudding and suggested making a pancake-like batter and cooking under a shoulder of mutton. The name Yorkshire pudding, after the northern England county, was first used by cookery writer Hannah Glasse in 1747, in The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Simple. However, its precise origins are unknown.

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Yorkshire pudding

The recipe is simple: flour, milk, eggs and seasoning whisked to a smooth batter, ladled into tins with bubbling hot oil and cooked in the oven until the individual puds puff up like glorious golden balloons. While that seems simple, they’re also very easy to get wrong – and have ruined many a Sunday lunch.

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Parma ham

This whisper-thin charcuterie favorite has a rich history. In fact the first known mention was in 100 BC, when Roman statesman Marcus Porcius Cato extolled the virtues of the air-cured ham made in Parma, northern Italy.

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Parma ham

Parma ham, or Prosciutto di Parma, was given Denomination of Protected Origin status in 1996 and it’s one of many incredible foods that have helped put the Emilia-Romagna region on the gastronomic map. Others include Parmigiano Reggiano, balsamic vinegar and stuffed tortellini.

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Bakewell pudding

This British pudding is believed to have been invented in Bakewell, Derbyshire in 1860. The story goes that local inn mistress Mrs Greaves asked her cook to make a strawberry tart for a visiting nobleman. An egg mixture meant for the pastry was instead spread over the jelly filling, creating a mess that turned out to be a success. A savvy neighbor, Mrs Wilson, got hold of the recipe and began selling the splodgy desserts from her home, later opening the Bakewell Pudding Shop.

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Bakewell pudding

The original pudding, made with puff pastry, jelly, almonds and sugar, has spawned more modern versions, including the better-known Bakewell tart, with jelly, almonds and sponge encased in shortcrust pastry. But the town remains most proud of the puddings, still made to the same recipe at the Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop, housed in Mrs Wilson’s old cottage.

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Worcestershire sauce

Even those who haven’t ever been to, or heard of, the English cathedral city of Worcester will probably have heard of Worcestershire sauce. It was created (accidentally) in the 1830s by chemists John Wheeley Lea and William Henry Perrins, when they were asked by a local nobleman to recreate something he’d tasted on his travels. The pungent result was abandoned but, having been left for months in barrels, mellowed into the tangy pantry staple of today.

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Worcestershire sauce

Now the fermented sauce, most famously sold by the Lea & Perrins brand, is aged for 18 months before bottling. It’s many people’s favorite go-to when a stew, sauce, soup or slice of grilled cheese needs an extra something. And it’s an essential bloody mary ingredient.

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Eton mess

This sweet mash-up of a classic British pud has several origin stories. The most widely accepted is that a dessert with strawberries, meringue and whipped cream was dropped during a cricket match between Eton College and Harrow School in the late 19th century. The smashed result was rescued and scooped in bowls.

a piece of cake on a plate

Eton mess

Now, of course, the meringue is deliberately broken up and mixed with cream and berries to create what might be one of the most efficient desserts in terms of effort versus reward – unless you make the meringue from scratch, of course. The summery pud is still served at the annual Eton versus Harrow cricket match.

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Stilton

The story of Stilton is as complex as the cheese’s blue-veined structure. It’s named after Stilton in Cambridgeshire, UK, because it was sold to travelers from a village pub called The Bell Inn. But, ironically, cheese made in Stilton cannot legally be named Stilton because it’s disputed whether or not it was ever produced there.

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Stilton

Currently only blue cheese produced in the surrounding counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire can bear the famous name, though the debate continues. Either way, the cheeseboard favorite is inextricably linked to the characterful English village.

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Manhattan

Many cocktails are named after places: the Moscow mule, for example, or Long Island iced tea. The Manhattan, though, is perhaps the classiest of them all – a punchy, potent mix of rye whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters. Some claim the drink was invented at the Manhattan Bar in the 1880s, for a party hosted by Winston’s mother, Lady Randolph Churchill. Another story says it was first stirred at Hoffman House by a bartender known only as Black.

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Manhattan

However fuzzy the origins may be – unsurprising given the amount of alcohol in each martini glass – the Manhattan is synonymous with the chic, bustling, often boozy Big Apple borough it’s named after.

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Philly cheesesteak

Chopped beef steak swimming in melted orange cheese and stuffed in a sub roll – the Philly cheesesteak may be one of the most deliciously dirty foods around. It’s said to have been invented by South Philadelphia hot dog seller Pat Olivieri who, having thrown some beef onto his grill, was asked by a passing cab driver if he could make a beef sandwich. Word spread and Olivieri opened up a shop, soon adding cheese to the recipe.

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Philly cheesesteak

Nowadays, it’s as synonymous with Philadelphia as the Liberty Bell and Rocky Balboa. Some recipes add onions, mushrooms and even jalapeños. And, although you will see the sandwich on menus far outside of the Pennsylvania city, purists will tell you that, if it isn’t made in South Philadelphia, it really isn’t a Philly cheesesteak at all.

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Neapolitan ice cream

It’s not known who first decided to put three layers of ice cream together in one meltingly gorgeous block, but this triple delight is thought to originate from Naples before being popularized in the US. The original flavors were pistachio, vanilla and red cherry, mimicking the stripes of the Italian flag.

a piece of cake on a plate with a fork and knife

Neapolitan ice cream

The original flavor combo is usually sold as spumoni, while the Neapolitan sold in ice cream parlors today tends to have fat blocks of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. It’s a winner for fussy types who just can’t make up their mind – and parents looking for a crowd-pleaser.

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Boston baked beans

Boston was nicknamed Beantown due to the locals’ love of baked beans with molasses. It’s thought baked beans originate from indigenous American tribes who cooked them in big pots with maple syrup and meat. This became Boston baked beans, a stewed dish of beans with molasses and pork fat, which was first tinned during the 1860s.

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Boston baked beans

They’re still regularly found in diners and BBQ joints, adding a rich, deep sweetness to breakfasts and meat platters. Confusingly, though, Boston baked beans are also a type of candy invented in the 1930s – sugar-coated peanuts made to look like red beans. Delicious, but maybe not quite so nice on toast.

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Nashville hot chicken

It may not be the most famous chicken recipe (that would be Colonel Sanders’) but this hot chicken is as Nashville as country music and honky-tonks. It also has a pretty fun backstory as a revenge dish served hot. In the 1930s, Thornton Prince’s wronged girlfriend coated his fried chicken in cayenne pepper. Fortunately for him (and unfortunately for her), it was delicious. Prince shared the recipe with friends and eventually opened a shop.

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Nashville hot chicken

Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack remains a Nashville institution, still run by the same family as the philandering founder. The lip-burningly, tongue-tinglingly spicy chicken is traditionally served on white bread with pickles. And ideally a glass of something cool on hand.

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Buffalo wings

Nothing to do with the horned beasts that roam the plains, Buffalo wings are actually chicken wings, deep-fried and smothered in a spicy, piquant sauce. They’re named after New York’s second-largest city, where they were invented by Teressa Bellissimo at The Anchor Bar in 1964. The story goes that she accidentally ordered chicken wings instead of necks and invented the dish as a way of using them up.

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Buffalo wings

The sides were simply what Bellissimo had to hand but they’ve stuck – the wings are traditionally served with sticks of celery and a blue cheese dip. They’re a staple in sports bars and diners, and on game days. You can even still enjoy a heap of them at the bar where they were created. Although, in Buffalo, they tend to be simply known as wings.

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