March 23, 2014

New Jersey

Statehood: December 18th, 1787 (3/50)

I'm embarrassed to admit that until today, everything I personally knew about New Jersey came from two culturally defining and extremely educational television programs: Jersey Shore and Aqua Teen Hunger Force. But there's way more to this state then scantily clad drunk twenty-somethings from Staten Island screaming profanities at one another through a duck phone or the adventures of an anthropomorphic box of french fries with a doctorate, a sociopathic milkshake, and a shape-shifting wad of unidentifiable meat, right New Jerseyans?

Like NJ was home to the first drive-in movie, there are more diners per capita than any other place in the country, American legends Frank Sinatra, Bon Jovi, and Bruce Springsteen all hail from the state, and Monopoly's layout was inspired by streets in or around Atlantic City (just make sure to curb the claims of once owning a hotel run by an iron if you do decide to visit).

Oh, and the Jersey Devil is real (kind of).

New Jersey, appropriately nicknamed The Garden State, is also actually one of the leading agricultural centers in the country. It boasts over 10,000 farms and ranks in the top five for blueberry, cranberry, spinach, bell pepper, peach, and head lettuce production (according to the states official website). They also produce - among other things - corn, apples, potatoes, soybeans, strawberries, and tomatoes. Segue: you may have heard that the Jersey Tomato is the "official state vegetable." It's not. At least not legislatively. Botanically speaking tomatoes are a fruit, but legally (because of the 1893 Supreme Court ruling in Nix v. Hedden) they're a vegetable. So, in 2005 (after being beaten out by the blueberry for "official state fruit"), state legislators tried to get it designated instead as the official state veg. The bill didn't pass.

Now let's nibble on New Jersey's number one fruit (sorry for the burn, tomatoes)!

State Fruit: Blueberry

Blueberries are indigenous to North America and have been around for thousands (and thousands of years). But did you know that in 1916 Elizabeth C. White and Dr. Frederick A. Coville of the USDA developed the very first cultivated blueberry in Whitesbog, NJ? In 2003, the fourth graders of Veteran's Memorial Elementary School campaigned to have the blueberry become the state's official fruit. After lobbying, petitions, and presentations to both the Senate and Assembly Committees, in 2004 the students tastes the sweet victory of success (and probably all the blueberries they could eat)!

Makes: 6 to 8 pancakes

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup flour
2 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (alternative) milk
1 Tablespoon lemon zest
1 cup blueberries
2 ounces (dark, non-dairy, vegan) chocolate chips (about 1/2 cup)
Optional: maple syrup, powdered sugar, lemon wedge

Coat the bottom of a large frying pan with the oil and set it to medium-high heat. While the pan heats mix the flour, sugar,baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt together. Add the vanilla and the milk to the dry ingredients, and mix together well.  Fold in the blueberries, lemon zest, and chocolate chips. Mix until just combined. Pour the batter 1/4 cup at a time onto the heated pan and cook until there are either bubbles across the top of the pancake or the edges of the pancake look cooked. Flip the pancake over and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes or until the pancake is cooked through. Flip the pancake onto a plate. Drown in maple syrup or dust with powdered sugar and lemon juice.

State Candy: Salt Water Taffy

On June 16th, 2014 the New Jersey full assembly designated salt water taffy as the official state candy at the request of fifth graders from Samsel Upper Elementary School after a civics lesson with John S. Wisniewski [D] - a sponsor of the bill. Salt water taffy is said to have originated in Atlantic City. The food legend goes that after a massive storm damaged a taffy stall on the boardwalk, the owner sold the ocean-soaked candy... and people loved it. Didn't make my own, but purchased some from a local candy maker. And enjoyed while at the beach, of course!

The Official Web Site For The State of New Jersey