Summer is road-trip season, so we're taking a culinary tour of America. But because Portland is a city of immigrants from other states, we don't have to leave town to do it. We're traveling to 50 Portland restaurants to try one distinctive food from each state. Our 50 Plates tour continues with Brunswick stew from Georgia, which joined the union on January 2, 1788.
The state: Known as the Peach State and as "the Empire State of the South" by those who are still steamed about Sherman’s March to the Sea, Georgia is known best for its bounteous fruitage, the Red Earth of Tara and for being Jenny’s last state of residence in Forrest Gump.
The food: A tangy, spicy, smoky, one-pot concoction, Brunswick stew makes appearances at church suppers, family reunions, and hunting camps throughout the South. Its origins are hotly debated, mainly by people living in places with the word “Brunswick” in the title. Brunswick County, Virginia, has a solid claim. The Virginia General Assembly even issued a proclamation stating that the stew was invented there in 1828. But Brunswick, Georgia, has an actual stew pot—with a plaque on it!—that says the iconic dish was first cooked there in 1898. Actually, Southeastern Native Americans have been cooking versions of this stew since prehistoric times, but whatever. The recipe varies by region and by cook, but it usually includes meat (traditionally squirrel or rabbit, but any smoked meat will do), beans, tomatoes and corn, all simmered in stock with a hefty dose of barbecue or hot sauce.
Other dishes considered and rejected: Peach cobbler, fried okra, fried chicken, shrimp and grits, pimento cheese dip. Anything and everything made with pralines. If anyone in town offered fried gray squirrel on a regular basis, that would’ve been a no-brainer.
Get it from: Did we mention that North Carolina also has a Brunswick County? The version from A Little Bit of Smoke, a Carolina barbecue cart, has smoked chicken and potatoes. But for $7 a serving, it’s still hearty, steamy and savory. They’ll even throw in a mini Moon Pie.
Click on the map to see each state's distinctive food and where to get it in Portland.