The Atlas of Popular Culture in the Northeastern United States

My day job (one of them) is teaching Media and Communications at two colleges; this fall, I’ll be teaching Business Communications, Journalism I, and Introduction to Mass Communications. I have a B.A. in Communication Arts and an M.A. in Media Ecology; on occasion, I toy with the idea of pursuing a Ph.D., particularly if it were in Pop Culture studies.

“OK,” you’re thinking. “Blah, blah blah. What does this have to do with food?” Well, Dr. John Harmon, a professor of Geography at Central Connecticut State University, doesn’t have a Ph.D. in Pop Culture, but he did create the The Atlas of Popular Culture in the Northeastern United States. Harmon has mapped and detailed a some foods popular in “the North Country” like Buffalo chicken wings (I’m not an Anchor Bar fan myself…), the spiedie, and potato chips.

Here’s an excerpt from the article on Buffalo chicken wings:
Most people who have even thought about the origin have heard and believe the first version of the legend . Teressa and Frank Bellisimo owned the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY. In this version, she invented Buffalo chicken wings in 1964 when her son Dominic and his friends came to the bar looking for a quick late night snack. “Mother Teressa” (Buffalonians take their wings very seriously) was preparing to make chicken stock with a bunch of wings and, improvising, stuck them under the broiler (later they switched to deep frying), sprinkled them with a hot sauce she concocted from a commercially available base (Frank’s), took some celery sticks off the antipasto dishes, put some blue cheese dressing (the house dressing) in a small bowl and served them.
All the principals are now deceased, but Dominic, who took over the bar from his parents, told the story differently to Calvin Trillin (1980) of the New Yorker magazine. According to Dominic, it was Friday night in the bar and since people were buying a lot of drinks he wanted to do something nice for them at midnight when the mostly Catholic patrons would be able to eat meat again. So, according to this version, Dom did not stop by with his friends, he was trying to be the good host at the bar. It was still Terressa who came up with the idea.
Frank told a third story. It involved a mis-delivery of wings instead backs and necks for making the bar’s spaghetti sauce. Faced with this unexpected resource, he says he asked Teressa to do something with them.

Visit the site for more foodie tidbits.

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3 Comments on “The Atlas of Popular Culture in the Northeastern United States”

  1. July 31, 2006 at 2:08 am #

    One of my biggest regrets about my short time living in the New Haven, CT area is not going to Louis’ Lunch to try a hamburger at one of the birthplaces of the hamburger. I didn’t know about it until shortly before we moved, and we never managed to make it out there. We did have some really tasty pizza though!

  2. July 31, 2006 at 5:22 pm #

    Well Calli, you went and did it. Now I want to see Mystic Pizza again. (sigh)

  3. August 1, 2006 at 1:48 am #

    Hehehe… Mystic Pizza! Now, we did manage to go to Mystic and eat some Mystic Pizza. That was a fun day, and the pizza was good, too. 🙂

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