The Controversial History Of Oklahoma's Official State Meal

Every state in the country has its own food-related iconography. Maine's got the lobster roll. Florida has Key Lime Pie. New Mexico has Frito pie. Pennsylvania has the Philly Cheesesteak. Lil' old Rhode Island even has coffee milk (via The Food Network). A number of states have created laws declaring certain foods to be symbols of the state, but none more so than Oklahoma. According to State Symbols USA, Oklahoma legally declared its state meal in 1988. Not content with having one single food be representative of the state, the Oklahoma legislature decided to construct a whole meal in which each food represented an essential component of the state's culinary heritage.

What are these foods? The official Oklahoma state meal consists of BBQ pork, sausage with biscuits and gravy, chicken-fried steak, fried okra, squash, black-eyed peas, grits, corn, cornbread, pecan pie, and strawberries. If that seems like a lot, that's because it is. Technically meant to be consumed across the day as breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the Oklahoma State Meal can nevertheless be had in its entirety at restaurants like The Press in Oklahoma City. And while all of these dishes may seem like relics of a bygone era for the South, the meal still reflects much of the cultural proclivities of modern Oklahomans (via The Takeout and Oklahoma Historical Society).

Health controversy

This may come as something of a shock, but the Oklahoma State Meal isn't exactly the healthiest thing in the world. That fact doesn't stop people from eating it, nor should it. The importance of the meal lies not just in its flavor — because, let's be honest, everything in that meal sounds delicious — but in the cultural heritage of Oklahoma itself. Long characterized as a state of farmers and ranchers — thanks in no short part to a certain Broadway musical — Oklahoma shares much of its culinary heritage with the other southern states and a decent amount with its neighbor, Texas. Steak, black-eyed peas, cornbread, and grits are all important components of Oklahoma's agricultural identity (via Oklahoma Historical Society).

However, a blip in the State Meal's history came in the form of former Oklahoma State Senator Brian Crain. According to Tulsa World, in 2010, Crain tried to repeal the State Meal legislation, arguing that the meal was too heavy and did not encourage Oklahomans to follow a healthy diet. Senator Crain's proposal died on the State House floor, allowing the State Meal to remain an Oklahoman symbol for future generations. It is worth pointing out, however, that should one decide to consume the entire meal in one sitting, they will be taking in 2,700 calories, 125 grams of fat, and 5,250 milligrams of sodium. While that can be a cause of concern, it's much easier (and much more fun) to live life like Ron Swanson.