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Our Advice to the Presidential Candidates

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In preparation for the South Carolina primaries, state native Stephen Colbert gave Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders some advice: "If you're going to get the vote down there, you've gotta eat boiled peanuts. [...] When I offer it to people up here, they say, 'Here comes Colbert with more of his damp food.'"

With the South Carolina primaries just around the corner (for Republicans, February 20; for Democrats, February 27), we're about to see how Colbert's advice holds up.

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In the meantime, we've got our own recommendations for the candidates. In approximate order of the upcoming primary elections, here's what the wannabe presidents should eat, state by state, if they want to win our votes (lots of damp, fried, and "interesting" food included).

Take your mark, get set, go!

  • Nevada: elk, a shot of Jack Daniels at the Reno Rodeo, and Basque food (but honestly, as long as a candidate pronounces it Nev-A-da, with a hard A, and not Nev-ah-da, with a soft A, they have the vote; otherwise: automatic disqualification)
  • Alabama: fried pickles
  • Alaska: akutaq, a celebratory dessert traditionally made of the fat of Arctic animals (or, these days, Crisco), berries, and ground fish
  • Arkansas: possum pie, with multiple layers of Cool Whip and chocolate pudding
  • Colorado: magic brownies (we hear Mario Batali has a good recipe)
Mario Batali's Double-Chocolate Pot Brownies
Mario Batali's Double-Chocolate Pot Brownies
  • Georgia: Brunswick stew (squirrel, opossum, or rabbit meat preferable to chicken)
  • Massachusetts: Boston baked beans for dinner, Boston cream pie for dessert, and a Dunkin Donuts coffee
  • Minnesota: hotdish, made with cream of mushroom soup
  • Oklahoma: chicken fried steak (or, what we prefer: chicken fried mac and cheese)
  • Tennessee: Nashville hot chicken—the hotter a candidate can stand, the better they can handle the pressure of running a country
  • Texas: Talk O' Texas pickled okra (fried okra at Luby's also counts, and makes for a great photo op), Fritos chili pie from a D.Q. drive thru (eaten out of the bag, of course), and a breakfast taco—if you're not down with the breakfast taco, then you're not down with Texas
  • Vermont: pretty sure Bernie has this one covered, but you need to be able to drink maple syrup like water
  • Virginia: Virginia ham and peanut soup
Yam and Peanut Stew with Kale
Yam and Peanut Stew with Kale
  • Wyoming: buffalo meat jerky
  • Kansas: Mennonite zwiebach (soft and sweet bubble-topped dinner rolls)
  • Kentucky: burgoo (should be thick enough that a spoon can stand up in it)
  • Louisiana: oxtail soup
  • Maine: the often overlooked but equally delicious cousin of the lobster roll, a crab meat roll
  • Nebraska: Runza, preferably in a rectangular shape
  • Hawaii: Spam musubi (a slice of grilled Spam on top of a block of rice, wrapped together with nori)
  • Idaho: huckleberry pie
  • Michigan: pasties (the food, not the clothing), washed down with some pop (Faygo or Vernors)
  • Mississippi: fried pecans
  • D.C.: the Half-Smoke (not to be confused with a hot dog, this is larger, spicier, half-pork, half-beef, and smoked)
  • Florida: fried alligator tail
  • Illinois: the Horseshoe, an open-faced sandwich made of a thick slice of toast topped with a hamburger, French fries, and cheese sauce
  • Missouri: St. Louis gooey butter cake
  • North Carolina: livermush
  • Ohio: Cincinnati chili, served over spaghetti
  • Arizona: cheese crisps (the super complicated recipe: spread butter on flour tortillas, toast in oven, add shredded cheese, return to oven for 3 minutes)
  • Utah: funeral potatoes (similar to but distinct from Minnesota hotdish)
  • Wisconsin: kringle
  • New York: candidates should be able to fold their slices of pizza, walk and talk while they eat them, and not drip pizza grease on themselves
White Clam Pizza
White Clam Pizza
  • Connecticut: clam pizza
  • Delaware: scrapple
  • Maryland: Old Bay-flavored everything, Bergers cookies, and a Natty Boh
  • Pennsylvania: Old Forge-style white pizza (rectangular in shape, with a crispy and thick crust)
  • Rhode Island: coffee milk
  • Indiana: pork tenderloin sandwich (tenderloin must battered and breaded and twice the size of the bun)
  • West Virginia: pepperoni rolls (soft white bread with pepperoni baked in the middle)
  • Oregon: Tillamook cheese (bonus points for cheddar)
  • Washington: Walla Walla raw onion sandwich (add some peanut butter for bonus points)
  • California: Santa Maria tri-tip, preferably barbecued over red oak wood
  • Montana: Rocky Mountain "oysters" (these "oysters" are not oysters; it is up to candidates to correctly identify)
  • New Jersey: pork roll (or Taylor Ham, depending on which part of the state they candidates are visiting)
  • New Mexico: hatch chiles (the candidate who gets the hot chile will win the White House)
  • North Dakota: anything covered in Velveeta and Jell-O desserts (it is okay if the Jell-O dessert is not covered in Velveeta, however)
  • South Dakota: frybread, flat dough fried or deep-fried in oil, shortening, or lard (even better if candidates turn frybread into a frybread taco)

Thanks to the entire Food52 team, who helped contribute to this list!

What do the candidates need to eat when they visit your state? Tell us—and them!—in the comments below.