By Mark Brown

Published on July 21, 2012

We Oklahomans are not minimalists. Our battle cry could be "Shoot when you see the whites of their plates." I grew up here, on huge pots of pinto beans, mounds of sweet squash and crispy okra, hunks of watermelon, and platters of cornmeal-fried catfish. The land is swept by tornadoes and steeped in borrowed traditions. We are a crazy quilt of people—we take food from elsewhere and make it our own. Settlers of all stripes sprinted across the state border in land runs to build homes out of prairie sod. Coal lured miners from Italy to the hills in the southeast; their old mining towns still serve fried chicken with a side of spaghetti, while in the west, Germans sowed hard wheat and endured drought. Cowboys drove cattle from Texas to Kansas through Oklahoma, and the Trail of Tears brought all the tribes of the Southeast to Oklahoma, along with their farming and foraging. In the century since statehood, the cow towns of Tulsa and Oklahoma City have struck oil and sprouted skyscrapers and fancy restaurants. But underneath it all, Oklahoma is still an agricultural center, staggering in its diversity and plenty.

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