California May Not Have A State Food, But It Has Many Official State Nuts

Pistachios, almonds, walnuts, and pecans became California's official state nuts back in 2017. Given the fact that California produces 98% of the pistachios in the nation and is responsible for growing eight out of 10 almonds eaten around the world, having various nuts share the crown of official state nut seems reasonable. However, New York Times writer Soumya Karlamangla is calling on Californians to consider what should be voted as the state's singular state food.

Not that all states have an official food, but the practice has seen an uptick in recent years. The idea began almost four decades ago when a high school student in New Mexico got so inspired by a conversation of state symbols from her history teacher (who happened to also serve in the New Mexico legislature) that she asked him to recommend the chile pepper as the official state vegetable. The following year he did just that and it passed, the first official state food of any kind to be signed into legislation.

A Wisconsin second-grade teacher had a much tougher time a few decades later when her students lobbied for the cranberry muffin as the official state food. Despite the fact that Wisconsin is the world's leading cranberry producer, the vote got derailed, with one senator calling for the Egg McMuffin as the state's breakfast muffin of choice. That likely wouldn't have sat well with California, however, since as Karlamangla points out, McDonald's got its start in the Golden State.

Exorbitant water needed for almonds may prevent state status

Although California is a nuts-producing heavyweight, the clear frontrunner is its powerhouse almond industry. California ranks second to China in producing walnuts, and it's not a top pecan producer nationwide, much less worldwide. California is a pistachio titan domestically, which helps the U.S. global ranking as the highest pistachio producer, but nothing is so decisive as California's corner on the almond industry. So why not just stick with almonds as the official state nut?

One politician tried. In 2013, The Los Angeles Times reported that California's then-Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom (on the sly) deputized the almond as the official state nut, which was overturned a few years later when the official notice about the four nuts was released. If California politicos are hesitant to put too hot a spotlight on their beloved almond, it's for good reason. According to The Guardian, the demands of growing almonds are bad for the bees, which are already in crisis mode. Not to mention, almond growing puts an unbalanced strain on California's already formidable water crisis.

We can appreciate what California does for our food supply as the top agriculture-producing state in America, and wonder what choice Californians would conclude best suits them as an official state food. Perhaps their flex move will be mimicking Texas, which, rather than a food of choice settled on an entrée: Texas chili.