Not surprisingly, a British graphic artist is being criticized for leaving a few iconic foods off an American regional food map. But she's also taking flack for her treatment of this corner of the country.
Lucy Stephens, whose work was profiled yesterday by our sister paper L.A. Weekly, was inspired by a recent trip to California to depict the nation in terms reflecting its culinary heritage. The word "pretzel" sprawls across Pennsylvania, "steak" outlines the Texas panhandle, and "lobster" and "blueberry" define Maine's coast. Eagle-eyed eaters have found some head-scratchers among the choices: What's "mint" doing in Michigan? With so many wonderful foods to eat in the South, did Stephens really have to use "sweet potato" twice?
But the choice many armchair art critics have found most bothersome is the inclusion of "smettanick" along Montana's northern border.
"'Smettanick' for Montana? Massive fail. Stop reading world travel guides about what people eat. They're written by out-of-staters," an anonymous Buzzfeed contributor advised.
Indeed, the smettanick selection has struck Montana residents as such a strange choice for a region that prides itself on elk stews and whole-grain breads that a Google search for "smettanick" produces responses to Stephens' map among its top results.
That's likely a result of Stephens' idiosyncratic spelling. While The Food Timeline --a wonderful web resource frequently used by food writers and graphic artists--reprints a quote from a food history book that uses the "smettanick" spelling to describe the eating habits of early Montana settlers ("For company, there was a pie called Smettanick, which had a filling of cherry jam, almonds, and sour cream"), the preferred spelling for the Russian sour-cream cake is "smetannik."
Still, no matter how its name is spelled, smetannik remains a relative rarity in the Northwest. A staffer who answered the phone at Pike Market's Piroshky Piroshky
, which bills itself as "the best Russian bakery this side of the world," confirmed that the bakery has never stocked smetannik. According to Stephens' map, folks in Washington will instead have to content themselves with salmon, coffee, apples, beer, and pears.