Montana doesn't really have a signature food item or flavor. We joke about Rocky Mountain oysters, but let's be honest... they're hardly a top-selling dish.  New York claims the title for pizza, Pennsylvania owns the Philly cheesesteak, Maine brags about their lobster rolls, and you'll find amazing green chili dishes in New Mexico. Montana is certainly beef country, but it doesn't feel like it's something we're famous for, does it?

The Treasure State is a bit of a melting pot of cuisine, largely influenced by the relatively bland diet of early immigrants. Irish, German, Norwegian, Dutch and other European settlers bought their family recipes to the wide-open spaces of Montana. For most common folk, their daily menu was probably pretty boring and was likely based on foods that were plentiful and inexpensive. Bursting with exotic flavor wasn't necessarily a top priority.

Credit: Manuta

Skip the heat?

Many Montanans say they don't enjoy spicy foods, including most of my family. Any dish with slightly more heat than a bottle of Heinz 57, and they swear it's simply "too hot" to eat. There are certainly a handful of great Mexican restaurants in Montana, but finding authentic ethnic food (of any type) can be challenging in many of our smaller communities.

Credit: karandaev

Eight seasonings and spices you'll find on every Montanans spice rack.

Some of you may have a pantry full of exotic spices and know how to use them. If that's the case, please consider inviting me over for dinner sometime. For the rest of us, here's what I know you'll find on every Montanans spice rack.

  1. Salt & Pepper. No need to say more
  2. Garlic powder. Yes, fresh garlic is awesome, but the powder does the trick.
  3. Onion powder/flakes. I love fresh onions and use them often. I also love onion powder or onion flakes when I run out of fresh onions.
  4. Oregeno/thyme/rosemary. The trifecta. "Italian" spice mixes usually contain all three.
  5. Alpine Touch. If you're not using Alpine Touch on everything, can you really call yourself a Montanan?
  6. Cinnamon/nutmeg. These twins are a common ingredients in many cookie and holiday treat recipes.
  7. Crushed red pepper. A light sprinkle of this pizza-topper can add a little zing to otherwise bland dishes like cabbage or cauliflower.
  8. A rub. Serious meat smokers probably make their own rub, but most of us amateurs likely have at least one store-bought rub for grilling or smoking meats.

Honorable mention: vanilla, cumin, paprika, chili powder, cream of tartar. I don't use any of these on a daily or weekly basis, but they all pop up frequently on various recipes.

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