Rhode Island, officially named State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, is a region in New England in the United States. It is the smallest state in the U.S. by land area, with 1,214 square miles or 3,140 square kilometers. Its population in 2012 was estimated at 1,050,292. Rhode Island has the longest name among all the U.S. states and also goes by its nickname, The Ocean State, due to its geographical location.
Rhode Island: Cultural Diversity
Rhode Island’s relative isolation because of its natural maritime borders allowed the state to develop its very own culture. Its slightly over one million residents are composed of Italian, Irish, Portuguese, French, Dominican, Chinese, Guatemalan, French Canadian and Puerto Rican peoples. It is the only state in the U.S. that celebrates the Victory over Japan Day each year on the second of September.
While American English is the official language, Spanish, Portuguese, French and Italian are some of the most dominant languages spoken at home. A large percentage of the population are of Portuguese heritage.
Many of the island’s population speak with a non-rhotic accent, meaning some of the letters in a word are not pronounced clearly. This is typical of people speaking English with an accent, such as those from New England, Great Britain and Australia. The accent is comparable to that of a Brooklyn accent or a cross between the Boston and New York accents, making butter sound like “butta” and water as “wata.” Rhode Island residents call drinking fountains as “bubblers” and pronounce coffee as “kaw-fee.”
Rhode Island: Food and Drinks
And, speaking of coffee, there are foods and drinks in Rhode Island that are not found anywhere else.
Coffee milk is officially the state drink of Rhode Island. And it is not just coffee mixed with milk. It is coffee syrup with milk, sold in cups and bottles. It was invented in the state around the 1930s. One other drink that was once officially the state drink in Rhode Island is Del’s Lemonade, before it was beaten by coffee milk in 1993. The frozen lemonade came from a recipe brought to Rhode Island from Italy by an immigrant, Franco DeLucia. His son, Angelo was able to produce a machine to produce the drink mechanically and established the business in 1948.
Rhode Island’s hot wieners are equally different, made from veal and pork, instead of beef. Other popular local delicacies include snail salad, submarine sandwiches called grinders using a mix of Italian cold cuts such as salami, provolone cheese, capicola, ham and prosciutto. One of the Portuguese community’s contributions to Rhode Island’s unique cuisine is the spicy sausage-peppers-bread combo called linguiça.
Only in Rhode Island would you be able to buy thick crust pizza strips topped with a thick layer of tomato sauce and oregano that goes well with cold beer. Johnny cakes are said to have originated from Rhode Island.
Only in Rhode Island will you be able to eat the unique clear chowder, called the Rhode Island Clam Chowder, with tomatoes rather than milk. Rhode Island is also famous for traditional foods like clam cake, (deep fried chopped quahog and dough) and the locally invented Clams Casino, clams baked on a half shell, using the small cherrystone or littleneck clams, with breadcrumbs and bacon.