Pride in one’s home state is a complicated thing. It’s a lot like family — you’re embarrassed by it a lot of the time, especially when whichever politicians are in charge inevitably act like assholes, but it’s hard to not have some innate sense of reverence for the place you’re from. Texans tend to express that pride both obnoxiously and profusely, via everything from tattoos on our bodies to entire swimming pools fashioned to look like the Lone Star State, but my new favorite way to show off that state pride is via a cute casserole dish.
I first encountered dishes that look like states in Oklahoma. I was there on a trip visiting country star Reba McEntire’s new Atoka restaurant, Reba’s Place, when I happened upon an Oklahoma-shaped casserole dish designed by Faye Passow, a Minnesota-based Etsy seller. Made from cheery yellow stoneware, towns and landmarks are painted in blue and red on the bottom of the dish, and its outline is slightly squiggly, mimicking Oklahoma’s southern border. The Texas version of the dish, also designed by Passow, feels especially personal — there’s a tiny image of the cowboy-hat-topped Eiffel Tower in my hometown of Paris, Texas in the upper right corner.
Passow’s Etsy shop has casseroles for folks in other states, including Minnesota and Wisconsin. But the world of state-shaped dishes goes far beyond this one Etsy shop. Pottery Barn sells handmade platters modeled after 22 different states, including Louisiana and its jagged coastline and the near-perfect squareness of Kansas. If casseroles aren’t your thing, there are California-shaped spoon rests, charcuterie boards cut to look like Idaho, and a handmade cast iron Florida skillet that will set you back $700.
And sure, unless you live in one of the square ones, you may say a casserole dish or skillet that looks like your home state is impractical. How would you even stack something that’s as squiggly and irregular as the state of Florida in your cabinet? Who actually wants a pancake that looks like Idaho? Others might think that these dishes are too kitschy, not a fit with their sleek dining sets made from hand-thrown ceramic. But whether you’ve moved far away or are still in your home state, the point here is nostalgia, not practicality or sophistication.
Even the most basic tater tot hot dish is going to taste better, and a little more homey, when served in a dish that resembles Minnesota. A big, Texas-sized (and shaped!) platter of queso and chips is the absolute best way for any Texan to welcome a bunch of dinner party guests. As a bonus, it’s always a good gift idea to keep in the back of your mind for any expat friends feeling homesick. After all, there’s nothing that says “I care” more than a lasagna that looks just like Wisconsin.