Approach any person on any random street and launch into a laundry list of basic questions. Favorite animal, favorite TV show, a life goal are good ones. Then, tell them where they hail from, where they grew up.
Didn't quite hit it out of the proverbial ballpark? It's because you didn't ask about food. Food ties people to place like few things can, and even in our fly here-to-there age, we're loyal to the yummy stuff of our youth.
Like green bean casserole. It's a Thanksgiving table staple, and a pretty uncontroversial one at that. While many people will bicker over lumpy vs. unlumpy gravy, most of us are charmed, and charmingly perplexed, at why green beans, cream of mushroom soup, and fried onions work so well together.
But they do, and, according to the Del Monte Green Bean Index -- you totally knew there was such a thing, right? -- California ranks ninth on the lists of states that are casserole-crazy come Turkey Day.
Note this, however: California and Colorado are the only two Western states in the top 10, with the south, New England, and Midwest all making higher showings. Are casseroles more of a thing back easterly?
There's a smiley, noncontroversial topic to discuss with the relatives over Thanksgiving dinner.
The study, by the by, which surveyed 1,500 Americans on their general affection for this vintage dish, put Kentucky, Wisconsin, Missouri, Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire, Florida, and Colorado ahead of the Golden State.
As for variations? Bacon, cheese, and mushrooms placed in the top three spots.
If you've been tasked with creating the oh-so-retro side for this year, the green-beanery has suggested some ways to change it up.
Ohhhh, Goat Cheese Green Bean Casserole? OK, we're listening.