I'm always fascinated by local food traditions. Sometimes, we don't even realize something is a local tradition until we move away. Each geographical location has its own history, its own culture, and often, food traditions develop as a result of the melting of multiple cultures together.
One food tradition in Rhode Island is Chicken dinner served family style. While that may not sound all that special, "Chicken Family Style," as its known, comprises of a series of very special dishes and is served at many Rhode Island restaurants--particularly those with banquet halls. In fact, it's very common, almost expected, to be served Chicken Family Style at weddings and other family celebrations.
Here's how the meal generally goes. First, you're served a simple salad with house Italian dressing along with dinner rolls or bread and butter. Typically, the salad comes in a large bowl and is passed around the table so you can serve yourself (i.e. "Family Style"). Then, they bring out large platters of split roasted whole chicken, piping-hot french fries, and pasta with marinara sauce (shells, penne, or ziti). Again, the platters are passed and you can eat as much as you like. They'll bring more!
Some establishments, in an effort to add their personal touch to the meal, offer additional items. For example, some offer a house chicken soup during the first course. One restaurant is known for adding freshly baked cinnamon rolls to the bread basket, while another is known for offering oven-roasted rosemary potatoes as alongside the fries. In the end, it's all delicious.
It's not entirely clear where the tradition came from, but it's likely that it had to do with one particular restaurant, Wright's Farm, that even today, only serves this signature meal. The restaurant was originally a working chicken farm and the owner built a small restaurant alongside it that slowly grew to the enormous place it is today. In fact, it's even a tourist destination.
While Wright's is likely the the establishment that established Chicken Family Style as a part of Rhode Island Culture, it's likely the heavy influence of the Italians in the area that influenced the meal itself. Italians are known for being family-centric and serving their meals "family style," and it's obvious that the dishes in the meal itself are of Italian influence.
What kinds of food traditions are in your area?