Eight Things That Are Uniquely Oklahoman
When it comes to defining Oklahoma, there are a few choice characteristics that you only find here in the Sooner State. We could go on and on about this states weird and shocking weather events... tornadoes and straight line winds, some of the hottest temps in this country alongside arctic winter deep freezes... but that's not what makes Oklahoma what it is. It's defined by the people that call this place home, and some of the things they do are uniquely Oklahoma.
If you've been here for more than a week, you'll already know that most places test their tornado sirens at noon. What you may not know is, every town generally chooses different days to do this testing. It's Mondays here in Lawton, but my hometown does theirs on Fridays. Tulsa does theirs on Wednesday, OKC tests on Saturdays, and countless other municipalities occupy the other days of the week throughout the state. There's not a single day that some town isn't testing their tornado sirens at or around noon.
I think we've probably talked about BC Clark's Anniversary Sale a time or two over the years, and due to the television media desert we exist in, it's understandable that some in Lawton have no idea what this is... but you should know, it's not officially the christmas holiday season until you've seen this commercial and gotten the tune stuck in your head. It has aired every single year on television and radio across Oklahoma since 1956. It really is a big thing.
Other iconic Oklahoma commercials worthy of a mention are the "David Stanley leads the way" jingle and the guy on the Mile of Cars in Norman that always says "C'mon."
Imagine a society so dead-set on being polite, their politeness leads to massive aggravation at those pesky four-way stop signs all across the state. This is where the person that got to the stop sign first decides they want to be nice and let someone else go before them. What happens next is a little game of manners-chicken, and it's all about who'll break their politeness first. Honestly, it's not a hard thing to do. The person to your right has the right of way, if everyone is at a four-way, you take turns in a clockwise fashion and go about your way.
While we may get to claim originality to Red Dirt Country genre of music, something that Texas shanghaied from us like a pie thief, the red dirt below the crispy vegetation is uniquely Oklahoma. I mean, it's also on Mars, but people from around the world are usually shocked when the see literal red dirt. It's that color due to the high levels of iron in the soil, but we don't mix science with common knowledge in this state. It's red because the roots run deep or something like that.
This one is understandably subjective and somewhat more of a Non-SWOK thing, but it counts. For instance, I've never had to buy cups in my life. That doesn't mean I haven't, I have some personalized pint glasses I ordered years ago, but in terms of cups, I've never paid money for them. Maybe you've noticed this too in your friends home and just not put two and two together.
The world famous Eskimo Joe's restaurant and bar up in Stillwater always understood good marketing, so when they had their logo printed on some cheap plastic cups, they decided that the customer gets to keep their cup after having the meal. Pretty soon, when you open the cupboard looking for a cup, most Okie's have quite a collection of those cups.
This eventually started a trend in Oklahoma that a ton of Oklahoma original restaurants decided to follow... Rib Crib, Celebration Station, Jake's Ribs, and Hideaway Pizza are also common cups to find in any OK house... but just because it's common, it doesn't make some cups rare. I have a full set of mason jar glasses from Molly Murphy's back in the day. Oddly enough, they've survived moves from 13 different cities in Oklahoma, Colorado, and Texas.
You know, the Texans Blue Bell may make pretty good gas station ice cream, but in Oklahoma, you can never compete with Braum's. Their ice cream is just the best you can dip a spoon into. The chocolate is never chalky, the cookie and cream is chunky, and the cherry limeade sherbert is akin to sipping the nectar of the gods. Honestly, why would any Oklahoman ever waste their time with any other imposter ice cream brand?
The real shocker here is... Braum's ice cream is technically a Kansas thing. When Braum's bought the ice cream factory to start their empire, there was an agreement in the contract that said they couldn't compete with the family-owned ice cream businesses in Kansas for the first ten years... That's why it's been mostly just an Oklahoma thing even though there are a handful of stores now in North Texas, Kansas, Arkansas and Missouri now. Add in their grocery store option at most stores, and it's practically the one place you can get an entire meal for the family sourced sustainably and locally.
The reason Braum's is such a regional thing these days is quality. Much like In&Out, they refuse to open restaurants more than 300 miles away from the Tuttle headquarters farm. This way, when you walk into any Braum's you come across, you always get the same quality. If only they'd bring back the 1/3rd cheeseburger though... These little quarter pounders just aren't the same.
If you search the web for the origins of this iconic Oklahoma food, you're bound to run across wild speculations that it was a Texas thing. Much like their theft of Red Dirt music, Frito pie is uniquely Oklahoman. It was a food that took off for the world market after being born in the Oklahoma dust bowl. You see, food cost money, the dust bowl and depression meant nobody had any money, so the cheap corn chip base was a way to stretch the expensive chili meat around table.
Google says it was invented in 1937 as a marketing ploy by Frito's, but my 91 year old grandma remembers it being a thing years before the chip manufacturer caught wind of it. It's also why one of the only world class chili pies you can eat in this world can be found at another Oklahoma original, Sonic... If that particular restaurant is serving them. Not all of them do. In Lawton, I know the Lee Blvd Sonic does. If you're in Altus, tough luck. They're just not that cool.
There are many places across the United States that claim they know BBQ, there's only one place that is the original home to smoked bologna, and it's Oklahoma. You see, it's another depression era dust bowl thing. Brisket has always been expensive, but bologna isn't. And if you're the type that hates bologna, try it smoked. It's a world apart from the cold cut you're familiar with.
If you ever want to try it, take a pro-tip from a BBQ world champion... The one I knew always took that loaf of bologna and split it down the middle. So instead of a huge tube of smoked lips and b-holes, you'd have two half moon shaped tubes of it. More smoke equals more bark, and it's the carcinogens in the bark that give BBQ it's divine taste. You don't need to slather it in mustard either. Just sprinkle with black pepper and toss it in the smoke. It'll turn out amazing.
I'm sure that you have your own preferred BBQ sauce that you pick up at the store, I have an uncle that loved KC Masterpiece, to each their own. While you're more than welcome to eat whatever sauce you choose, know this... if it's not Oklahoma's own Head Country, it's not BBQ.
While the original is a little too sweet for me personally, their hickory smoke and hot variants are on point and BBQ championship caliber sauces invented, manufactured, and sold right here in Oklahoma. If you haven't yet, try a bottle next time you're at the store.