Capri Cafaro Explores Regional Foods in PBS Series

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – During her 10-year stint as an Ohio state senator, Capri Cafaro attended many events where the region’s food specialties were the main attraction.

The Hubbard resident always had an interest in cultural and culinary history, and the events got her wondering about the traditions of other areas around the country.

In a new television series that will air on PBS stations nationwide, Cafaro explores the foods and traditions that can be found only off the beaten path.

“America the Bountiful,” a 30-minute weekly show, will premiere Thursday, May 23, on PBS Western Reserve.

The station, which serves the Youngstown area, will air the first three episodes at 5 p.m. for three consecutive Thursdays. Then it will restart the series from the first episode, moving it to 3:30 p.m. Saturdays, starting June 15.

The first season has 13 episodes and will include stops from Oregon, where pears are a point of pride, to Maryland, where the blue crab is a signature dish.

Each episode focuses on one location, with Cafaro delving into regional fare from an agricultural standpoint to its place in community life.

The show steers clear of touristy spots and big cities, preferring out-of-the-way places.

Through a series of interviews, Cafaro uncovers the food, history and culture of each place she visits. Viewers will see her learn how a food is grown or raised, and then processed and prepared.

“It’s not a cooking show or a travel show,” she stressed. Instead, “America the Bountiful” aims to educate and reveal a region’s cultural identity.

Here’s a list of the Season 1 episodes:

  • Wild Rice in Minnesota.
  • Pears in Oregon.
  • Oysters in South Carolina.
  • Chiles in New Mexico.
  • Apples in Virginia.
  • Pheasants in South Dakota.
  • Blue Crabs in Maryland. 
  • Corn in Arizona.
  • Ramps in West Virginia.
  • Pecans in Georgia.
  • Maple in Vermont.
  • Cheese and Beer in Wisconsin.
  • Cranberries in Massachusetts. 

About the Host

Cafaro is the creator and host of the show, as well as the executive producer.

Planning and production of the series, which will air on most PBS stations, began about a decade ago, Cafaro said. But the idea came to her even before then.

“My motivation comes from my time in public service,” said Cafaro, whose senate district encompassed all of Trumbull and Ashtabula counties and part of Geauga County. “We have a rich ethnic and agricultural history here. There are a million festivals – an apple festival, grape festival, Greek festivals, walleye …”

Cafaro, a state senator from 2007 to 2016, said two things occurred to her as a result of going to so many events: Food brings communities together, and it tells the story of a place.

“Food builds bridges between groups of people,” Cafaro said. “You may not be Italian, but you’ll wait all year for the Italian festival because it’s a way to get to know your neighbors.”

A region’s history is also revealed in what its populace eats.

“You think of the eastern and southern Europeans who came here to work in the mills and the mines,” Cafaro said. “And in the wider picture, the wine country along the coast of Lake Erie and the Amish community. We have all of this in our corner of Ohio, and I thought, ‘So what else is out there?’”

Cafaro is experienced in just about all media.

She is a radio host and podcaster for the Sirius show “Eat Your Heartland Out”; a television contributor to Detroit Public Television; and the author of the cookbook “United We Eat.”

At first, she wanted to launch a television show that focused on this region. But the idea grew from there to encompass the whole country.

The first season of “America the Bountiful” does not stop in Ohio or Pennsylvania. But Cafaro is currently filming Season 2, which will include an episode in both states.

She recently visited the southeastern Pennsylvania city of Kennett Square, which is the center of mushroom country, for an episode.

Next, she’ll head to the Lake Erie coast and islands for an episode on Ohio’s specialty, the walleye. Shooting will take place on Kelly’s Island, Bowling Green State University and at a walleye festival in Port Clinton.

Cafaro has taken cooking classes and has a keen interest in all things culinary.

“I just love to cook,” she said. “I learned from my grandmother. It’s a way to show hospitality.”

To learn more about “America the Bountiful,” click HERE.

Pictured at top: Capri Cafaro, right, watches as a traditional corn dish is prepared while shooting an episode of “America the Bountiful” in Arizona.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.