I am not a Rhode Island native. I wasn’t born here. As a kid my only real exposure to the Ocean State was the occasional trip to Misquamicuit Beach—because the beaches of my home state, Connecticut, were sheltered by that giant landmass, Long Island, that the waves were non-existent. So, if we were lucky Mom would drive us further to a beach in RI that had the southern exposure to the ocean and the big waves. My only other exposure to Little Rhody was that we had to pass through it to get to Battleship Cove to see the USS Massachusetts in Fall River, Massachusetts. We always seemed to bring relatives who came from Poland to see the Massachusetts. Though I am not sure why we did that. When I was very young, my relatives would come from Poland on a ship from Gdansk to Montreal. So, my Dad’s logic was “Let’s take someone who just spent more than a week at sea, and now show them some other ship.”

I went to college in Rhode Island, at Bryant College. So, I spent three years in RI then. Then I moved to Boston immediately after school, but I still had an active social life in Rhode Island, as I had friends and eventually a boyfriend who was in a band that played in Providence. Eventually that boyfriend became a live-in boyfriend and we lived in Boston. Eventually that boyfriend started a company in Providence. Eventually he became a fiancé. Eventually I got laid off from my job in Boston and we bought a house in RI—where real estate was way more affordable.

I officially moved here in 2001. I officially got RI license plates, and all those things that go with being a resident. But since then I have officially become a Rhode Islander in the smallest of ways.

1. BJ Knapp author of Beside the Music loves Del's Lemonade

It’s not officially summer in Rhode Island until you drink a Del’s Lemonade. Del’s is frozen lemonade, like a slushie. It even has bits of lemon peel in it. In the summer there are Del’s lemonade trucks parked everywhere you look. At the beach or park. There was one around the corner from our old house in Apponaug. They are in the parking lot at Home Depot, etc. They also have fixed locations. The correct way to drink one is without a straw. You kind of make a V out of one side of the cup and slurp the frozen lemony goodness into your mouth. (Side note, if you bring them home Del’s is amazing with a splash of vodka.)

2.BJ Knapp author of Beside the Music loves Awful Awfuls

Another summer treat is the Awful Awful. The Awful Awful is a milkshake sold at Newport Creamery—which is a small restaurant chain here in RI. It stands for Awful Thick Awful Good. Here in RI, historically they call the drink you’d make when you blend ice cream and milk a “cabinet.” A common drink here is a “Coffee Cabinet” which is a milkshake made with coffee ice cream. Don’t even ask me why it’s called a “cabinet.” That’s old school Rhode Islandese; you don’t hear it as much anymore. But the Awful Awful is very much a thing.

3.BJ Knapp author of Beside the Music loves Allies Donuts

Allie’s Donuts. Allie’s makes the only edible donut in this state. Dunkin can suck it. (Though Dunkin coffee is very much a big deal here. I don’t drink coffee, and I feel like Dunkin Donuts leaves a film in my mouth.) Allie’s is located in North Kingstown, and looks like a shack. But in that shack are the most legit donuts you ever had in your entire life. They even make donut birthday cakes. The maple frosted donut…. Droooolllll…..

4.BJ Knapp author of Beside the Music says Take a Left Where the Almac's used to be.

I give directions in relation to where landmarks used to be. This is such a Rhode Island way to give directions. There used to be a grocery store called Almacs, but it closed down. You’ll still hear “Take a left where the Almacs used to be.” I totally caught myself doing this not long after I moved here. The thing is, it totally makes sense.

5.BJ Knapp author of Beside the Music loves Ocean State Job Lot

I shop at Ocean State Job Lot. Ocean State Job Lot is in some of the New England states, and is headquartered in North Kingstown. It is the best store ever. It’s an odd lot store, that literally has anything you would possibly need. I go there to get dog toys (why spend full price on something that they’ll shred in 5 minutes) and other things like picture frames, some household cleaners. It’s cheaper than other stores, so it’s always my first stop when I need to shop. When I am visiting other areas, like Florida, I often lament the lack of Job Lot as I am an addict.

6.BJ Knapp author of Beside the Music loves Pizza Strips

I love pizza strips. I took my dad to an ice cream place when he visited once. And there were pizza strips on the counter. He pointed and asked “What on earth are those?” Imagine a pizza without cheese. So, it’s just crust and sauce. Now, imagine if it were cut into a strip, like 3 inches by 6 inches. Now imagine eating it cold. Best. Snack. Ever. They’re everywhere. In convenience stores, at the supermarket… and they usually cost about a buck. And they are delicious.

Now, there are some downright weird things that Rhode Islanders do that I can’t quite get behind. I mentioned calling milkshakes “cabinets.” That’s just weird. But here are a few other things I don’t do yet.

1. I still pronounce the letter “R” when I speak. In Rhode Island they drive “cahs” instead of cars. But they also have “idears” instead of “ideas.” So, it’s not that we don’t say the letter r. We just put it where it shouldn’t be.

2. I don’t call a water cooler, or water fountain, a “bubbler.” Now, if you throw in #1 from above, you’d call it a “bubblah.” It's also important to note that when you google "bubbler" you'll get approximately 9 million pictures of bongs.

3.BJ Knapp author of Beside the Music doesn't like coffee milk.

I don’t drink coffee milk. You know how when you want to make chocolate milk, you’d pour a glass of milk and squirt in some chocolate syrup, right? In RI we sell coffee syrup for the same purpose, and you’d have coffee milk. I don’t like the taste of coffee, so I can’t get behind this one.

4.BJ Knapp author of Beside the Music and Johnny Cakes

Johnny Cakes. Imagine pancakes. Who doesn’t like pancakes? Now imagine that they have the gritty chunky corn meal in them. Yeah, I don’t think those sound so appealing either.

5.BJ Knapp author of Beside the Music and stuffed quahogs

I also cannot get into stuffed quahogs and clam chowder, only because I don’t like clams. A Quahog is a large clam, and the stuffing is made from the meat of the clam and served baked onto the half shell. RI clam chowder is not like the creamy New England clam chowder-it’s a clear broth base.

BJ Knapp is the author of Beside the Music, available for purchase here. Please sign up for the Backstage with BJ Knapp mailing list to get updates on events, signings, dog pictures and so much more.

BJ Knapp is the author of Beside the Music, available for purchase here. Please sign up for the Backstage with BJ Knapp mailing list to get updates on events, signings, dog pictures and so much more.