People on the coasts often have no idea how to categorize 60% of the states between New York and California, so they do what they can with the terms West, Midwest, and Southern.
As a result, Oklahoma is often incorrectly lumped in with Midwestern states, a classification that makes sense geographically but not culturally. When I hear Midwest, I think of Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, etc., places that don’t have the hard-working prairie ethic instilled in them from their mothers’ breast milk as we do in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska.
I prefer to call my region the Central Plains, but for the purposes of this blog series, I will accommodate the ignorance of outsiders and call these great states part of the Midwest.
Imagine a people sprawled under a sky that scorches them in the summer and dumps snow and ice on them during the winter. In the spring, tornadoes and hail demolish homes and crops. There is no mercy: you will farm or become food for the farm.
Because fresh vegetables wither in all seasons (to be explained later), and dairy and carbs must pull up the slack. Bacon grease is a health supplement. People die at the age of 60, but they die having eaten egg yolks and butter their entire life. Healthy eating is a foreign imposition by people on the coasts, and God bless America.*
What kind of food do these people eat? What flavors, textures, and cooking methods typify their everyday noshes? How can they survive the blazing summers and bone-cracking winters?
The people of the Central Plains are ingenious. They have invented a cuisine that not only allowed them to deal with their harsh surroundings, but took the cooking out of cooking altogether. From the Midwest come an astonishing variety of casseroles, truly unique takes on the salad, and all different kinds of ways to prepare, texture, and name a meatloaf. For this reason, the Midwest is known for its incredible cuisine. When people from other countries and the coasts imagine the great gap between D.C. and L.A., they inevitably think of the mouth-watering food that has made itself known across the world for its creativity, flavor, and health-benefits.
Cities like New York, Atlanta, Boston, San Francisco, and Portland are overrun with restaurants serving up hot casserole dishes and dinner rolls to eager clientele, and top chefs hail cream of chicken soup as a miracle liquid revealed by the Almighty.
For the next couple of posts, I will be talking about this wonderful cuisine, aided by two cookbooks that my mother recently gave me. Stay tuned next week to learn about the Midwestern casserole, the salad experience in the Midwest, and culinary highlights of Midwestern cookery. It’s sure to be an enlightening journey.
*Do I have “science” to back up these claims. No. But I have been to family reunions.