Food in the Midwest

My mom's side of the family lives in Indiana, and my family has been coming here (Indianapolis) every Christmas since I was born. I hadn't thought about how Midwestern cuisine could be different than that of Colorado or the Northwest until I was reading in Bill Bryson's "The Lost Continent." Or at least I think that's where I was reading about it.

Bryson said something about Midwestern fair consisting of depression-era food: odd casseroles, white bread, plates of lunch meat, and every meal adorned with green olives. The olive part was what really caught my attention. Every supper we eat (and it's called "supper") is buffet-style with an option of olives and sweet pickles. I thought my grandpa bought them because I like them (and that may still be the case), but Bryson knew about the olives! Maybe it's cultural.

I spent a half hour looking through the book to find the exact quote without success. According to Google there is no use of the words "olive", "olives", "pickle", or "pickles" in the entire book. (What would olives have to do with the Depression anyway?)

We had cheeseburger pie two nights ago. It's hamburger, tomato paste, onion, and Italian seasoning covered in mozzarella cheese. All this happens in a pie tin, hence the name, and is drizzled with a tomato-paste sauce according to the diner's taste.

Spaghetti noodles make unexpected appearances. We had lunch and opened presents with Mitch's mom's side of the family. There was a spaghetti-based pasta salad. And my favorite food at Grandma's is her chili with tomato paste, hamburger, chili pepper, and spaghetti noodles.

Midwesterners like their beer light and macro brewed. It wouldn't make sense for them to drink anything that would take their attention off the Colts game they're watching. Even Fat Tire has only made a recent and slight appearance in this area. Mitch's cousin allegedly doesn't care for hops.

In an attempt to spread the canned-food love, I have made my beloved cherry-pineapple pie (quick-acting tapioca balls, a can of sour pitted cherries, canned pineapple, sugar, almond extract) for Washingtonian housemates without much success.

I'll be spending a rare New Year's outside of Indiana and intend to make the traditional and delicious Polish Mistakes: sausage cooked in Velveeta cheese placed on pieces of rye bread and baked in the oven.

I had thought it a bit extreme that the second thing anybody would say about Mitch's cousin was, "She's a vegan. She doesn't eat anything." Veganism: more restricting than vegitarianism, but not unheard of. It took me writing this blog to realize that a Midwest meal is never without meat, cheese, and eggs--sometimes all three in the same dish. A vegan from the Midwest is kind of like a cow that only eats strawberries.

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