Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Minnesota Installment #1: Food Vocabulary and a Stereotype Debunked

  (Image from Voyageur Park Lodge)

Ahhhh, now THAT'S Minnesota, I feel the stress melting away.

As you may know, I was born and raised in Minnesota and still live here. And not only that, but I was born and raised in a small town. You know what that means...I have a strong Minnesotan accent. I have to admit, I'm a little sensitive about it and get a little upset if people mimick my accent.  However, I realize that it's unique and I want to embrace it, along with the unique Minnesota vocabulary, especially surrounding food. So here's a short list:

Hot Dish: Many of you may know this food group as casserole, but we here in MN like to make things more direct and simple. Any small town Minnesotan can tell you about the quintessential church pot luck hot dish.  It always has hamburger (aka groud beef), some sort of starch (rice, noodles, or potatoes), and cream of mushroom soup.  Other ingredients are added as well, but may vary depending on whose making it.  Probably the most recognizable hot dish is Tater Tot Hot Dish

(Picture by Minnesota Visitor)

Bars: This is any dessert, besides cake, that is cut into squares. They are almost always served straight from the pan. The most obvious example is brownies, but can also include desserts like these or these. Again, no church pot luck is complete with out some bars. "Hey Joyce, I'll bring some bars if you bring a hot dish".

(Image from Getty Images)

A Little Lunch: Now this may be a little lesser known, but when a Minnesotan says "Hey, how about a little lunch", it usually means "Hey, I know we weren't planning to eat, but I invited you over and now I want to offer you large amounts of food".  I found an explanation by Ms. BrownieLocks that perfectly describes 'a little lunch'.  "There are four meals in the Northland: breakfast, dinner, supper, and a little lunch".  "A little lunch is a stealth meal served to unsuspecting coffee guests from out of town".  "You will be lavished with lemon bars, chocolate chip cookies, cakes, sandwhiches, and a dab of everything single thing in your host's refrigerator". 

Supper:  The previous phrase, led me to this next Minnesota-esque word, supper.  This is the evening meal, which many people refer to as dinner.  I recently switched over to calling this meal dinner, the Self-Professed Nerd is originally from Colorado, and my dad still corrects me whenever it say it. :)

I could on and on, so maybe this will have to be a recurring topic.  I have several cookbooks from MN churches, which really give you a glimpse of small town food culture in Minnesota. 

MN Stereotype #1: Minnesotans eat Lutefisk on a regular basis.  I have never eaten Lutefisk in my life.  In fact, I've never even seen it with my own eyes.  I'm pretty sure noone in my family has ever made it or eaten it either.  There ya go, MN stereotype #1=Debunked!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


So, this may not be a mind-blowing recipe like these or these, but it will change the way you eat a favorite movie-watching snack.  I'm talkin' popcorn people!  I have loved homemade, popped on the stove, popcorn with real butter and salt for a long time.  In fact, I remember going to the drive-in (yes, you heard me) with my mom and dad and a brown paper bag full of the stuff.  It was amazing!  I'd wear my pj's and eat popcorn to my heart's content and then fall asleep before the second feature even started.

You can imagine my delight when I found popcorn kernals even more fantastic than Mr. Redenbacher's.  I found them at the Mennonite market near my home town and let me tell you, there is no going back.  They are much more fresh and tender than any other popcorn. The Market had a few different types (along with the most amazing whoopie pie): yellow, white, tiny, and lady finger.  I bought the white and the tiny.  The white, pops up just like any other popcorn, but it has a white hull and the tiny is just as it says, smaller than a normal kernal.

Let's not forget the most important tool when making popcorn...the Whirley Pop popcorn maker.  I'm pretty sure I love my Whirley Pop more than any other kitchen tool in my cupboards.  It makes delicious popcorn in about 3 minutes flat, no longer than that microwave stuff.  I've had mine for 10+ years now and it's still going strong.  So, if you love popcorn, run as fast as you can to get one.  Oh, and you MUST use real butter and popcorn salt.  There is just no other acceptable way.