Hodge Podge Kitchen

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Taste of Minnesota

Here at the Podge, we don't just sit around cooking all day. (We do, however, sit around and eat a lot) We spend our time learning new things, and especially during the summer, we do a little traveling to try local flavors in new places. So sure, we have been quiet around here lately, but you can only steal WiFi access in so many parts of the world.....

For me, I took a family trip a while back to my wife's homeland -- The great Midwestern state of Minnesota. I was eager to meet more of Britt's family, but really, I was looking forward to eating some Minnesotan cuisine...

...what is Minnesotan cuisine, you may ask? Well, I wasn't sure either. I was ready to investigate though. I figure a good place to start would be the shopping Mecca of the country, the Mall of America. The biggest mall in the country also has an impressive food court, so I decided to sample several choices.


A sushi appetizer, a cheesesteak sandwich, a root beer float, and fried cheese curds. Is that not a melting pot of delicious (and heart stopping) delicacy or what? Still, except for the fried cheese curds, there wasn't anything I couldn't have had back home, so I moved on....

I attended several baseball games in Minnesota too, so maybe there was a local treat to be had at the Metrodome. We even went to one game with the ever popular dollar hot dog promotion. Sure I felt stuff from five dollars of hot dogs (how do you do it, Kobayashi?), but even Britt here chomping on the upgrade bratwurst below was a little disappointed in the quality of the sausages. I guess next year we will have to go a little further east for a Milwaukee Brewers game....


It turns out that I really was looking too hard for authentic Midwestern fare. On several visits to britt's family (I honestly met too many to remember any of them), we dined on simple, home cooked meals. It was then I realized that the heart of Minnesotan eating came down to one word: hotdish, or as I call them casseroles. Whether church potlucks or family reunions (I attended both), there is nothing more Midwestern then piling some starch with some meat, toss in a few veggies, and bind it all together with some thick sauce, bake and voila, you have tasted the Midwest.

(Incidentally, the meal above featured the best home made pickled beets I've ever had)

And so, satisfied at having sampled a piece of Americana, I enjoyed the rest of my week by eating whatever came my way. There were a few other local favorites, like the aforementioned cheese curds (seen below in fresh, pre-fried form), and countless stops at Dairy Queen (also shown below), but I went home knowing that if I want to really relive my memories of the summer in Minnesota, I just have to drain some pasta, brown some ground meat, chop up an onion and perhaps a carrot, and bake it all in a gravy sauce for cheapest 2000 mi trip your taste buds can take you.