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Foods of the Midwest

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Foods of the MidwestThe mysterious midwest of the US isn’t just understated, it’s got a whole lot of pent up energy the world knows nothing about. Case in point, there is a delicious little juicy ball called a Juneberry that makes its home there, and most people haven’t ever heard about June or her deliciousness.

The U.S. midwest refers to north, central portion of the country. States in the midwest include but are not limited to Michigan, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wisconsin. The region provides the US with a wealth of grain and has also traditionally produced large amounts of all-American beef and pork for country-wide consumption. The region also has a large dairy industry so there is a lot of milk and other forms of dairy found in cooking.

The original settlers of the Midwest were British, however a large wave of immigrants from Eastern Europe changed the make up and the local cuisine. The cuisine reflects not only those foods that are locally available, but also the lifestyles the immigrants brought over.

Waves of immigrants of Poland and Ukraine brought over foods like goulash and perogies while the Italians brought their love of good cheeses and meats. The Germans brought sausage and sauerkraut while the English brought handy dishes like cornish pasties. All of the old world influences married with local food wealth to create a very interesting, rich cuisine.

The Casserole
If you’ve ever enjoyed yourself a nice, hot, comforting casserole on a cold winter’s day you can thank the Midwest for that. Casseroles are essentially a protein, a starch and a liquid thrown into one big glass dish and baked into hot gooey perfection. Casseroles can feed a lot of people and require a short time to make. In fact casseroles can be made out of just about anything including some combo of leftovers and new stuff. A typical casserole can include steak, potatoes, carrots and chicken stock or something as simple as tuna and pasta.

Deep Dish Pizza
Perhaps it’s an ode to the Italian love of cheese and good meats or maybe it represents Midwest heartiness, but you cannot talk about the Midwest without talking about Chicago’s very own deep-dish pizza. You’ll find a visitor few and far between who would even think of leaving without trying a deep dish of their own.

A deep-dish pizza will resemble more of a pie than a pizza since its edges are high and the pan that it’s baked in is deep so you get a whole lot of gooey, cheesy medium-thick crust, topped with tangy tomato sauce and toppings as you like.

Hot Dogs and Brats
It is likely the German immigrants that gave the midwest it’s love and popularity for the amusement park staple hot dog. In fact the Coney Island Dog of Chicago is famous for its all-beef juiciness topped high with onions, relish and mustard. Wursts are popular at summer bbq’s and with a throwback to the ol’ days some people still saturate them in some beer before firing them on the grill.

Cincinnati Chili
If you thought you had a love affair with chili, you ain’t got nuthin on the people of Cincinnati and their serious relationship with the saucy ground beef stuff. You see ordering chili in Cincinnati might even require a short lesson from a local.

First of Cincinnati chili is a little sweet with spices like cinnamon and nutmeg on top and secondly if you order yourself just a bowl full of chili everyone will know you’re not a real Midwesterner.

Chili in cincinnati can be served up with one or all of the following: spaghetti, cheddar cheese, beans and onions. And yes, Cincinnati chili is not made with beans and sticks to a pot full of ground chuck in sweet, tomatoey sauce.

The Loose Meat Sandwich
This particular Midwest sandwich hasn’t made it far out of the Midwest but is extremely popular in the region. As the name suggests, you are actually eating loose meat in the form of ground beef, seasoned and cooked and stuffed in between two slices of bread or in between a bun. In fact there’s even a fast food chain that provides these puppies all day long in every state within the region.

Although, Polish in tradition, the perogie has become a favorite in the Midwest. The potato-filled pockets of dough were introduced to the region by immigrants from Poland, Ukraine and Hungary. Perogies also come stuffed with cheese as well as other times and are enjoyed with sour cream.

Cornish Pasty
Cornish pastries were introduced to the Midwest by British settlers. Cornish Pasty is essentially a pastry stuffed with vegetables and meat, a food that is both filling and easily portable. Although cornish pastries have been adopted into many Midwestern kitchens, they were originally the choice of local miners as a handy portable lunch.

Juneberry Everything
Juneberries are native to the Northern part of the U.S. in the center and east. The berries are bright purple and plump and due to their abundance are popularly used in all sorts of desserts. So if you’re in the midwest be sure to try a Juneberry Pie or a slice of toast with some locally-made Juneberry jam. Native Americans have been utilizing the juneberry for hundreds of years for medicinal purposes as well as foodstuffs.

The Midwestern part of the U.S. enjoys cuisine that differs significantly from other parts. While in other U.S. regions the local produce changed the types of foods that were cooked, in the case of the Midwest many food styles were brought over from the old world and enhanced with the abundance found in the new world.

One thing you can be assured of if you go on a Midwest food adventure is that your dishes will be hearty and your stomach full of old world stick-to-your bones goodness.

History of Chile

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Some anonymous Mexican poet said, “There is only one thing as sizzling, red and hot as my beloved maiden’s lips and that is Mexican chili.” Well, there is no denying that chilies can be placed in the category of hot and sexy, perhaps like that lovely maiden’s lips but the Mexican connection is questionable.

While you may have some friends from Mexico who like to share the story about how Mexico brought chilli to America, next time you hear it, you should interject. As far as chili is concerned, Mexico can certainly not take the credit.

Well, then who takes the credit? From where this sizzling spice that we use every now and then, was first used? How it became a part of the diverse cuisines from the south to the north of Americas? How it was welcomed in different areas and what is the chili’s unique relationship with that specific part? I promise that if you keep reading, by the end of this article you will get answers to all such questions. So take a chili pill and see where it takes you.

What is Chili’s homeland?

While chili lovers were always available in the world, even before the time when historians cared to write about this spice, each and every one of them would love to declare his homeland as the birthplace of Miss. Chili. You think that the Mexicans are so proud in this respect? Ask some Indian man and he would say that Chili and India are almost inseparable. He would explain how chili is in his blood, in the wind that blows there, in the waters that flow and in their folklore. Yes, this reminds of The Mistress of Spices, but Indians are not alone to claim the guardianship of chili. Ask some Chinese and he would tell you how Chili and Sichuan are two parts of a one entity.

However, as simple as this question might appear, its answer is not simple at all. One of the main reasons why it is very difficult to answer this question is the thousands of years old existence of Chili. Chili actually took birth before the history and history can hardly tell us that this amazing spice which is the “most wanted” spice of the world is almost 6000 to 7000 years old. The traces of chili are found in the South America. While Mexico can only be a wild guess, but there are some other very important places like Ecuador, Peru or Bolivia. Chili simply does not leave any reliable traces in Mexico, although historians believe that it is actually in Mexico that Chili took birth.

While some researches prove that the first use of Chili was made in Mexico and it was awkwardly used not as a spice in some ancient Mexican cuisine, but it was used to make a beverage. Hmm! Chili beer! Care to take a sip? However, there are some other researchers who insist that Mexico is not the home of Miss. Chili, but actually took birth in the mountains of Bolivia and Brazil. Such chili historians are unable to prove whether after the birth Miss. Chili decided to take Brazilian nationality or the Bolivian. Judging from Luciana Zogbi’s looks, I bet that Chili was one of her ancestors. However, sooner and not later, through birds and humans, chili spread throughout the South America.

How chili became part of American food?

As it has been mentioned earlier, in some parts of Mexico chili was used to make spicy beverages. However, because the human beings were evolving they decide to make chili a thing for dinner. Perhaps the mustard or spicy sauce that you like today with your beef burger, is the granddaughter of chili. Chili was actually used as a part of some ancient Mexican sauce. Considering her usefulness, since the very beginning of her culinary career Miss. Chili was not only used as a food ingredient, but it was also used for pharmaceutical and even ritual purposes.

Now, next time when your Indian friend tries to brag about how ‘holy’ chili is to them, tell him that had Christopher Columbus not have taken birth, they would have never tasted the silly chili. Yes, it is true. Indians should know that to them Columbus was not only the discoverer of America, but of chili too. He met chili on his way and declared that it was also a pepper: how genius, I would have declared it sugar. So, how chili reached India? It is interesting. It went from Spanish merchants to Portuguese merchants to the Indian ports. Vasco de Gama takes the credit!

Coming back to how chili gradually became part of the American cuisine, we have to go back to Mexico. Although we refuse to accept the Mexican claim that chili is their national, we only accept their claim just as much as that of almost all South America. However, one dish that is particularly mentioned when it comes to the origin and use of chili, is the Chili Corn Carne. This is a Mexican dish and it mainly relies on meat and chili.

Talking of Chili Corn Carne, I cannot help but mention its US variation, and that is Vegetarian chili. As the name suggests, it is a vegetarian food. Then there is Chili Verde, which is a New Mexican delicacy, and it takes too much pork as well as too much chili. Chili is actually very famous in Southern states of the USA; it is the official dish of Texas too.

Coming back to Mexico, we should not forget an old chili delicacy and that is Tex-Mex cuisine. Tex-Mex is simply native-foreign food and it is made of chili. While it was made in Native American lands, the idea was foreign and this gave it its unique name. If I am to mention some relatively new chili delicacies, I will obviously recommend the Cincinnati chili, which is just a variation of the Texas chili. However, it is cooked a bit differently and it is topped with chopped onion and red kidney beans. Amazing! Huh! If you love some more, try Original San Antonio Chili or Joe Cooper’s Chili.

While there are many chili delicacies that we are sure about, something that we cannot be sure about is the true homeland of Miss. Chili. So, if you ask again where is she from, it would be such a chili question.

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