Questions, and More Questions …

I think that travel comes from some deep urge to see the world,
like the urge that brings up a worm in an Irish bog to see the moon when it is full.

~Lord Dunsany

Sitting in the passenger seat of any conveyance for any length of time gives a person plenty of time to think plenty of thoughts. The following questions are just some that clamored for attention as I watched the vastness of the USA midwest whizzing by on a recent trip to a family reunion:

  1. Henri Tonti, fur trader and explorer
    Henri de Tonti, fur trader and explorer

    What culinary significance and treasure can be found in towns with French and German place names in the US? What about the fur traders like Henri de Tonti and their culinary influence?

  2. What is unique about Gutwein Popcorn from Indiana? What’s the story behind popcorn in the US? How did it become associated with movie watching?
  3. Fair Oaks Farm, Indiana
    Fair Oaks Farms, Indiana

    Fair Oaks Farms, off exit 220 of US 65, in Indiana advertised for miles on billboards. What kind of a corporate farm do they run? How do they produce all those wonderful-looking dairy products on their colorful billboards?

  4. Why did someone bestow the name “Little Potato Creek” on an Indiana creek?
  5. What is the significance of “Big Muskie Bucket,” north of Marietta, Ohio? (I thought it was a fish, as in other parts of the midwest.)
  6. Why did someone invent silos? How did people learn that fermenting silage was good for cattle and cows?
  7. What’s the story behind the pumpkin patch in Westville, Indiana? Who created the house-sized pumpkin? See Coulters’ Produce.

    Pumpkin big
    Coulter's Pumpkin
  8. What’s the backstory on the organic restaurant in Knox, Indiana, the one with the billboards flashing by? (I’d never seen an organic restaurant advertise on a billboard before.)
  9. Lime Jello Salad 1954
    Lime Jello Salad 1954 (Photo credit: Larry Miller)

    Why did cooks take to Jello salads, especially lime Jello with cottage cheese and pineapple? On what previous culinary delights did the Jello people base these concoctions?

  10. Rice Krispie Treats
    Rice Krispie Treats

    Where did all the easy church-supper desserts come from? Seven-layer bars, Rice Krispie bars, etc.? Obviously from the back of the boxes of commercial products, but still, how did they dream these things up in the first place? What pre-existing foods and dishes provided the impetus? (Hint: think popcorn balls.)

© 2009 C. Bertelsen

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4 comments

  • With your list of questions, you didn’t even have to say where you were traveling – silos, jello salad and church suppers – how much more Midwest can you get?!!

    Driving thru the Southwest, my road-food questions would have to be:
    where did the Pecan Log Roll come from and are they really as nasty as they sound?
    why does every interstate jewelry outlet have FREE! INDIAN! FRY! BREAD! (one piece per customer)?;
    and is Texas the only state where you can get a free 5-pound steak (free if you eat the whole thing, plus sides)?

    great post – I’m now sitting here thinking about the other little interstate oddities I’ve seen driving around!

    Like

  • Your questions urge me on to find the answers, too! One place to look might be in Andrew Coe’s book, Chop Suey: A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States.

    Like

  • These are totally great questions. MIne also include: is it really true that the paths of chinese restaurants — where they are/were in tiny little towns — has to do with the history of railways? where did the notion that cincinnati’s chili is unlike anyone else’s come from (and why does anyone put chili on spaghetti)?

    Like

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