I’m just back from a ten-day visit with family and friends in Minnesota. Returning to the place and people of my childhood is always an experience with emotional layers. One feels love for sure, but my time there can be delightful, disturbing and thought provoking all at once.
Much can be said about all this, but for now I’ll limit myself to one of the highlights: the Minnesota State Fair. This is a huge event in Minnesota, between one and two million people attend every year and it is a great place to observe the culture of Minnesota in its diversity. Garrison Keillor’s Minnesota of staid Scandanavian and German Lutherans is very much the one I grew up in, and an updated version of that culture is prominent yet, but people from Somalia, Laos, Mexico and dozens of other countries now claim their stake as Minnesotans.
These changes are nowhere more evident than in the culture of what and how people eat. And make no mistake, the Fair is about people getting together to eat. So what was on offer at the 2009 Minnesota State Fair? A dizzying variety of options, but most famously, food on a stick. Yes, yes, the obvious such as corn dogs and cotton candy. Those are naturals for a stick. But barbecued alligator, deep-fried snickers bars, spaghetti, a reuben sandwich on a stick? My favorite, though, has to be the Norwegian banana split on a stick, which is a banana wrapped with lefse, deep fried, and topped with a scoop of ice cream. You non Minnesotans will want to know that lefse is sort of a cross between a tortilla and a crepe, but made with potatoes. Quite tasty actually.
Obviously, we humans eat with varied ends in mind. Sometimes for survival, sometimes out of religious custom or philosophical belief and sometimes, as at a state fair, just for fun. And on this new blog, I and other members of our community will note and comment upon our culture, with an emphasis on our food culture, but with excursions into other topics which seem relevant and interesting. Please feel free to comment.
Gary Alinder, September 7, 2009
Later Note: Those of you with delicate stomachs may not care to watch the video! It shows an amazing array of foods on a stick you could consume at the Minnesota State Fair. Sad or hilarious? You decide.