When I travel to new places, I like to eat new foods. I look up what foods the area is known for and then I order accordingly. So, I thought I’d share some of the foods we’ve discovered thus far.
Illinois- Yep, we ordered deep dish pizza. There is a reason people call pizza a pie. In New York, you pick up a slice, curl it in your hand and eat it. Not so, in Illinois. This is not a frat boy slice. A fork and knife are required. You may have ordered a deep dish pizza from Pizza Hut or Domino’s. Let me be clear in saying- that is not the same thing you will get in Illinois. This literal pizza pie is about an inch and a half of crust, layered with sliced mozzarella cheese, then usually layers of your choice of meats and veggies, tomatoes, and then more cheese. Your slice will look slightly like a slice of lasagna in a very very thick crust if you ask me. It is very filling. You may only want one slice. But, it’s yummy.
Michigan- My husband is a native Michigander. He loves to pick up Better Made potato chips in his neck of the woods. He prefers BBQ. Made in Detroit since 1930, Better Made chips are a Michigan favorite. I’ve even been known to have them shipped to West Virginia for Christmas. He also loves White Castle burgers. White Castle is a chain fast food restaurant. They sell sliders that are steam cooked with diced onions and a pickle. The menu is pretty straight forward- sliders (beef, chicken, or fish), sides like fries, fried onions, mozzarella sticks, clam strips, and the strangest item- chicken rings. Chicken rings look like onion rings but it’s chicken. Weird right? There’s nothing green on the menu. Most items are battered and fried. The only option that somewhat healthy is applesauce. My husband grew up on this stuff and sees it as comfort food. White Castle sliders are literally the only hamburger he will eat. They don’t have White Castle where I grew up and I don’t see the appeal. But, we always pick up a “crave case” of burgers, a “sack” of crinkle-cut fries, and some “pop” when we are in the Detroit area.
Wisconsin and Minnesota- I posted about Wisconsin food https://wordpress.com/post/underanelmtree.com/1565 here. But, in case you missed it, what you’ve heard is true. Midwesterners love their cheese. Cheese curds are abundant. These spongy cheese snacks are a staple pretty much everywhere whether in their original “squeaky” state or deep fried. In restaurants, don’t be surprised if asked “Would you like fries or curds with that?” We found many varieties of meat sticks here also. Some also filled with- you guessed it- cheese.
Fish fries are popular in the Midwest on Friday nights because of the large population of Catholics- especially walleye. Hot dish is a common midweek dinner here. Hot dish is what most of the country calls casserole. But not any kind of casserole. Here, it’s generally ground meat, canned cream of something soup, some veggies, all topped with tater tots and filled with cheese. Look, these people need some meat on their bones to survive the brutal winters- I’m not judging. Brown food taste good.
South Dakota and Wyoming- Ok, bison is the name of the game here. It’s lean and tastes pretty much like beef. I had bison hot dogs, bison steak, and bison stew. But, don’t worry, there’s no shortage of beef in the West either. Steak houses are popular. We learned about chislic in South Dakota. I had never heard of it. So of course, that’s what I ordered. Turns out, it’s red meat deep fat fried (not battered) and served with ranch dressing for dipping. It was really good. We had beef. Apparently, mutton or lamb is more common. Everyone in my family tried it and liked it.
We also tried another western delicacy in Wyoming- Rocky Mountain Oysters. In case you aren’t in the know, they are also known as bull testicles. I don’t why they are called oysters. They do not taste like oysters. They are not the size of oysters either. They are huge. The cook skins and slices the organs and coats them in flour and salt and pepper. Then, they are fried. Each slice is about the size of a chicken cutlet. So, when you order them, it’s a big plate full. My boys were not interested in tasting them. Jason had once tried the dish in Nashville (at least that’s what he claims.) Jackson could not be convinced. There was no bribing or negotiating-just a flat-out, “I’m not eating that.” Charlotte is easy to talk into eating weird foods. She prides herself in the amount of odd delicacies she’s tried. Frog legs, crickets, squirrel, meal worms, octopus- she’s game. So, I was counting on her to help me get through this plate. So, if you are wondering…I’ll try to describe it. The taste is similar to other organ meat. It’s like a cross between chicken gizzard and beef liver. If you’ve never had those, I guess you are out of luck because I don’t know how else to describe it…chicken heart maybe? I know, I know. I’ve eaten some weird food. I grew up in Appalachia. I’ll eat about anything. Anyway, the consistency of the meat is not what I expected. I thought it would be tough or gristle-like. It isn’t. I’m guessing the prep of the dish involves a lot of pounding and tenderizing because it was…soft. (Insert dirty jokes here, right?) So, was it good? Well, no. Not really. Was it bad? Well, no. It wasn’t bad either. It was battered and deep fried. I think that’s probably the only way it’s palatable. It was bland also. It was kind of like when you go to someone’s house and they serve you a dinner but they aren’t a good cook. You can get it down. You are polite and eat it. But, you aren’t looking forward to being invited back. I definitely will not order it again. But, I am glad I tried it.
Another common thing in the West that we have ordered more than once is Totchos. This is basically nachos but instead of corn chips, they use tater tots. All the toppings are the same. They are about what you would expect. Just a little twist on a common food.
One food that I can’t seem to get enough of though is huckleberries! They are kind of like a wild blueberry and I am HOOKED! I love them. I’ve had huckleberry syrup, coffee, jam, honey, and fudge. Huckleberry milkshakes are popular here as well. I bought myself a gift set of huckleberry condiments and I now put them on just about everything. My husband tells me that I might have a problem. I don’t care. I’m getting my fix now because I’m told they are only harvested in this area.
We also have been picking up candies that we’ve never seen before, like an Idaho Spud. This candy bar doesn’t contain potato. But, it’s supposed to look like one. It’s a cocoa, marshmallow, coconut, and chocolate confection. It’s really good. We also had a King Bing in the Midwest. According to the wrapper, its “a nutty chocolately cherry treat.” We all really liked it, even though I don’t usually like artificial cherry flavoring.
So, that’s the food tour so far. I’ll update as we travel more around the country. Is there something we’ve just got to try? Leave a comment below and we’ll keep an eye out for it.