Field of Science

Midwestern USA and food

When TPP first moved to the midwest in the fall of 1970, nobody knew what a bagel was. To a kid even one from upstate NY, no bagels was an indication of a lack of civilization, and even if they had been around, no one would have eaten them with lox. Bagels are now fairly common although they still do not seem as good as the ones from NYC bagel shops. So grad school, then a post-doc, and then a job all within an adjacent 4 state area of the midwest means TPP has spent 2/3s of his life in this area. Things have gotten a lot more sophisticated in terms of food even in small college cities such as ours, but a couple of general trends persist. People in this area are generally not big fans of seafood, or even fresh-water fish, and they don't like their food spicy. So when you put the two together, well, you can sort the "natives" from the "fureners" real easy. The graduate students are in charge of a fall grad student & faculty picnic, and they decided that having a crayfish (crawdad) boil would be a good idea. So they got them some Cajun spices and borrowed TPP's cooker and they went to town: potatoes, chicken, sausage, sweet corn, and crawfish, not necessarily in that order, but boiled to a nice spicy perfection! There was even some shrimp butter for the corn, an authentic southern LA recipe. Plenty of other food existed, and let me say, some of the Indian grad students bring the best items to pot-lucks like this, so you could easily see who had a pile of shells and who didn't ("natives"). Of course this just meant there were more for the more adventurous eaters. TPP used to bring a load (50-60) pounds of crawfish back from Baton Rouge each spring break having used collaborative research as an excuse to travel south. But it has been awhile since having had crawfish aplenty. So it was sort of fun. You could also tell the adventurous but inexperienced eaters who needed some technique lessons. The students only made one mistake, they waited too late to make their hush puppies and everone was filled up by the time those goodies made their appearance. The lesson is this: embrace new experiences, especially food.

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