Tag Archives: Midwest

NYC Prejudices

12 Aug


We’ve just hit the one-year mark of moving to the East Coast from our home state of Iowa. It’s pretty significant, since I honestly didn’t know if I would get to see this milestone. I had only been away from Iowa and family for a few months at a time, so I wasn’t sure if this whole moving thing would be all that I had hoped it would to be.

And it has been. Besides all the obvious, I live in a great city. Not NYC, but Jersey City. While we enjoy our jaunts through Central Park, walking around the Villages – we most enjoy our town. A tree-lined brownstone community with many, many restaurants and coffee shops. After walking in Lower Manhattan filled to the brim with too many people, getting off the train in Jersey City is a relief. We have options, not as many as NYC, but a lot.

It’s been a growing-up time period. I’ve had to learn to get a hold of my bill paying and spending habits. I’ve had to learn to deal with homesickness and feeling alone. And I’ve dumped some really bad habits.

And as much as I want to say that this journey has “changed me”, it really hasn’t. I’m a bit more mature, a little wiser, but the same me. While I enjoy walking down the street with Ella Fitzgerald crooning through my headphones, I truly miss the Midwest. I can see myself living here indefinitely, I could. But I also could see myself happily packing up the moving van after Nate graduates from school. In a couple weeks time, we will be flying back home for a family wedding. And just like the last time, I will press my face against the glass of the plane, grinning from ear to ear while seeing the green cornfields below. When we are driving back to Webster City, my dad will say to me, like before, “I bet this is going to be boring compared to New York.” No, Dad, no. Impossible.

People may think that I’ve got “stuck-up airs” about me since moving here. No, and I don’t really hang out in my free time with anyone who would emulate that kind of attitude. That “I’m better than others or have more knowledge than before” – yeah, no.

Being here has been amazing, enlightening, and a learning curve. I’m a bit colder and not as “Midwest nice”, but I can turn on the charm as soon as I enter my hometown farming community. I miss waving at strangers, saying hello to everyone you see while out on a run, and saying “excuse me”, “I’m sorry” and my “please” and “thank-yous” while out and about.

So, again, I do enjoy it here, but it’s no heaven on earth, that is for sure. I don’t enjoy the rudeness. I don’t enjoy the “one-upping” that is so prevalent here, and the need to be the best at anything and everything. The competition is fierce, and while I can hang out in it for awhile, I don’t have the endurance for the race. I just don’t. And the “me” culture. Wow. I’ve never met more self-centered people in my life than I have here. It’s great to have goals, it’s great to want to succeed, but man, there is more to life than this city and the people who live in it.

Now, one of my biggest gripes about this area is it’s prejudices toward Midwesterners. I’m told all the time about my accent, how it sounds funny – and that doesn’t bother me. It’s when people talk about that area of the country like it’s a giant wasteland of despair. Everyone there is a racist. Everyone there is a redneck hick. Everyone. Didn’t you know that? :) The cultured people live on either coast, and the rest, the people with no teeth or grammar skills, sit making mud pies in that vast “fly over country”. (Oh yeah, I’ve heard that phrase enough times.)

“What do you guys do there?” People inquire. “Like for fun?” I’ve had incredulous conversations with those who think that we really cow tip on the regular and sit on porches in our wicker chairs piecing together four-word sentences about the weather.

I used to defend my area like a momma bear to it’s small cub, but why bother? It’s like trying to change a staunch Democrat or Republican, not going to happen. So I thin-lip it while listening to their garbage. Most of the time, I do have a “I’m better than you” attitude, because these people haven’t even set their toes on Midwestern soil before forming their ideas.

I have other gripes about NYC that will be saved for another time, but this one, I can’t agree with ever. Sure, there are certain people who fit the profiles that people want to stereotype all Midwesterners as. That’s why stereotypes exist. It’s just so … frustrating. It really is.

Before I get angrier about the subject, I need to take a breath and realize … only 14 more days until I’m home. Home Sweet Iowa.

Nice try, Brooklyn

4 Mar
Canada bars, Communist bars, even trailer park bars ... but nothing Midwest-themed (or at least deserving of the term).

Canada bars, Communist bars, even trailer park bars … but nothing Midwest-themed (or at least deserving of the term).

When I first moved to the NYC area, I had this crazy idea that I would mingle amongst other Midwesterners at some kind of Iowa-themed bar. Silly, I know, but I have “How I Met Your Mother” to thank for that. One of the main characters, Robin, ventures to a Canadian-themed bar if she ever feels homesick. She got the idea from Marshall, a boy from Northern Minnesota who visits a Vikings bar whenever he feels the same. TV shows don’t ever spread lies, I told myself, so there has to be a Minnesota or some kind of Midwest bar in NYC! Canadian bars, yes, even trailer park bars are available for refuge. Green Bay Packers have their own bar, but I am not a big sports fan. I just wanted a bar that would give me that “close to home” feel. So I found Burnside, located in Brooklyn. I had read some good reviews in various articles, and ventured there yesterday with great expectations.


Walking in, I immediately felt like it was a Pinterest-inspired 1900’s farmhouse – if hipsters lived during that time period. Faded wallpaper, sandblasted wood, dim lighting through candles and old-timey lanterns – yes, if Laura Ingalls Wilder was trying to be ironic, in a really painstaking way, this would be considered Midwest. (There was a shuffleboard, so they get an up vote for that.)

Their beverage collection. Well … they had Milwaukee’s Best in cans, a Stevens Point lager, and Leinenkugel. And lots of microbrews from the NYC area. Ahem. Oh, I spotted a small bottle of Templeton Rye (shout out Iowa!) behind the counter. The same size I usually spot in a personal liquor cabinet, but eh.

Food? There were bratwurst and burgers, and portobello mushroom sandwiches (something I enjoy, but never consider an Iowa fare). But they had fried cheese curds. A saving grace, thank you God. I have been missing fair food, something I don’t eat a lot of but miss it intensely. You could buy a bag of jalapeno poppers or something fried and heat it up at home. Or just go to Leon’s Pizza and taste their decadent cheese balls with homemade ranch dressing … okay, now I’m drooling. But not here, they don’t have the same respect for fried food as some of us Midwesterners do. So we ordered two baskets, no reason to waste time when fried food is on the line. No side of ranch or ketchup (come on people!), and they tasted more like funnel cake then greasy, beautiful breading-wrapped cheese.

This was a disappointment.

We didn’t stay long, like we thought we would have. Instead, we headed home for supper, not wanting to even imagine what their burger tasted like.

It was decided that The Machine Shed would make a killing in NYC. Seriously, if something farmer-themed came here, I would predict it would be an instant hit. If I had a ton of money, I’d definitely try to finance something of that nature here.

So what I guess I am saying is that I’ll have to wait for a trip home for old-fashioned beer lights, good Iowa food, and an actual Midwest bar. No more of this hipster crap for me.

Chili and cinnamon rolls: A match made in food heaven

19 Feb

Chili & Cinnamon Roll

When I think of Iowa food, the first items that come to mind are bacon and sweet corn. I would also pay homage to loose-meat sandwiches, pork chops and an assortment of garden vegetables.

Whenever I have ventured off to another area of the country, I always try regional food from Chicago hot dogs to the seafood in Boston. There are always questionable fare options which make visitors wonder – who signed off on that?

When I’m visiting with people from out-of-state, when it comes to food, they don’t ask me how good Iowa sweet corn is or how juicy a piece of bacon can be.

At least a dozen times I have been asked if the state’s residents really eat cinnamon rolls with their chili. The first couple of times, it caught me off-guard. One, why would they ask that question, and two, who doesn’t eat that combination?

I hadn’t thought that the chili/cinnamon roll combo was considered regional cuisine and had mistaken it for a common delight shared across the nation.

“What does it taste like?” and “Have you always eaten it that way?”

First off, I’m not sure how you eat chili another way. Sure there is always cornbread or crackers, but those are not as satisfying as a frosting-covered sweet roll that probably qualifies as half your daily calorie allotment.

Almost every other week at public school, I could expect a bowl full of red bean chili and a giant cinnamon pastry on the other side of the plastic tray as one of the meals. Probably not the healthiest – but definitely one of the lunches I looked forward to most as a child. When the lunch lady would scoop the roll off the tray, you hoped that it was the biggest, chewiest, and with the most frosting.

So imagine my surprise to find that the idea is contained to the Iowa/eastern Nebraska area of the U.S., according to the blogosphere.

People are really missing out.

It’s hard for me to even ponder why the pairing tastes so good. Maybe it’s because both the entree and dessert give off that made-from-scratch aroma. Two smells that say ‘I’m home’ and give comfort when its needed. I’m not usually into eating my feelings, but in this case I am.

The people I talked to found the combination a disgusting mix, and shuddered when I suggested that chili makes a great dipping sauce for the roll.

There are many Iowa foods that I do find unappealing and rather disgusting though.

It seems that any good potluck can be ruined with one too many casseroles with that cream of chicken flavor and a sprinkling of crunched-up potato chips. Without fail, every one of those casserole tastes the same.

And the joy women seem to get by putting vegetables and fruits in gelatin. I don’t know many kids that enjoy a good carrot Jello or its ugly cousin the gelatin/whipped cream concoction, but they continue to make it.

With all these soggy foods, I wonder if we Midwesterners are yearning for the times when we used to eat out of baby food jars, or whether we are too lazy to use our jaw bones and would rather swallow food whole.

Relatives in Dubuque have told me about the city’s staple turkey and dressing sandwiches. Now that’s one food item that I have a hard time swallowing.

But when it come’s to Iowa’s beloved cinnamon roll/chili combination – when people ask the question “why,” I now just reply “why not?”


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