As a lifelong Midwesterner, I wasn’t aware how weird we were until some people began to point this out.
And by “some people” I mean those from outside a 12-state area who eat Po’ Boy sandwiches and say things like “bubbler” when they mean “water fountain.”
First, there seems to be some sort of confusion as to which states are in the Midwest.
According to the federal government, these states are Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Anyone who argues Missouri is a Southern state, the Dakotas are Western states or Minnesota is a Canadian province may be New Englanders. Simply nod, smile and back away slowly.
Second, Midwesterners do some seriously odd things, like play a backyard game known as “cornhole” (don’t ask) and wear shorts in the winter even though our average yearly snowfall is 51 inches.
To people from exotic locations (anyplace Midwesterners go on vacation, such as Oklahoma and Kentucky), this is madness. Well, folks, sit back. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
• Midwesterners go outside during tornado warnings and look for twisters. My dad used to stand on our front steps in his underwear with a beer in his hand. Why not? Tornadoes only do an average of $400 million in damage and kill 70 people each year. Have another beer, Dad.
• Saying “watch out for deer” means we care.
• A cinnamon roll goes perfectly with a bowl of chili.
• Green bean casserole is the food of the gods.
• Midwesterners say, “ope” a lot. It’s like we’re Canadians who can’t pronounce “eh?”
• The state fair is important. Really important. In 2018, the Missouri State Fair totaled 340,957 visitors, which is better attendance than the 1985 World Series that featured both of Missouri’s MLB teams (attendance 330,494). Of course, that doesn’t compare with the Iowa State Fair that averages more than 1 million visitors and Minnesota’s that averages more than 2 million.
• The Midwest has festivals about bacon.
• We eat pig brain sandwiches.
• We also have weird roadside attractions, like the world’s biggest ball of twine (Cawker City, Kansas), the Plow in the Oak Park where an oak tree ate a plow (Exira, Iowa) and the Uranus Fudge Factory (Uranus, Missouri). In the Midwest, the jokes write themselves, folks.
My wife and I experienced the heart (or at least the cholesterol) of the Midwest when we pulled into one of the three Maid Rite drive-ins in Missouri. Maid Rite started in Iowa in 1926 and has 32 locations in five states, all in the Midwest. It features a loose-meat sandwich called a Maid Rite (duh) that some people know as a “sloppy joe.” Judge the appetizing level of the names for yourself.
“What condiments do you have?” my wife asked into the outside speaker that may have been new in 1947.
The high school girl inside thought for a moment, not because it was a hard question, but because it wasn’t.
“We have ketchup,” she said, “and ranch.”
Ketchup and ranch dressing. Nothing is more Midwestern than that.
Jason’s newest book, “Chasing American Monsters: 251 Creatures, Cryptids, and Hairy Beasts,” is available at jasonoffutt.com.