Thursday, December 1, 2011

United States Midwest Region Cuisine

Chicago-style deep dish pizza
Midwestern cuisine is a regional cuisine of the American Midwest. It draws its culinary roots most significantly from the cuisines of Central, Northern and Eastern Europe, and is influenced by regionally and locally grown foodstuffs and cultural diversity.

Everyday Midwestern home cooking generally showcases simple and hearty dishes that make use of the abundance of locally grown foods. Its culinary profiles may seem synonymous with "American food." Quoted in a 2007 interview with the Daily Herald, Chef Stephen Langlois, a pioneer in the Midwestern local food movement, described it: "Think of Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey and cranberry sauce and wild rice and apple pie."

In its urban centers, however, the Midwest's restaurants offer a diverse mix of ethnic cuisines as well as sophisticated, contemporary techniques.

Sometimes called "the breadbasket of America," the Midwest serves as a center for grain production, particularly wheat, corn and soybeans. Midwestern states also produce most of the country's wild rice.

Beef and pork processing always have been important Midwestern industries, with a strong role in regional diets. Chicago and Kansas City were historically stockyard and processing centers of the beef trade, while Iowa remains the center of pork production in the U.S.

Far from the oceans, Midwesterners traditionally ate little seafood, relying on local freshwater fish, such as perch and trout, supplemented by canned tuna and canned or cured salmon and herring, although modern air shipping of ocean seafood has been increasing Midwesterners' taste for ocean fish.

Dairy products, especially cheese, form an important group of regional ingredients, with Wisconsin known as "America's Dairyland," although other Midwest states make cheese as well.

The upper Midwest, a prime fruit-growing region, sees the extensive use of apples, blueberries, cranberries, cherries, peaches and other cold-climate fruit in its cuisine.

As with many American regional cuisines, Midwestern cooking has been heavily influenced by immigrant groups. Throughout the northern Midwest, northern European immigrant groups predominated, so Swedish pancakes and Polish pierogi are common. Wisconsin, Missouri, Kansas, Ohio and Illinois were destinations for many ethnic German immigrants, so pork sausages and potatoes are prevalent. In the Rust Belt, many Greeks became restaurateurs, imparting a Mediterranean influence. Native American influences show up in the uses of corn and wild rice.

Traditionally, Midwestern cooks used a light hand with seasonings, preferring sage, dill, caraway, mustard and parsley to hot, bold and spicy flavors. However, with new waves of immigrants from Latin America and Asia moving into the region, these tastes are changing.

This section of the country is also headquarters for several seminal hamburger chains, including McDonald's in Oak Brook, Illinois (founded in California, but turned into the iconic franchise by Ray Kroc beginning with a still-standing store in Des Plaines, Illinois). The Midwest is also home to Hardee's in St. Louis, Missouri, Culver's in Sauk City, Wisconsin; Steak n Shake, founded in Normal, Illinois, and now based in Indianapolis; Wendy's in Dublin, Ohio; and White Castle founded in Wichita, Kansas, and now based in Columbus, Ohio. Diner chain Big Boy, known for burgers, is headquartered in Warren, Michigan.

A Reuben sandwich

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