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Having had the fortune (be it good or mis-) to have lived the lion's share of my life in Kansas. I'm curious as to whether or not there is such a thing as Kansas Cuisine - a definable category of foods and techniques which are undeniably Kansan... soup can recipe casseroles don't count.

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Having had the fortune (be it good or mis-) to have lived the lion's share of my life in Kansas. I'm curious as to whether or not there is such a thing as Kansas Cuisine - a definable category of foods and techniques which are undeniably Kansan... soup can recipe casseroles don't count.

Gosh I thought we just had American cuisine here in Kansas just like every place else in America(except California). I guess if you wanted to get the true heart of Kansas cuisine You Should look up the Arapaho, Comanche, Kansa, Kiowa, Osage, & Pawnee Tribes and discover what kind of casseroles they made.

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Some friends of mine traveled the state, visiting with real home cooks, to answer that very question. Their findings (many of which I have tried and can personally recommend) are in The Kansas Cookbook.

I can't remember seeing a soup can recipe in the book, but surely there is one in there somewhere :wink:

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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Just like the rest of the US, Kansas cooking is influenced by the people who settled in it. My mother's family is from a (Volga) German community in Topeka, with a very distinct culinary tradition (strudel, also called bierrocks, schlitches, a kind of head cheese that sounds like it should be spelled gollerah, pickles from Porubsky's.) We have family friends of Mexican or Swedish descent that have their own peculiar family dishes.

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I agree that Kansas Cuisine is who you grew up around. For the most part the food that I grew to love going up in KS, was survival food. Pickles, Home made Sauerkraut, anything that took the bounty of the summer that you could survive throught the winter.

I think that the people in KS are more in touch with the seasons and seasonality of food than most.

I know a lot has changed in the past 20-25 years but when I was a child that is all that my mother and aunt did all summer. Garden, Can fruits and vegetables, pickle vegetables and put fresh food on the table everyday for our family, while my father and uncle and all of the boy were out in the fields and pastures tending to the crops and livestock.

KS is not an easy place to live. I didn't realize how hard I worked while growing up on a farm. That is what everybody does where I am from, WORK. To work is to live and that is the way it has been for 150 years. I am not sure if there is a thing as KS cuisine but I do now that there is some great food in KS. Almost every little town has a diner or cafe of some sort. There are some good ones and some bad one, but for the most part you can get a good hot roast beef sandwich, fried chicken and a great piece of pie at all of them. You can not say that about many places in KC or any other place

It is easier to change a menu than a growing season.

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I don't know if there is an identifiable cuisine for Kansas. Most of the meals at my sister's third-generation-farmer in-law's house, are basics like fried chicken, roast beef, potatoes, etc. For celebrations, pits were dug, and meat was wrapped in foil and roasted for hours. Sides for all of these meals were mashed potatoes, potato salad, three-bean salad, cinnamon apple rings, jello salads, and various fresh and canned vegetables.

However, in that same area of the state, the Hispanic and Vietnamese influences are growing, and the cuisine, if there is one, is evolving. In Wichita, where I live, the mid-Eastern influences long ago entered the local culture, and definitely changed it for the better.

IMHO, some of the best food in the state can be had at the various little places run by immigrants who cook much as they did in their native country. But as Big Country said, a hot beef sandwich and piece of pie is an area specialty, and can be a great meal. One of the better places to have such a meal is at the Carriage Crossing Restaurant in Yoder, where you will often find horse-and-buggy rigs in the parking lot next to Cadillacs and Escorts. The pie, especially, is excellent. I've never found gravy in a restaurant that tasted anywhere as good as my mom's, so it's difficult for me to recommend the hot beef anywhere but at her house, and I don't think she makes much of it anymore.

And don't listen to everything Big Country says. One of the finest meals in these parts can be had at the restaurant where he's chef... although it's not actually in Kansas.

Welcome to eGullet, dinger! Whereabouts do you live?

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I don't know if there is an identifiable cuisine for Kansas.  Most of the meals at my sister's third-generation-farmer in-law's house, are basics like fried chicken, roast beef, potatoes, etc.  For celebrations, pits were dug, and meat was wrapped in foil and roasted for hours.  Sides for all of these meals were mashed potatoes, potato salad, three-bean salad, cinnamon apple rings, jello salads, and various fresh and canned vegetables.

However, in that same area of the state, the Hispanic and Vietnamese influences are growing, and the cuisine, if there is one, is evolving.  In Wichita, where I live, the mid-Eastern influences long ago entered the local culture, and definitely changed it for the better.

IMHO, some of the best food in the state can be had at the various little places run by immigrants who cook much as they did in their native country.  But as Big Country said, a hot beef sandwich and piece of pie is an area specialty, and can be a great meal.  One of the better places to have such a meal is at the Carriage Crossing Restaurant in Yoder, where you will often find horse-and-buggy rigs in the parking lot next to Cadillacs and Escorts.  The pie, especially, is excellent.  I've never found gravy in a restaurant that tasted anywhere as good as my mom's, so it's difficult for me to recommend the hot beef anywhere but at her house, and I don't think she makes much of it anymore.

And don't listen to everything Big Country says.  One of the finest meals in these parts can be had at the restaurant where he's chef... although it's not actually in Kansas.

Welcome to eGullet, dinger!  Whereabouts do you live?

I'm thrilled to see a recognition of the etnic influences in Kansas and Wichita in particular. I grew up in/around Wichita (I now live in Lawrence) and have long believed the significant immigrant populations (Vietnamese, Hispanic, Lebanese, West African, etc...) to be one Wichitas' greatest assests, culinary or otherwise. I find the fact that thousands of Wichitans have become intimately familiar with fattouch salad & tabbouleh, pho & cafe sua, menudo & stewed goat, to be smile inducing and life affirming.

What are the great etnic spots in Wichita these days? Before I moved I made sure to hit N&J, Japan Express, and as many of the Vietnamese places on Broadway as possible. Also, I recall a number of wonderful quick-service Mexican places popping up in abandoned Dairy Queens and the like - there was one on West St. south of Central somewhere, one on either Lincoln or Harry a little west of Oliver. Menudo Rico on Sundays, tongue tacos... awesome. Anyone familiar with the Nigerian Womens' Association dinner which was/is held every fall at The Olive Trees banquet facilities? Is this still going on?

I am by no means attempting to disparage anyone's traditions by my asking of these questions, but rather am trying to get to the basic most answer as to 'is there?' and, if so, 'what is?' Kansas Cuisine -

Do the occasional mom & pop cafes and diners qualify as a cuisine? Do small, localized Mennonite or Amish culinary traditions qualify as a cuisine? Does the output of the increasingly few home practioners of their European ancestors culinary customs qualify as a cuisine? If a complete stranger from a far away and strange land came up to you tomorrow desperately begging to be fed a meal which would enlighten her/him with an understanding of what it means to live in Kansas - the type of understanding which can only come from experiencing a native cuisine in its native geography - where would you take them? What would you cook for them?

I ask because I have had great food in Kansas. But that food has not necessarily been Kansan. Or American for that matter.

Also, what individual ingredients would be considered Kansan? What techniques? What indiginous foodstuffs be they animal or vegetable are identifiably Kansan?

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Corn?

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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Corn, sure, although the folks in Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska might take exception to our claiming it as Kansan :wink: I think bison and indigenous fish and fowl (pheasant is certainly a mainstay out west, where thousands flock (sorry) each year for the opening day of hunting season. We're known as the wheat state but that's because the eastern European settlers brought it with them and it was one of the few things that would grow here, so we're back to the immigrant-foods theory. So the "three sisters" of the native Americans (corn, beans, squash), together with the area fauna, are probably about it until you factor in the immigrants.

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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I don't know if there is an identifiable cuisine for Kansas.  Most of the meals at my sister's third-generation-farmer in-law's house, are basics like fried chicken, roast beef, potatoes, etc.  For celebrations, pits were dug, and meat was wrapped in foil and roasted for hours.  Sides for all of these meals were mashed potatoes, potato salad, three-bean salad, cinnamon apple rings, jello salads, and various fresh and canned vegetables.

However, in that same area of the state, the Hispanic and Vietnamese influences are growing, and the cuisine, if there is one, is evolving.  In Wichita, where I live, the mid-Eastern influences long ago entered the local culture, and definitely changed it for the better.

IMHO, some of the best food in the state can be had at the various little places run by immigrants who cook much as they did in their native country.  But as Big Country said, a hot beef sandwich and piece of pie is an area specialty, and can be a great meal.  One of the better places to have such a meal is at the Carriage Crossing Restaurant in Yoder, where you will often find horse-and-buggy rigs in the parking lot next to Cadillacs and Escorts.  The pie, especially, is excellent.  I've never found gravy in a restaurant that tasted anywhere as good as my mom's, so it's difficult for me to recommend the hot beef anywhere but at her house, and I don't think she makes much of it anymore.

And don't listen to everything Big Country says.  One of the finest meals in these parts can be had at the restaurant where he's chef... although it's not actually in Kansas.

Welcome to eGullet, dinger!  Whereabouts do you live?

I'm thrilled to see a recognition of the etnic influences in Kansas and Wichita in particular. I grew up in/around Wichita (I now live in Lawrence) and have long believed the significant immigrant populations (Vietnamese, Hispanic, Lebanese, West African, etc...) to be one Wichitas' greatest assests, culinary or otherwise. I find the fact that thousands of Wichitans have become intimately familiar with fattouch salad & tabbouleh, pho & cafe sua, menudo & stewed goat, to be smile inducing and life affirming.

What are the great etnic spots in Wichita these days? Before I moved I made sure to hit N&J, Japan Express, and as many of the Vietnamese places on Broadway as possible. Also, I recall a number of wonderful quick-service Mexican places popping up in abandoned Dairy Queens and the like - there was one on West St. south of Central somewhere, one on either Lincoln or Harry a little west of Oliver. Menudo Rico on Sundays, tongue tacos... awesome. Anyone familiar with the Nigerian Womens' Association dinner which was/is held every fall at The Olive Trees banquet facilities? Is this still going on?

I am by no means attempting to disparage anyone's traditions by my asking of these questions, but rather am trying to get to the basic most answer as to 'is there?' and, if so, 'what is?' Kansas Cuisine -

Do the occasional mom & pop cafes and diners qualify as a cuisine? Do small, localized Mennonite or Amish culinary traditions qualify as a cuisine? Does the output of the increasingly few home practioners of their European ancestors culinary customs qualify as a cuisine? If a complete stranger from a far away and strange land came up to you tomorrow desperately begging to be fed a meal which would enlighten her/him with an understanding of what it means to live in Kansas - the type of understanding which can only come from experiencing a native cuisine in its native geography - where would you take them? What would you cook for them?

I ask because I have had great food in Kansas. But that food has not necessarily been Kansan. Or American for that matter.

Also, what individual ingredients would be considered Kansan? What techniques? What indiginous foodstuffs be they animal or vegetable are identifiably Kansan?

Beef and Bread, Kansas is almost always #1 or #2 in cattle raised in the nation. Alway fighting it out with Texas for the top spot. We are usually at the top in wheat productio also.

I would say that the "country cafe" would qualify as much as a Deli in NYC.

It is easier to change a menu than a growing season.

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What are the great etnic spots in Wichita these days? Before I moved I made sure to hit N&J, Japan Express, and as many of the Vietnamese places on Broadway as possible. Also, I recall a number of wonderful quick-service Mexican places popping up in abandoned Dairy Queens and the like - there was one on West St. south of Central somewhere, one on either Lincoln or Harry a little west of Oliver. Menudo Rico on Sundays, tongue tacos... awesome. Anyone familiar with the Nigerian Womens' Association dinner which was/is held every fall at The Olive Trees banquet facilities? Is this still going on?

                        Do the occasional mom & pop cafes and diners qualify as a cuisine? Do small, localized Mennonite or Amish culinary traditions qualify as a cuisine? Does the output of the increasingly few home practioners of their European ancestors culinary customs qualify as a cuisine? If a complete stranger from a far away and strange land came up to you tomorrow desperately begging to be fed a meal which would enlighten her/him with an understanding of what it means to live in Kansas - the type of understanding which can only come from experiencing a native cuisine in its native geography - where would you take them? What would you cook for them?

I ask because I have had great food in Kansas. But that food has not necessarily been Kansan. Or American for that matter.

Also, what individual ingredients would be considered Kansan? What techniques? What indiginous foodstuffs be they animal or vegetable are identifiably Kansan?

Ethnic spots also include Mamasan's (now under new ownership; giving the new guys a try sounds like a good project for this weekend), El Torrero in Andover, and there's a new Cafe Tu Tu location somewhere around Central and St. Francis.

I think your question about feeding the stranger is intriguing. I'd definitely take them to Carriage Crossing in Yoder, but we'd have to visit several other places before we'd have a complete picture; they would have to include Middle Eastern, Southeast Asian, and Mexican. We also have an African restaurant that might bear checking out.

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You have to add the Santa Fe Trail. the Chisolm Trail, and then the Santa Fe RR into the historical mix.

These trade routes made Ks. Cuisine much more oriented towards it's Southern & Western Plains neighbors then the Scandanavian /German ones to the North.

Folks were hauling Hatch Chiles back and forth in the 1840s too.

This is a good place to insert Michael Bauer's(Native Kansan) Kansas Fried Chicken report,

with a stop at Stroud's thrown in right after he got off the plane.(previous entry).

Keep clicking, as he goes several places and summarizes his thoughts at the end.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/sfgate...6&entry_id=5189

Edited by bbqboy (log)
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You have to add the Santa Fe Trail. the Chisolm Trail, and then the Santa Fe RR into the historical mix.

These trade routes made Ks. Cuisine much more oriented towards it's Southern & Western Plains neighbors then the Scandanavian /German ones to the North.

Folks were hauling Hatch Chiles back and forth in the 1840s too.

This is a good place to insert Michael Bauer's(Native Kansan)  Kansas Fried Chicken report,

with a stop at Stroud's thrown in right after he got off the plane.(previous entry).

Keep clicking, as he goes several places and summarizes his thoughts at the end.

  http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/sfgate...6&entry_id=5189

Thanks for the link. I cringed twice: once when he stated unequivocally that salad in Kansas means iceberg (he's not wrong, exactly, I just wish he would've inserted the word "rural") and again over the whole freedom fries thing (I had hoped we were over that, not having seen or heard it in several years. Apparently the citizens of Olpe haven't heard :sad:)

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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For a real taste of Kansas history and "cuisine" I think the Hays House in Council Grove is too often overlooked. The Hays House has been in operation since 1857 and has staked a claim as the longest continuously operating restaurant west of the Mississippi. It is one of the last small town full-service (breakfast, lunch dinner) restaurants that still prepares virtually everything from scratch, including fresh baked pies, home-made ice creams, salad dressings and, of course, they serve exceptional fried chicken. The Brookville Hotel, IMHO, since it's migration to Abilene has turned into a tourist trap - underwhelming and overpriced. As far as Kansas cuisine goes, much like other Midwestern states it is an amalgam of immigrant influences (mainly Germanic and northern European) adapted to local products. Really undefineable. If anything, I think moosnsqrl hit the nail on the head, Beef and Bread (wheat). In my experience, visitors to Kansas are most often in search of a great steak.

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For a real taste of Kansas history and "cuisine" I think the Hays House in Council Grove is too often overlooked. The Hays House has been in operation since 1857 and has staked a claim as the longest continuously operating restaurant west of the Mississippi. It is one of the last small town full-service (breakfast, lunch dinner) restaurants that still prepares virtually everything from scratch, including fresh baked pies, home-made ice creams, salad dressings and, of course, they serve exceptional fried chicken. The Brookville Hotel, IMHO, since it's migration to Abilene has turned into a tourist trap - underwhelming and overpriced. As far as Kansas cuisine goes, much like other Midwestern states it is an amalgam of immigrant influences (mainly Germanic and northern European) adapted to local products. Really undefineable. If anything, I think moosnsqrl hit the nail on the head, Beef and Bread (wheat). In my experience, visitors to Kansas are most often in search of a great steak.

Man, I wish I would have known about this place(Hays House)...I just stopped in Council Grove a few weeks ago on a motorcycle trip and we could'nt find anywhere to eat! IMHO That kinda of place is what Kansas food is all about. Just good food. :wub:

“Nobody can be so amusingly arrogant as a young man who has just discovered an old idea and thinks it is his own." - Sydney J. Harris

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Man, I wish I would have known about this place(Hays House)...I just stopped in Council Grove a few weeks ago on a motorcycle trip and we could'nt find anywhere to eat! IMHO That kinda of place is what Kansas food is all about. Just good food.  :wub:

I'm trying to imagine how you missed it - large, red building, foot-high letters on a small-town main street? Helmet on backward? :laugh:

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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Thanks for the link.  I cringed twice:  once when he stated unequivocally that salad in Kansas means iceberg (he's not wrong, exactly, I just wish he would've inserted the word "rural") and again over the whole freedom fries thing (I had hoped we were over that, not having seen or heard it in several years.  Apparently the citizens of Olpe haven't heard :sad:)

I'm not sure you should cringe. Kansas is what it is.

One of the main differences I've observed in 15 years spent in pretty rural Southern Oregon-but true of the state as a whole-is that Oregonians are in tune with, & love and embrace, their Agricultural heritage(along with their Oregon Trail and Western Heritage) and as such, you find rural restaurants and outposts that have many things besides Iceberg Lettuce on the Menu.

Kansans-and Midwesterners seem ashamed of their Ag roots and Heritage. Here you've got folks searching out heirloom plants-preserving the past and growing the future.

It wouldn't take much for Agriculture and food to be a Positive instead of something to make fun of in the Midwest. My mother (88) is old enough to remember why Rosedale and Strawberry Hill got their names, and tells tales of Harvesting Potatoes and assorted other crops all up the Kaw Valley.

It was a fertile bottomland full of Truck Farmers. Unfortunately Kansas may be the #1 posterchild for what happens when corporate Agriculture rules the land.

It can change.

Edited by bbqboy (log)
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There's a great new book called The Kansas Guidebook by Marci Penner. It has, in addition to restaurants and lodging, quirky/historical/interesting places throughout the state. Both Bunker Hill Cafe and the Hays House are included and they are but two of many, many eateries - plain and fancy - to be found where you might not expect them.

The book is laid-out by county and grouped in six geographic sub-state areas and has personal recommendations from "explorers" who belong to an organization that assisted in pulling all of the info together (there's a membership application bound into the book). It includes hundreds of color photos that might inspire a roadtrip.

ChefCAG and anyone else who tends to wander the Kansas roadways might find it helpful in locating good meals, arts and other points of interest.

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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Corn, sure, although the folks in Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska might take exception to our claiming it as Kansan :wink:  I think bison and indigenous fish and fowl (pheasant is certainly a mainstay out west, where thousands flock (sorry) each year for the opening day of hunting season.  We're known as the wheat state but that's because the eastern European settlers brought it with them and it was one of the few things that would grow here, so we're back to the immigrant-foods theory.  So the "three sisters" of the native Americans (corn, beans, squash), together with the area fauna, are probably about it until you factor in the immigrants.

I don't associate Kansas with corn, either--and I grew up right next door!

I also note that Kansas license plates have boasted bison, and the capital building in Topeka, and stalks of wheat--but no corn.

Now the truth is, wheat is central and western Kansas. Eastern Kansas, especially the northeast, is corn.

I find it more than a little amusing to read all these posts about the rising tide of ethnic eating in Wichita. Yes, it's the state's biggest city, but it's not the state's metropolis. That, unfortunately for both, it shares with next-door neighbor Missouri. (In his 1947 classic Inside U.S.A., in the chapter "On the Extreme Particularity of Kansas," John Guinther referred to Kansas City, Mo., as "the capital of a state in which it is not even located.")

Kansas City, Kansas, had Mexican restaurants when I grew up on the other side of the state line--most of them in Argentine (there's the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe influence again: the district got its name and its ethnicity from all the Hispanics who settled there after they came up on the Santa Fe, having helped build it). And you could find a little Eastern European fare on Strawberry Hill, which has (or is it now had?) a Russian Orthodox church at its summit.

As for bbqboy's assertion:

Kansans-and Midwesterners seem ashamed of their Ag roots and Heritage. Here you've got folks searching out heirloom plants-preserving the past and growing the future.

I'm not completely convinced of this. Yes, the city-dwellers--at least those in my forever hometown--went to great lengths to downplay or even downright deny their cowtown roots, in part in a vain hope of gaining the favor of the snooty coastal denizens. (East Coast residents were the snootier, maybe because they knew little about the region, but you could find snooty Californians too, which is inexcusable, at least among Southern Californians, most of whom have relatives in the Midwest.) I was pleased to see that Kansas City had matured to the point where it could embrace that part of its history and heritage, BTW.

But the small-town folk seemed proud of what they did. Except for their kids, who left as soon as they could.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

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There's a great new book called The Kansas Guidebook by Marci Penner.  It has, in addition to restaurants and lodging, quirky/historical/interesting places throughout the state.  Both Bunker Hill Cafe and the Hays House are included and they are but two of many, many eateries - plain and fancy - to be found where you might not expect them. 

The book is laid-out by county and grouped in six geographic sub-state areas and has personal recommendations from "explorers" who belong to an organization that assisted in pulling all of the info together (there's a membership application bound into the book).  It includes hundreds of color photos that might inspire a roadtrip.

ChefCAG and anyone else who tends to wander the Kansas roadways might find it helpful in locating good meals, arts and other points of interest.

can I use it to invade from the south side? There isn't much to look at but cornfields, wheatfields and cows coming up 169 past Chanute and Iola.

Edited by joiei (log)

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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can I use it to invade from the south side?  There isn't much to look at but cornfields, wheatfields and cows coming up 169 past Chanute and Iola.

absolutely - just to give you a little tease along your route:

The Major Frederick Funston Boyhood Home:  Although "Fighting Fred" Funston was a major figure in military history, few recognize his name.

I ask you, does it get better than that? :laugh:

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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I've been chewing on the topic for a couple days now, and have decided that Kansas, by its nature as a crossroads for continental migration, doesn't have a well-defined cuisine of its own. We literally are a melting pot made up of Russian and German immigrant farmers, the Swedes of Lindsborg, the freed slaves of Nicodemus, the native tribes of the Great Plains and southwest, the cowboys of the cattle trails, Hispanic and Asian immigrants, even displaced victims of last fall's hurricanes.

I could certainly argue for the pie-making skills of our resident Amish/Mennonites, for anything beef (including the chicken-fried steak, which Kansas deserves equal credit with Texas and Oklahoma), breads, fried chicken dinners, church-sponsored chicken & noodle dinners...we'll claim them all, without taking credit for them. We enjoy them, we treasure them, we'll brag about them when prodded, but we just consider ourselves lucky in our diversity. I used to hate that I grew up in a podunk farm town, but I've learned that you can eat a variety of foods for a reasonable price without ever leaving the state, while enjoying clean air and four very distinct seasons.

Oh, and I'm not embarrassed about Wichita's "cowtown" roots - I live in the Delano "district" (which used to be where Wichita kept all the saloons and brothels, safe on the other side of the river), and on a good day, when the wind is right, I can smell our Cowtown Historical Museum just across the river.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“A favorite dish in Kansas is creamed corn on a stick.”

-Jeff Harms, actor, comedian.

>Enjoying every bite, because I don't know any better...

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