Category Archives: Farming

Farmers Rock

If you’ve read this blog for long, or if you’ve read either of my food history books, you’ll know that I think pretty highly of farmers. They are among those people one would traditionally call “salt of the earth.”

Plus we’d all be mighty hungry without them.

But one thing I love is that a lot of them are also great fun. I’ve posted a number of different videos made by farmers, including several from the Peterson Farm Bros. Some of the videos are specifically about different aspects of farming–but some of them, including several that I’ve posted, are clever, farming-related parodies of popular songs. That’s the case with the video below. But adding to the fun in this particular video is the inclusion of farmers from several other video channels — many of them channels I watch and at least one that I’ve featured here. It also reminds us that the vast majority of our food is raised on family farms.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I have.

Leave a comment

Filed under Agriculture, Farming, Food, Midwest, Uncategorized, Video

At the Iowa State Fair

I have for several years followed a British YouTube cooking show called “Sorted.” It’s good fun and offers some imaginative recipes. But every once in a while, they wander off to show us something outside the kitchen — usually around London, but sometimes in the U.S. This video was published on Oct. 14–which was just two days before my newest book was released–Pigs, Pork, and Heartland Hogs — a book that looks at the history of pigs, as well as current trends in raising and consuming pork. The book covers about 12,000 years, but it has a fair bit about the culture of Iowa–and the Iowa State Fair, the destination for the Sorted crew in this video. And I was happy to see that they feature some of the special dishes mentioned in the book, including the Iowa Pork Chop, the Pork Chop on a Stick, and the Iowa Pork Tenderloin Sandwich. (The book even includes a recipe for this last item.) So I was delighted at both the timing and the content of the video, as it makes it possible to share a bit of the noisy joy of a state fair — and a look at Iowa’s pork culture. (And a bit of Iowa’s corn culture, as well — which features in my book Midwest Maize. Iowa is # 1 in both corn production and pig raising.)

So here are the four Sorted lads enjoying a bit of Midwestern hospitality and food at the Iowa State Fair.

Leave a comment

Filed under Agriculture, Corn, Culture, Farming, Food, Heartland Hogs, Midwest, Midwest Maize, pigs, Travel, Video

New Book Coming

While this blog is titled Midwest Maize, after my first book of food history, it will have to do for future food history and Midwest-oriented books, as I can’t quite imagine starting a new blog with every book.

Which is why I’m using it to introduce my next book: Pigs, Pork, and Heartland Hogs: From Wild Boar to Baconfest. The book won’t be out for a couple of months, but it is already on Amazon, with a few reviews and the option of pre-ordering. So in case you thought I might have stopped studying after I wrote about corn, I didn’t.

Pigs were once known as cornfields on legs, because the easiest way to get pigs to market was to feed it to pigs and then let the pigs walk to market. So the connection between pigs and corn in the Midwest dates to the earliest settlement of the region. However, the history of humans and pigs dates back a lot longer than that–current estimate is 12,000 years of association. So there are a lot of tales of pigs through history, from the Celts inventing bacon to the Etruscans leading herds by playing trumpets. But the book isn’t all history. There are visits to farms and interviews with experts ranging from swine technicians to butchers and chefs to waste management specialists. There are some iconic regional recipes. And there are lot of the kinds of fun facts that make food history so enthralling.

On top of entertaining folks, I’m hoping this book will contribute to closing the gap between what people think about food and how it actually gets to us. There are a tremendous number of really good, decent, dedicated people working very hard to make sure you don’t starve. Come and meet a few of them in my books.

You can check it out here: Pigs, Pork, and Heartland Hogs.

Leave a comment

Filed under Agriculture, Corn, Culture, Farming, Food, History, Literature, Midwest, Midwest Maize, Thoughts

Jonathan Swift on Agriculture

In Gulliver’s Travels, author Jonathan Swift made use of the unusual characters Gulliver met to make comments (often critical) on society as a whole.

After listening in horror to Gulliver’s tales of European conflicts and politics, the prince of Brobdingnag, a land of giants, responds with a statement that reflects Swift’s outlook. Being agricultural in nature, it seems appropriate for this blog.

And he gave it for his opinion, “that whoever could make two ears of corn, or two blades of grass, to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country, than the whole race of politicians put together.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Agriculture, Corn, Farming, Literature

When Corn Salad is not Corn Salad

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” So said Romeo’s Juliet. Good thing—because names can be confusing, varied, colloquial, or misleading—as with corn salad. Of course, if you’ve read Midwest Maize, you already know that “corn” means “dominant cereal grain,” so you won’t be surprised by that revelation in this article. But interesting to see how things get named, and how they spread, and how a weed can become valued.

Foodways Pilgrim

Valerianella locusta illustration by Thomé (1885) showing the plant, flower, and seed.

There is plant called

corn salad

Ackersalat02

Which is not the same thing as a

corn salad

Corn_&_Beans_(15392776377).jpg

See?

Not the same thing at all.

Corn Salad also goes by Mache, Doucette and Raiponce …yes, that translates to Rapunzel!

Fairy_Tales_From_The_Brothers_Grimm_Rapunzel_3_By_Walter_Crane Walter Crane illustration of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale. Was she so named because her hair grew like a weed?

Evidently, it’s called corn salad because it’s a weed in the corn – which is any grain back in England. People use to gather it in from the fields,  and not actually grow it in their gardens. Ordinary people, that is.

Thomas Jefferson grew it in his gardens at Monticello.

Official_Presidential_portrait_of_Thomas_Jefferson_(by_Rembrandt_Peale,_1800) Thomas Jefferson – not ordinary

Louis XIV also grew it in his garden

Louis_XIV_of_France Louis XIV – the Sun King – very NOT ordinary!

I’m really tired of KALE

kale

So perhaps Corn…

View original post 12 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under Agriculture, Corn, Culture, Farming, Food, History

2017 Eric Hoffer Award

The Eric Hoffer Awards for 2017 were announced yesterday. This is an award designed to recognize exceptional writing from small, academic, or independent publishers that don’t usually get the attention that the big publishing houses get. While Midwest Maize didn’t get the top prize, I was awarded an Honorable Mention, which, given the thousands of books submitted, is still gratifying.

Eric-Hoffer-Award-Seal.gif

Leave a comment

Filed under Agriculture, Corn, Culture, Farming, Food, History, Language, Literature, Midwest, Midwest Maize, Recipe, Thoughts, Uncategorized

Farm to Table

One last stop in Washington was intended to simply highlight the focus on glorious local foods at one market but ended up being our lunch stop. Farm to You Market is owned by the Geisert family, who also own the organic, free-range, heritage hog farm down the road (which we passed).

In case you didn’t realize the owners raised pigs!

Not too surprisingly, there are a few dandy pork products on the menu in the bright, tidy lunch room. I had been told often enough by experts that jowl bacon (better known in some circles by its Italian name: guanciale), and when I saw it on the menu, I had to try it. It was intense—richer than belly bacon. I actually had to take most of it home, it was so rich and fatty. But then that might be because it was a side order that I had in addition to the kobe beef burger that was my meal. Hard to imagine a better burger: kobe beef, cheddar cheese, freshly made bun, bacon, and organic lettuce and tomato. Yum.

That’s the jowl bacon on the left, next to the pickle. Wow.

It was fun to tour the store, as well, and see some of the fun local products—including Pinckney Bend whiskey. But lots of pork products, organic vegetables, baked goods, and locally produced sauces, jams, and soda pops. Great fun.

Locally made bratwurst and sausage.

Locally made soda pop.

Leave a comment

Filed under Agriculture, Culture, Farming, Food, Midwest, Travel