Speaking About Midwest

In addition to writing about the Midwest, I also talk about it. Here are the three presentations I currently offer that focus on this region. (For additional presentations, as well as details about fees and speaking schedule, visit my website: http://www.worldplate.com.)

Destination: Heartland History The history of the Midwest is remarkable and often surprising. Fortunately, people realized early on that it was worth preserving. See and learn about destinations and events across the Greater Midwest that reveal how a region famed for supplying food actually supplied so much more, including iconic images, legendary individuals, and inventions that would change the world. From prehistory to present, hear the tales and “visit” the museums, living-history venues, archaeological sites, historic towns, vintage farms, reenactments, and even restaurants that make the Midwest’s past accessible—and fun. (Narrated slide show, general audience, 60 minutes, but longer is an option.)

“How Corn Changed Itself and then Changed Everything Else”  About 10,000 years ago, a weedy grass growing in Mexico was transformed into a larger and more useful grass—the cereal grass that we would come to know as maize and then corn. Nurtured by Native Americans, this grain would transform the Americas even before First Contact. After First Contact, it spanned the globe, but it also drove westward expansion in North America, building cities and inspiring innovators and entrepreneurs. However, vampires, whiskey, Henry Ford, time zones, Fritos, and the Chicago Bears are also part of this remarkable story. As Margaret Visser noted in her classic work Much Depends on Dinner, “Without corn, North America—and most particularly modern, technological North America—is inconceivable.” Come learn how and why corn transformed the Heartland and helped create today’s world. (Lecture, general audience, 60 min.)

“Wild Boar to Baconfest: Pigs in History and Popular Culture” Pigs were the first food animals to be domesticated, so they have a history with humans that goes back more than 12,000 years. Antiquity is only one of the reasons, however, that pork is the most commonly eaten meat in the world. This odd, contradictory animal offers a great range of advantages when it comes to feeding large populations, especially urban populations, though historically, it has also offered several disadvantages. Pork was virtually the only meat available to most of Europe during the Middle Ages, and if you ask for meat in China, you will get pork. From the invention of blood sausage by the Assyrians to the creation of such American icons as barbecue and hot dogs, pig has long dominated the menu for all but a few notable people groups. Celebrated at fairs and looked to for medical research, pigs offer culinary delight and potential promise but also create some challenges. So the topic of pigs is as far-ranging as the pigs themselves. (Lecture, general audience, 60 min.)