Before I depart Nebraska and the Great Plains, I thought I’d offer a movie recommendation—a film that can help you understand what it was like settling this area. The movie is “Heartland.” Released in 1979, it starred Rip Torn and Conchata Ferrell. Though it is shot in Wyoming, it is representative of the experience of settlers across most of the northern Great Plains. It is a beautiful movie that nonetheless makes clear the stark reality of early settlement in the late 1800s and early 1900s (the year at the beginning of the movie is 1910). It is well written, well filmed, and wonderfully acted. As good as it was to wander through the old buildings at Pioneer Village, this gives an even deeper, personal revelation of what the frontier was like only 100 years ago. This is just the trailer for the movie, but the film is so well regarded that you should have no trouble finding the full-length version.
I already have two blogs—so why create a new one? I like focus. Waltzing Australia is about the land Down Under. While The World’s Fare does look at food and food history, as well as travel and culture, it has a wide and generally international scope. This blog will center on the American Midwest. Part of the reason for this focus is that I’ve written a book and started a second book that have the Midwest as their centerpieces. The second book is just getting under way, but the first—Midwest Maize: How Corn Shaped the U.S. Heartland—is being released by the University of Illinois Press in February 2015 (and it is, in fact, already available for pre-order on Amazon).
However, this blog will not focus entirely on either the book or on maize/corn. It will encompass travel in the Heartland, culinary specialties, presidential libraries, historic sites and tourist destinations, living history venues and historic re-enactments, humor, nature, beauty, books, museums, recipes, videos (entertaining as well as educational), and anything else that falls into the category of “things I learned while studying or traveling around the Midwest.” It will also give me the opportunity to share a lot more photographs—because I took vastly more than the publisher could possible consider fitting into the book.
I have traveled all over the world, and I have loved what I have seen and experienced. However, the dynamic energy of the Midwest has quite captivated me. The history is as big as the region, and the people are as open. It has been a grand adventure, learning about and falling in love with the Heartland, and I’m delighted that it will be continuing. I hope you’ll join me.