May 29, 2008 | News

More Secrets from Iowa

I promised last week to share a couple more secrets about Iowa’s little-known food traditions. We talked last week about flavorful ingredients and shared about Maytag blue cheese, free-range pork from Paul Willis and American cured meats from Herb Eckhouse.

We’re going to be serving a beef entree at this event from Jacqueline Venner’s family farm. (She’s a long-time deli staff member.) Emily “Duff” Anderson, the chocolate specialist at the Deli will be reading from her grandmother’s diary, who grew up in Iowa.

In addition to the great ingredients, dishes we’ll be serving have deep roots in Iowa. Immigrants who settled there found rich, dark soil, good for agriculture and grazing. These immigrants brought their farming traditions and adapted their cultural dishes to reflect the availability of the ingredients they could grow and find in Iowa.

A large group of German Lutherans settled in a community in 1855, which eventually became known as the Amana Community. They developed their own agricultural traditions, which involved growing and preserving their own foods. From that tradition, we will serve a German Potato Salad.

Dutch immigrants found their way to Iowa as well. They brought with them the recipe for special cookies called Dutch Letters. Outside of Iowa, these marzipan-filled puff pastry “S” shaped cookies are made only in Holland.

As you can see, at first glance Iowa’s culinary tradition is understated, but the depth of commitment to their craft is unmistakable when you look at the traditionally made, full flavored foods making their way out of Iowa.

I want to leave you with one quote, written by the Matt and Ted Lee, one-time guests of the Roadhouse, authors of The Lee Bothers Southern Cookbook and regular contributors to Martha Stewart Living and the New York Times:

“Iowa has a great, if little known, culinary tradition. On a three-day tour in September, I found a refreshing unself-consciousness about Iowa that keeps its homegrown treasures unsung and underreported, even as the D.C.-style hucksterism of the Straw Poll and the Hollywood-born ‘Field of Dreams’ make national headlines.”

Remember, there’s still time to make your reservations! Call 734.663.3663 and if you need, let the event menu whet your appetite.

Dreamin’ of Dutch Letters,

Christine Darragh