Minnesota Nice: On Nicollet Mall

Minnesota!

When most Americans think of Minneapolis, all roads lead back to the cultural curiosities that have come from that very northern metropolis. The land that Bob Dylan comes from (“called the Midwest”), where Prince developed his signature sound (named for Minneapolis), the locale of Mary Tyler Moore’s eponymous show, the location of Garrison Keillor’s Lake Woebegon and perhaps the Minnesota Vikings come to mind. Poll cats know it has been the home of progressive politicians like Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale, as well as libertarians like Jesse Ventura. Business folks know it as the home of the Radisson and Target corporations. And of course, the University of Minnesota calls Minneapolis and its twin city, St. Paul, home.

Minneapolis Skyline

If politeness has a source like the fountain of youth, then Minneapolis is that font of kindness for the Midwest. For me, the city has one of the nicest dispositions. Perhaps the bitter cold of their winters keeps bad attitudes in circumspect. Perhaps there is something in the DNA, as so many Minnesotans claim Scandinavian heritage (That may explain the love of socialism and progressive politics). Maybe it is the Swede-like dialect that adds to the coziness.

I am not alone in this observation.  There is a term for this stereotypical mild-mannered, polite-to-a-fault, self-deprecation: It is called Minnesota Nice. And while it may appear saccharine at first to the uninitiated, I find that the experience is like a mental spa day, as the armor of urban anger, social Darwinism and existential ennui melts away under the kind charm of the Minnesotans.

Minnesota Nice pops up in every venue. On one trip to the Twin Cities, I arrived on a college game day, back when the Golden Gophers used to play at the Metrodome. Seizing up an upper deck ticket, I took in a Big Ten football game. There is something rather hysterical about hearing 20,000 Minnesotans chant their battle cries at a football contest, as the dialect makes even the most aggressive chant sound, well, nice.

MinneSOHTA. See? Nonplussed. Too polite. Especially the wiggly-wrist maneuver at the end of the chant. Much of that “niceness,” I believe, comes from that sing-song dialect so common among Minnesotans. That dialect is a legacy from those sons of Sweden who immigrated to the Northwoods. Swedish is a tonal language–a language that places value on the pitch of certain vowels just as much as the grammar in words. And that musical concept carries over into the modern day. The Coen Brothers celebrated that local color in their film Fargo, as the clip below exemplifies:

I took my singular seat, mid row, tripping over a bunch of fans as I apologetically took my place. And of course, I forgot to buy a beer before I sat down. Despondently looking toward the vendor as he came and went, the couple next to me decided to go get some food. Without missing a beat, they asked.

“So, we are going downstairs to get a beer Brat, we can bring you back something if you want.”

I was puzzled. I didn’t know these people.  “Oh, that is okay, I appreciate the offer, but I am fine.”

“No, it is no trouble at all.”

“Really?”

“Youbetcha” they offered (before a certain Alaskan destroyed that plesantry)

I surrendered to the Minnesota Nice. After a rousing victory, and some new acquaintances made, the Golden Gophers nation spilled out into two main pedestrian areas. Some head back to campus to hit up the bars in and around Dinkeytown. As for me, I headed with the older crowd downtown to Nicollet Mall–the core of the revitalized downtown Minneapolis.

Nicolette Mall is an historic landmark of a kind. Like many downtown urban areas, Minneapolis’s center enjoyed a vibrant economic boom until the 1950’s, when the growth of suburbia, the automobile culture and white flight from urban centers hollowed out the downtown core. In 1968, the progressive politicians in Minneapolis took back their downtown before the last of the major department stores abandoned it. Nicollet Mall became the first pedestrian/transit mall in the nation, converting an otherwise boring street scape into an outdoor mall–perfect for strolling, window shopping and grazing at supper clubs (as they say in the Northwoods).

Mary Tyler Moore statue, Nicollet Mall

Government Plaza, Minneapolis

Nicollet celebrates Minnesota’s cultural heritage–as Mary Tyler Moore and her iconic hat toss from her sitcom is preserved in bronze outside of Macy’s. Hubert Humphrey holds court outside city hall. And the Minnesota Orchestra (or what is left of it) performs in their boxy Orchestra Hall. The recent strike and lockout of the Orchestra has been particularly hard on a city that is so used to being nice to one another.

Orchestra Hall

After the game, I was looking for pub fare, and Brit’s Pub fit the bill. It is perhaps the biggest draw on the strip and for good reason. Aside from an excellent gastropub menu of bangers and mash, the bar features an expansive second floor outdoor bowling green. Here, under lights even,  the pubcrawler can take in a a game of lawn bowls (or if you must say it, bocce ball) roof side, with metal stands waiting to hold your pint while you roll.

lawn bowling at Brit\'s

I bellied up to the bar (as those who frequent pubs are able to do after a few years of pints) and ordered up some bitters. A gent in the Golden Gophers gear heard my funny Pittsburghese and offered “Oh, that pint’s on me.”  I had never had a perfect stranger buy my first round before, and my natural east coast instinct would have thought that this guy was making a pass at me, or had some other agenda. No, this is just Minnesota Nice again.

“So, where are you from?” he asks.

I offered up the usual list of places, and asked if he’s been to any of them.

“Oh no, I do not leave MinneSOHta much,” he said.

Where Brit’s begins to quench the thirst of this traveler, I met up with a friend at The Local to finish off my the desire for a hand-pulled pint of ale. At the Local, the waitress saw that we were two guys with nothing to do. She offers that she had been given two tickets for a concert over at the Target Center by another patron (Minnesota Nice again), and that we could have them (Minnesota Nice Paid Forward). My drinking buddy was obligated to ask if she was included in the deal, almost costing us the tickets. But again, in that Minnesota Nice sorta way, gave us the giggle, and the tickets.

https://i2.wp.com/www.greenroofs.com/projects/target_center/target_center10.gif

The headliners were the Violent Femmes, and well, for the price they were worth the experience. While not Minnesotans, they did get their start in the nearby burg of Milwaukee, Wisconsin–a place that could rival Minnesota for nicest in the Midwest. The Femmes played through their set to their one hit wonder, featured below:

You may think this litany to be a singular experience, but I assure you it has not been. Perhaps I have been fortunate that Minneapolis has never shown me her bad side. But of my several visits, people are eager to chat, eager to pick up your tab and more than happy to please. And why do they do it? Because niceness begets niceness.

Feeling the need to pay this niceness forward, I have taken on the same tone when traveling, chatting up some other business road warrior at the pub, sharing my wisdom and offering up convivial conversation.

Minnesota! Photo credit: cali.org / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Minneapolis Photo credit: Jvstin / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Mary Tyler Moore Photo credit: dianecordell / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

HHH Photo credit: Coco Mault / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Brits Photo credit: massdistraction / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Minnesota Orchestra Photo credit: amy_kearns / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

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Voices of the Past: George Orwell and Christopher Hitchens on Tea

George

The Midwest, and other parts of America, are in for a heck of a winter. It’s been cold, below freezing and steady snow for weeks. And, it isn’t winter even yet. Months like these require a constant kettle of water boiling, to keep my tea cup filled to the brim. Many have strong opinions about tea, and the British seem to have the strongest of them all. This has always stricken me as odd, in that the Brits merely appropriated tea as part of their acquisition of Empire. Knowledge of tea is not innate within them, but what seems to be in their genes is a mastery of the prose required to write about tea. Two such Brits come to mind.

The genius behind the dystopias 1984 and Animal Farm was also known in his time as a prolific essayist. Some years ago, George Orwell’s entire canon was available, should you wish to read the man’s thoughts on every subject. One of my particular favorites include his brief work, Keep the Aspidistra Flying, a celebration of the cast iron house plant–a plant that served its owner to signal to others that they have attained middle class-hood. (Think about it, for whom would keep a plant that wasn’t food unless one could afford such excess?) Orwell also expounded on every Englishman’s favorite past-time, the consumption of black tea. In his 1942 essay, A Nice Cup of Tea, Orwell attempts to lay down the rules of proper brewing, in 11 steps:

“First of all, one should use Indian or Ceylonese tea…Anyone who has used that comforting phrase ‘a nice cup of tea’ invariably means Indian tea.

Secondly, tea should be made in small quantities — that is, in a teapot. Tea out of an urn is always tasteless, while army tea, made in a cauldron, tastes of grease and whitewash. The teapot should be made of china or earthenware…

Thirdly, the pot should be warmed beforehand…

Fourthly, the tea should be strong. For a pot holding a quart, if you are going to fill it nearly to the brim, six heaped teaspoons would be about right….

Fifthly, the tea should be put straight into the pot….

Sixthly, one should take the teapot to the kettle and not the other way about….

Seventhly, after making the tea, one should stir it, or better, give the pot a good shake, afterwards allowing the leaves to settle.

Eighthly, one should drink out of a good breakfast cup — that is,the cylindrical type of cup, not the flat, shallow type. The breakfast cup holds more, and with the other kind one’s tea is always half cold before one has well started on it.

Ninthly, one should pour the cream off the milk before using it for tea. Milk that is too creamy always gives tea a sickly taste.

Tenthly, one should pour tea into the cup first. This is one of the most controversial points of all; indeed in every family in Britain there are probably two schools of thought on the subject.

The milk-first school can bring forward some fairly strong arguments, but I maintain that my own argument is unanswerable. This is that, by putting the tea in first and stirring as one pours, one can exactly regulate the amount of milk whereas one is liable to put in too much milk if one does it the other way round.”

History is harsh to the essayist. Moderns will forever appreciate Orwell’s literary masterworks, but his essays may fall to the wayside in a hundred years. Few essayists can expect their work to survive their lifetime–Mencken, Thurber, and Twain come to mind, but who is reading say, Mike Royko nowadays (aside from your author?) As for contemporary essayists, time will tell if Christopher Hitchens will join Twain or perhaps fade into the ether of the late 20th century. Hitchens, the late Anglo-American essayist and polemicist, idolized Orwell for many reasons–the economy of his pen, his opposition to fascism, and his exposition on the balance every British citizen must take with their heritage–pride and shame. When it comes to tea, Hitchens tried to rescue Orwell’s advice, in his own words. Hitchens made a point to mediate upon Orwell’s sixth rule:

“Now, imagine that tea, like coffee, came without a bag (as it used to do—and still does if you buy a proper tin of it). Would you consider, in either case, pouring the hot water, letting it sit for a bit, and then throwing the grounds or the leaves on top? I thought not. Try it once, and you will never repeat the experience, even if you have a good strainer to hand. In the case of coffee, it might just work if you are quick enough, though where would be the point? But ground beans are heavier and denser, and in any case many good coffees require water that is just fractionally off the boil. Whereas tea is a herb (or an herb if you insist) that has been thoroughly dried. In order for it to release its innate qualities, it requires to be infused. And an infusion, by definition, needs the water to be boiling when it hits the tea. Grasp only this, and you hold the root of the matter…

If you use a pot at all, make sure it is pre-warmed. (I would add that you should do the same thing even if you are only using a cup or a mug.) Stir the tea before letting it steep. But this above all: ‘[O]ne should take the teapot to the kettle, and not the other way about. The water should be actually boiling at the moment of impact, which means that one should keep it on the flame while one pours.’ This isn’t hard to do, even if you are using electricity rather than gas, once you have brought all the makings to the same scene of operations right next to the kettle.”

It is entirely possible that in fact, Americans never, ever learned how to make a proper tea correctly. And if we did know, the knowledge has been lost over the decades, a victim of the mass production of everything. There is hope though, as tea purists and the nerdy predilections of those with “first world problems” are perhaps seeking out quality over quantity. And perhaps then, we will not need reminders from British essayists on how to brew tea, as the practice will become innate within the population.

One last note from Orwell, worth repeating here. While I wholeheartedly disagree that tea should be bitter and enjoyed like a warmed over British IPA, sugar in tea is pointless. You’d be better off drinking sugar water and sparing yourself the cost of the tea leaves:

“Lastly, tea — unless one is drinking it in the Russian style — should be drunk without sugar. I know very well that I am in a minority here. But still, how can you call yourself a true tea-lover if you destroy the flavour of your tea by putting sugar in it? It would be equally reasonable to put in pepper or salt. Tea is meant to be bitter, just as beer is meant to be bitter. If you sweeten it, you are no longer tasting the tea, you are merely tasting the sugar; you could make a very similar drink by dissolving sugar in plain hot water.”

Orwell, always the gentleman, ended on that illustrative note. Hitchens, always maintaining his elan and sardonic humor, ends his exposition differently:

“Next time you are in a Starbucks or its equivalent and want some tea, don’t be afraid to decline that hasty cup of hot water with added bag. It’s not what you asked for. Insist on seeing the tea put in first, and on making sure that the water is boiling. If there are murmurs or sighs from behind you, take the opportunity to spread the word. And try it at home, with loose tea and a strainer if you have the patience. Don’t trouble to thank me. Happy New Year.”

What is your favorite tea? Do you have your own way of brewing your favorite cuppa?

Christopher Hitchens Photo Credit: Paintings on the Side by Cara and Louie: An original painting of Christopher Hitchens. Ink and Paint on Panel Original available for sale on Etsy.com

George Orwell Photo credit: PVBroadz / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Voice of the Past: Nelson Mandela on Freedom Fighting

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela, a man whose deeds earned him world acclaim, has gone to his reward.

Western civilization—European-American civilization— has produced remarkable things—the institutions that give peace and joy to a modern world. It has given the world an economic system that give billions a chance at a life without agony. It has given the world the rule of law and the blueprint to self-govern. It has also elevated human expression to unprecedented refinement, in music, theatre, film, architecture and dance.

Yet, those same institutions—as Aristotle pointed out—have their negative and corrupt sides. After all, Western colonialism, and the want of things, led the West to build Empire, and subjugate peoples who seemed different from them. And in South Africa, the worst of civilization was on display for much of the 20th century. Aparthied—the “Jim Crow Laws” of the African continent—kept a powerful colonial minority in power over an oppressed majority. Western civilization sometimes ignores the basic worth and dignity that each person has, while rather ironically, exalting the individual.

Nelson Mandela loved the gifts of the West, but hated the corruption. He had the audacity—the best use of the word—to call out that atrocity, and to risk his life to end it.

When people blithely ask in the West, what the big deal was about the gregarious man of peace from South Africa, one only need to read his statement before the court that was prepared to sentence him to death in 1963. Thomas Jefferson would have been proud. Unlike Jefferson however, Mandela was caught in the act of revolution. One can try to imagine what the American founders would have said in the dock if King George arrested them. We’ll never really know. But Mandela said:

“During my lifetime I have dedicated my life to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realized. But, My Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

(Mother Jones magazine offers a more complete coverage of his trial here.)

The greatest challenge when winning freedom, of course, is keeping it. While Mandela sought freedom for his people, he also sought equality within the institutions of the Western world—a free democracy. He did not reject the institutions of Western civilization—he wanted equal opportunity under the law to access them. He was, after all, an educated man and lawyer by trade. He played by the rules, but the rules also were designed to keep him and people who looked like him, away.

He sincerely believed that people casting their vote—warts and all—was a superior mode of government. The West wrestles with the consequences of this concept daily. There are those in every race, in every civilization, who reject the notions of the rule of law, of peace, of integration and forgiveness. Those of us in the West are constantly in tension with the most extreme elements of our society, who seek to use the instruments of government to force their narrow agenda upon the rest of us. Mandela’s South Africa is not immune. After his release from his life sentence in prison, and as the Aparthied government was abandoned, Mandela was elected President of South Africa. And after his term, he stepped away from the presidency, like Washington, rather than serving for life. He did this to assure the peaceful transition of power, another lesson from Washington.

However, in doing so, he left his country in the hands of less capable men. And in so doing, South Africa does not function well—the rule of law is often ignored. Women are unsafe there—as South Africa remains atop the list of most rapes per capita. His dream of a race-blind democracy has eroded, with his political party unraveling into black nationalism and “pale males,” as the locals call the white Dutch minority. And the strong pre-Mandela economy is long gone. Some of those elements may have been worthy sacrifices to have a society where human worth and dignity were restored. But again, as Mandela said before his sentencing, he was for Western civilization and its institutions. I am not so sure his successors are.

Mandela is one of the few people in history worthy of the praise he received. Yes, conservatives saw him as a terrorist in his lifetime. So too was George Washington considered to be, in the eyes of the Tories. History has judged Mandela not as a terrorist against the status quo, but a freedom fighter. What is the difference? The difference is in the execution. Mandela preached peace in our time. May those sentiments expand beyond his time. 

Photo credit: [Duncan] / Foter.com / CC BY

Hoosier Food in Autumn

Weizenfeld

We have finally passed from “Pumpkin Spice” season. So many foods have been shellac’d with the tell-tale pie flavors of the gourd–all spice, cinnamon and nutmeg–that the once-beloved trio has lost all meaning. This is made most evident in J. Bryan Louder’s experience on the “Pumpkin Spice Diet” as told in Slate.  To this we’ve come; a world where the Heartland flavors are exploited; the harvest bounty expressed as a mere additive to processed foods. I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that the things we love most become commodified and often do. I have noticed the Autumnal assault on pumpkins, for example, and I am sure you have as well. When I was a kiddo, pumpkins came in two basic forms–the pumpkin pie, and the jack-o-lantern. Big Food, Big Candy and Big Coffee have taken that cherished seasonal flavor and applied it to every other consumable in the free market. Consider that the “Green Mermaid” is celebrating its tenth year of Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Hershey has infused pumpkin into their Kisses. Booze comes in pumpkin flavors. And all fail to satisfy like Grandma’s pumpkin pie.

I blame the foodies and their saints who hold court on food television. They have scourged every corner of America to upend those special foods for poaching by opportunists. Having said that, I am conflicted about sharing some of my guilty food pleasures found in the American Heartland. Yet I am reassured that since they have survived unsullied in their natural habitat for so long, that they will remain a regional favorite beyond the interest of mass production. In her 2011 cookbook, Heartland, Judith Fertig captured the agrestic qualities of the cuisine, even if some of her recipes were gentrified for the East Coast dwellers and Midwest expatriates that miss the flavors of the breadbasket but cannot surrender their acquired Champagne tastes and passion for places like Dean and Deluca.

324/366 - Ron

When I think of food from the Heartland, the fare is simplified. A farmer’s breakfast is much like its cousin from across the pond—eggs, pork in its glorious incarnations of bacon, sausage and ham, a hearty carbohydrate in the form of white or wheat bread, with canyons to hold the reservoirs of butter and jam. Unlike the full English breakfast, the Heartland variety will have potatoes—either hashed or home fried. This particular diet has been recently made famous by Ron Swanson, fictional libertarian bureaucrat of NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” fame, who subsists on a farmer’s diet of bacon and eggs and steak. This diet is called “paleolithic” by the jet-setting, bi-coastal, urban types. Farm boys can eat 10,000 calories with abandon, knowing they will burn it off over the course of a hard day’s labor farmside.

Popcorn

Hoosier food–food favorites from Indiana–is a subspecies on the Heartland culinary family tree. As is most often the case, the cuisine is a blend of what is produced on the farm and off the land, using the old-world recipes and vocabularies passed down from pioneer mother to native-born daughter. At first glance, Hoosier cuisine seems nothing more than an invitation to a heart attack. Surely, it could be so. However, the ways by which Hoosiers take the fruits of the farm and transform them into plated pleasure is worthy of protection and esteem. That is at least the opinion of the Indiana Foodways Alliance, that seeks to protect Hoosier food in the same manner as Kentucky Bourbon or French Champagne. There is a bit more to Hoosier food of course than a Rockwellesque idyll. Orville Reddenbacher, from Valparaiso, Indiana, made popcorn ubiquitous. Little known outside of Indiana was his cross-state rival, Wilfred “Cousin Willie” Sieg. Even a state as small as Indiana can have an industry rivalry akin to PC vs. Apple. Or on the dessert end, Hoosiers added dairy to the Pennsylvanian shoo-fly pie to create an even higher octane sugar creme–or “Hoosier” pie. Lastly, the burger chain Steak and Shake, while founded in Illinois, is headquartered in Indianapolis.

Steak \'n Shake Steakburger and Fries

Deep in Hoosier country, the region of Southern Indiana is a best kept secret of the Midwest. When the bi-coastal snobs think of Indiana, they think of flatlands filled with amber waves of grain. To the contrary, the Ohio River Valley–where the region lies–is hardly flat. Unblemished by the brute force of glaciers, the region remains hilly and remote. And in those hilly knobs and deep ravines, people have lived relatively quite lives, playing up their proximity to Kentucky Bluegrass, Bourbon and river rats. In one such hamlet, named Gnaw Bone, the traveler can find a remnant of the region’s German heritage, adapted for its Hoosier surroundings–the Hoosier Tenderloin sandwich.

Drew vs Tenderloin

The tenderloin, as the locals call it, is essentially Wiener Schnitzel on a hilariously tiny hamburger bun. Using pork over veal, the tenderloin fillet is pounded paper thin, drenched in flour and deep fried. While likely “invented” in Huntington, Indiana, the folks at Gnaw Bone Food and Fuel (now the “Gnaw Mart”) have perfected it. So popular are the sandwiches in the region that they have become required eating for politicians. In 2006, for example, then-Senator Dick Lugar took the Gnaw Bone breaded tenderloins to DC for his fellow senators for a luncheon. And when offering advice to national politicians campaigning in Indiana, pundit Brian Howley offered this advice:

“Get [the candidate] familiar with the pork tenderloin sandwich and what to say about it. Remind him that we are not “Indianians” but Hoosiers. Give him better lines than “South Bend is in the north and North Vernon is in the south.” Have him listen to some Mellencamp. He needs to know about Tony Stewart, Butler Bulldogs and Crystal Gayle.” [emphasis added]

Further down the road, in the hill town of Nashville, Indiana (pop. 3200) is the Nashville General Store. At the back of the store is a short-order kitchen that serves up the local favorite–fried biscuits and apple butter. The biscuit is a misnomer–this is a small, fried doughnut coated in cinnamon sugar. The hot oil absorbed in the biscuit combined with the sweet local apple butter creates Indiana’s answer to umami.

http://oc2seattle.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/dsc_0958-1_edited-1.jpg

Those foods are not likely candidates for the next Starbucks Latte or small plate boulangerie, as consuming them daily may lead to an untimely demise. Of course, not all local delicacies are found in the hillside. My first re-entry into this corner of America was at a Circle K. And the exchange there reminded me that I was no longer among the Michael Bloomberg’s of the world. At the Circle K outside of Bloomington, Indiana, I was looking for a fountain soda. And, as any Circle K customer knows, the store is home to the Polar Pop–their answer to the 7-11 Big Gulp.  All sizes of the Polar Pop are always $0.89, as if the laws of economics do not apply beyond the threshold. Being modest, I reach for the 20oz Styrofoam chalice, pointedly erect alongside the gauntlet of Pepsi and Coke products.

melting ice

A local notices my action, taking it for a lapse in judgement.

“You know, you can get the 44 oz for the same price,” he offered, in a twang that sounded more annoyed than sympathetic.

“Nah, that’s alright,” I said. “I’m just not that thirsty.”

I thought I detected, above the buzz of the soda nozzle and clunking of the ice dispenser a polite, yet definite “Hmph.”

I’d like to think that Hoosier food is, to borrow the phrase from Gershwin, a “sometime thing.” Admittedly, many of my neighbors do not find it so. And here in the Heartland, it is no crime against humanity to consume these things routinely. Mr. 44oz was spry, and dare I say, fit. I was the one chained to an office desk for 6 years. He’s been working with his hands twice that long, and likely burned off whatever carbs he freebased into his system. Maybe next time, I’ll get my 89 cents worth, and take a long walk too to try to balance out the bloat.

Aside for the obvious market for the Polar Pop (not an Indiana native, but happy carpetbagger), I do not know if Hoosier food will ever be commodified like pumpkins, wasabi peas, PBR our whatever else the hipsters are into. It would be a sad day if I saw apple butter exploited the same way, or a Hoosier tenderloin available at a drive-thru in Seattle or Miami. Some foods are best enjoyed in situ–in their natural setting. I couldn’t imagine Hoosier food outside of Indiana. It’d cease being Hoosier food.

Wheatfield Photo credit: Photo credit: downhilldom1984 / Foter.com / CC BY

Hoosier Food Photo credit: davitydave / Foter.com / CC BY

Tenderloin Photo credit: CrazyUncleJoe / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Fried Biscuits Photo credit: http://oc2seattle.wordpress.com/2010/06/04/exploring-dining-in-nashville-indiana/

Polar Pop Photo credit: Idiolector / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Ron Swanson Photo credit: GmanViz / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Popcorn Photo credit: Micky** / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Steak and Shake Photo credit: arsheffield / Foter.com / CC BY-NC