Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Iowa 101

Well, we're back up and running!  Sometime after 9pm last night power was restored and the whole Gatchel household breathed a collective sigh of relief.  The yard was dusted with snow this morning so you can only imagine how glad I was when the lights came back on.  But anyway, we're a day behind now, so without further ado, here's to Iowa!

The checkered flag officially fell on our race through Indiana and now we're heading not to far away, just on the other side of the Mississippi to Iowa!  Yep, it's the week for the Hawkeye State to rule supreme.

I've mentioned a couple of times in the past that there has been a state or two that I've come across that has me nervous about how interesting I can make it for the kiddos.  So when I read facts about Iowa that included that hogs outnumber people 4 to 1 and that 90% of the land is devoted to agricultural use (only Nebraska devotes more land for this purpose) I started to get a little anxious.  I mean, after trekking through Illinois and Indiana the past two weeks I can only keep them interested in corn (of which Iowa is the nation's leading producer) for so long.  So I dug deep and was able to find plenty to share with them about the nation's 29th state.

The land as I said is mostly used for farming purposes.  Iowa is the nation's leading producer of both corn and hogs.  Interestingly, the fact that Iowa has two rivers for borders (Mississippi to the East and Missouri to the West) is what allows the land to be such a fertile place for planting.  It has also caused mass destruction though, most recently in 2008 with major flooding.  It is also the birthplace of Hawkeye apple which is the red delicious apple’s heirloom antecedent.  On the manufacturing side, Iowa is home to Winnebago Industries who is responsible for those fun RV's, Maytag Corporation which was started there in 1893 by Frederick Maytag and was producing one out of every five washing machines for the country by 1924 and multiple John Deere facilities responsible for producing many of the farming machines used by the state.

Politically, Iowa gave us the first President born West of the Mississippi with Herbert Hoover.  The eyes of the nation turn to Iowa in the early winter of the year of a presidential election as they hold the Iowa Caucus. .  Iowa is considered to be a 'purple' state - not leaning strongly toward either major political party.  Recently prior to statewide primary elections, there were about 710,000 registered Democrats, 608,000 registered Republicans, and 773,000 registered with no party.  Since no one party 'controls' Iowa its choice of candidates for the presidential primaries tend to be a good indicator of what the rest of the nation will do.   I can't even begin here to explain why the Iowa Caucus is so important, but I did find lots of interesting materials on it online if you care to do a little more research yourself

Wanna see a cow made entirely of butter?  Or try one of 57 (as of 2012) foods on a stick?  Then a trip to the Iowa State Fair in August may be in order.  Like antiques and finding odd treasures?  The show American Pickers is set in LeClaire, Iowa and the home office of star Mike Wolfe's business Antique Archeology is located there.  What about entertainment?  If you're a fan of Westerns Marion Mitchell Morrison, or John Wayne to us common folk hails from Winterset.  Winterset also provided the location of and backdrop for the movie "The Bridges of Madison County."  Big band more your thing?  Then come to Clarinda, birthplace of Glenn Miller and get "In The Mood".  If you're a movie buff check out Dyersville, Iowa where they set and filmed the majority of the baseball movie "Field of Dreams".  Or perhaps you're an art fan?  Who hasn't seen Grant Wood's (an Iowan!) classic painting "American Gothic"?  What you might not know, though is that it was inspired by an actual house known as the Dibble House which is located in Eldon, Iowa.  And if you like ice cream, you'll want to check out the "Ice Cream Capital of World" in Le Mars, which is the home of Wells Dairy which produces Blue Bunny Ice Cream.

I kicked off our Iowa food adventure with our try at one of the most well known Iowa culinary offerings the Loose Meat Sandwich.  The sandwich is said to have been created in Muscatine, Iowa by butcher Fred Angell, who eventually founded Maid-Rite Restaurant.  Sometimes also known as a "tavern sandwich" in it the meat is cooked loose rather than formed into a compact patty. It more closely resembles a sloppy joe, without the tomato sauce.  I knew my crew would have no trouble with this one!  For dessert while we were putting up the wall we tried out a sweet treat also created in Iowa - the Eskimo Pie!  According to legend:  "Christian Kent Nelson, a schoolteacher and candy store owner, claimed to have received the inspiration for the Eskimo Pie in 1920 in Onawa, Iowa, when a boy in his store was unable to decide whether to spend his money on ice cream or a chocolate bar"  While I'm willing to try lots of fun stuff in the kitchen, I think some things you leave to the pros and my kids happily munched away tonight as we talked about Iowa.  Okay, now here's where I admit I had to bend the rules a little bit.  After a trip to 4 different grocery stores  and unsuccessfully being able to locate the authentic now Nestle owned Eskimo Pie (have since learned I needed to go to Busch's for them...) I decided we were going to have to improvise just a little bit.  So we munched on the closest approximation of an Eskimo Pie that I could think of - a Klondike Bar :)  Considering the exact description of an eskimo pie is "a chocolate-covered vanilla ice cream bar wrapped in foil" I figured I was doing pretty good on this one.

See and you thought Iowa was going to be boring!  I've got all kinds of interesting Iowa fact, figures and fun to share this week, so stick around.  We're partially back to 'normal' this week as Noah is back in school but is off on Friday and Kayla was only in school today.  (grrrr, bad planning school systems!)  And we'll be heading to the 'Mont on Sunday for Easter feasting!  Tomorrow we're going to try out a Dutch Iowa treat - a Runza!  And the Bean is going to help me make some Iowa City cookies in Kid Kitchen, then the kiddos and Grant are going to work on our "We've Been There" state while I'm off at PTA tomorrow night.  Should be a good one.  So until then...

Iowa Fun Fact of the Day:  The town of Fort Atkinson was the site of the only fort ever built by the U.S. government to protect one Indian tribe from another.

We lose power = fun with glow sticks!

Daddy was experimenting

Mikayla's super cute bunny from her Easter party at school today

The egg she colored

The inner workings of an Iowa Loose Meat Sandwich

Mmmmm, dinner!

Eskimo Pie! (kind of...)

He didn't care if it wasn't official

Iowa's up and running!

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