Appetites: Move over southern food, what is northern food?

Rhubarb pie
It's hard to define what "northern food" really consists of but food writer Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl says there is an element we can all agree on, rhubarb pie.
Nikki Tundel | MPR News

Tater tot hotdish? State fair cheese curds? Snickers salad? While these are some Minnesota staples, it’s hard to define what “northern food” is exactly. Food writer Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl has been trying to answer this question and explores it in a new article with Minneapolis, St. Paul Magazine. She spoke with All Things Considered host Tom Crann about it.

Grits and biscuits and peach pie are the heart of southern food. Moskowitz Grumdahl says this is because people in the south have a “shared cultural understanding of what their food is.”

“They have been very good at drawing a little circle around it and being like this is southern food. When you think of American food, you immediately start to segment it into southern food and then there’s everything else.”

It took Moskowitz Grumdahl a long time to put into words what northern food is — upwards of 20 years. From Beth Dooley to Sean Sherman, northern chefs have changed the game of cuisine. She came to her final decision: food that comes out of the winter.

Things like apples, maple syrup, cheeses and walleye came to mind.

“Apples need a really hard freeze, you can’t grow maple syrup in the Caribbean — you need frozen nights and warmer days and the cold … if you use that as your lens things just start to make sense,” she said.

While the definition may still be tricky, Moskowitz Grumdahl says it’s okay — rhubarb pie is the northern food in the middle we can all agree on.

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