Midwestern State of Mind

Little me creeping up stairs

I came screaming into this world in Naperville, Illinois, which was at the time, a small suburb of Chicago for new families and new shopping malls. (Fun fact: It’s now so yuppy people call it “Diaperville”) My mom was a native Michigander and my dad was a native Minnesotan, and together, they made a Midwestern hybrid baby that would be raised with good Midwestern values and three square meals of meat and potatoes. In the Midwest, “vegetables” are potatoes, iceberg lettuce, carrots and canned olives. When my cousins come to visit us in California, their noses turn up at the “grass” that is served as a salad – leafy arugula, green spinach, declicate baby greens. In the Midwest, gravy is a beverage. Oil is a condiment. Butter is a must.

I’m sure parts of the Midwest are different, but where I was raised, cheese in a can was a perfectly acceptable counterpart to crackers. “Salads” were rarely made of vegetables. Like what, you say? Potato Salad. Pasta Salad. Jello Salad. Taco Salad. Egg Salad. Chicken Salad.  Things like London Broil or Tri-Tip or Alfalfa Sprouts were unheard of. In fact, I never tried an artichoke, avocado, or soy milk until I moved to California.

Awkard chunky pre-teen phase. But I always was an LA girl!

It’s no laughing matter, but in both sides of my family, more of us fit into the lumpy category than we do lean. Would it be different if we had been raised in mountainous Colorado, or sunny Florida? (Florida: Probably not. Pretty sure funnel cakes, pulled pork and Cuban sandwiches do not a skinny person make.) Does the region you live in affect your tendency towards a certain body mass? I know I can’t blame my obesity on all the times I ate ice cream instead of fruit, but I have to wonder if my corn and grain-fed habits translated to a paunchier person.

One of the few years of my life where I had a normal BMI... I was 2.

I get grumpy sometimes when I compare my present eating habits to some slender folk around me. I cook rustic, wholesome meals with things grown from my garden. I mostly eat meals based on a lean protein, green and one starch every night. I try my best to stay away from processed foods and I exercise. I’ve made bad choices in the past and let’s be honest, will probably continue to do so, but the slightest bit of me loves blaming it all on genetics. In all fairness, I identify that I can’t blame the region – but I can blame the habits.

Did the region you grew up in contribute to your eating and food habits? How? If it was negative, how are you working to change them?


3 thoughts on “Midwestern State of Mind

  1. Considering I grew up with the same past as you since I’m your sister, I definitely can say my eating habits were affected!

    I feel so spoiled now that I have a plethora of farmer’s stands where I literally can make a whole meal, chicken and all, with foods from my very own town.

    Living in America’s top food supplier certainly has it’s advantages and it sucks we were so sheltered half of our lives but at least we have the good food now!

  2. Think it would have been different if we moved here directly from Chicago? I don’t. You were raised by mid-western parents who were raised by mid-western parents. Meat, potatoes, canned veggies for dinner and a bowl of ice cream before bed was standard. A salad was served at a fancy dinner. Decades of habits are hard to break!

    BTW – That’s you at the top of the stairs peering down. Probably waiting for one of the dogs to race up the stairs.

    Also, you were talking like a valley girl when you lived in Illinois. Fate that you live in the valley now?

  3. I don’t know, honestly. I’m from the South, and I know we aren’t known for the healthiest food. But I think it was more parental decision than region. My parents could have made better choices for us, but for whatever reason (lack of education? lack of resources? who knows?) they didn’t, so we learned our eating habits based on what they fed us. I did grow up with friends that had to have a glass of milk with dinner and had to finish their vegetables…my house was NOT like that. We had soda, soda, and more soda, and usually ate chips or ice cream for dinner. What they put in our bodies wasn’t really any concern at all…so I’m going with parental on my side. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I crave good ol’ Southern food when I’m in need of comfort, though. 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *