Thursday, March 17, 2011


Nora will use this blog to tell stories of her childhood on the farm and her urban adventures in preparation for the Farm to Fair project.

4-H Champion potatoes, 2010, Indiana State Fair

Right or wrong, I always think of potatoes on Saint Patrick's Day. Well, that and whiskey, but that's a whole 'nother post.

Grandma Leona's family came to Cass County from Ireland in the late 1800s. A generation* later, they had a successful farm raising corn, soy beans, wheat, and cattle. I have no idea whether they raised potatoes or not, but Grandma had a potato ricer - a hinged kitchen tool with two handles that you would squeeze the cooked potato through a grid. The potato comes out in a wiggly squish of goodness. The idea was that the potatoes are easier to mash when they are riced. I always asked for a serving of the riced potatoes, before they were mashed.

Potato salad is a staple at every picnic and part of my favorite summer meal - picked right from the garden corn-on-the-cob, watermelon and potato salad. I remember how shocked I was the first time I had a mustard-based potato salad. Mayonnaise vs. mustard can be a dividing issue among friends, right up there with the 4-H vs. FFA and Purdue vs. IU age-old battles.  

I remember the first time I saw this bit of potato-y genius at the Indiana State Fair several years ago. They use a drill connected to a blade to make one long thin potato ribbon and are fried in to crispy potato chips.

Did you know that the Indiana State Fair was the first to take a stand against trans fat cooking oils? In 2007 trans fat cooking oils were banned from being use at the Fair. This forward-thinking measure was touted in headlines around the world - and all of the State Fair treats are just as delicious.

*Thinking about the farm that Grandma Leona grew up on reminds me of a great story about her sister, my Great-Aunt Mary. The siblings had all either moved away or died and Aunt Mary was living in the house alone, with plenty of help from family and the "hired man," who worked there for decades and took care of basic farm chores and house duties. One Friday Aunt Mary was writing out his paycheck and couldn't remember his name. She didn't want to admit that she'd forgotten, so she said "remind me how to spell your last name?" His reply, "S.M.I.T.H."

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Nora will use this blog to tell stories of her childhood on the farm and her urban adventures in preparation for the Farm to Fair project.

  • Popcorn is my absolute favorite food - I enjoy some almost every day and I often count it as my dinner. 
    Did you know that the United States grows and consumes most of the world's popcorn? The oldest known ears of popcorn (discovered in New Mexico) date back 4000 years. Indiana is a close second in national popcorn production, right behind Nebraska. Combined, the two states produce roughly 55 percent of the nations commercial production. 
    Popcorn is a type of maize (corn), a member of the grass family, and is scientifically known as Zea mays everta. Of the six types of maize/corn—pod, sweet, flour, dent, flint, and popcorn—only popcorn pops. Popcorn is a whole grain. It is made up of three components: the germ, endosperm, and pericarp (also know as the hull).
    Enough of the science - how the heck does the grain pop into that delicious puffy goodness? 
    Each kernel of popcorn contains a certain amount of moisture and oil and needs about 14% moisture to pop. As the oil and the water are heated past the boiling point, they turn the moisture in the kernel, which has a moisture-proof hull, into a superheated pressurized steam. The hull allows pressure from the heated water to build and eventually bursts open. The inside starch becomes gelatinous while being heated; when the hull bursts, the gelatinized starch spills out and cools, giving it its familiar popcorn shape. 
    I never knew that I would actually crave gelatinized starch! 
    One of my favorite Fair treats is the Kettle Korn. How many days until the State Fair? 
    Most popcorn pops into two basic shapes: snowflake and mushroom. Snowflake is used in movie theaters and ballparks because it looks and pops bigger. Mushroom is used for candy confections because it doesn't crumble.
    Here are some fun popcorn facts:
    - Americans consume 16 billion quarts of popcorn - that's 52 quarts per man, woman and child. I'm sure doing my part!
    - Popcorn is pretty low in calories. Air-popped popcorn has only 31 calories per cup. Oil popped is only 55 calories/cup. 
    - Popping popcorn is the number one use for microwave ovens. Guilty! Most microwaves have a 'popcorn' button. 
    - The peak popcorn sales are in the autumn and hold steady through the winter months. 
    - Popcorn can pop up to three feet in the air. I can vouch for that - one too many times testing the stove top cooking oil with the pan lid off. 
    - The world’s largest popcorn ball was created by volunteers in Sac City, Iowa in February, 2009.  It weighed 5,000 lbs., stood over 8 ft. tall, and measured 28.8 ft. in circumference.