Book offers a smorgasbord of tastes, places and events
“Eat & Explore Minnesota”: is it a book on recipes? a book on travel? or a book on geography and history? After paging through its 272 pages, I decided it is all of the above and maybe even more.
Author Christy Campbell chose Minnesota as the fourth in her series of state cookbooks that feature local recipes and reflect on popular community events and favorite destinations.
With “Eat & Explore Minnesota,” one can travel around the land of 10,000 lakes (in reality or vicariously through the book), see the sights and sample the food. When the trip is complete, simply come home and prepare some of the tasty dishes detailed in the book.
Published by Great American Publishers, this new cookbook series aims to show different aspects of a state. Prior states highlighted have been Arkansas, Oklahoma and Virginia.
Campbell, who lives in Mississippi with her husband and their two sons, says she decided to focus on Minnesota because it was “the polar opposite” from the South, which she knows well. “It is so opposite in climate and culture - a different lifestyle,” she says.
In the book’s introduction, she writes, “I discovered it to indeed be ‘Star of the North.’”
She adds, “The warmth, openness and kindness of each person I had the honor of working with made me coin a new term in my mind - northern hospitality.”
To find events for the cookbook, Campbell and her staff first turned to the Internet, then contacted the state tourism department, got brochures on parks and recreation events, and checked out visitors bureaus. They also asked festival organizers, chefs and resort owners around the state to send them recipes. “Not the fancy ones,” Campbell says, “but ones that the people may be eating in their homes in Minnesota.” The editors want each state’s cookbook to be unique, she explains, adding, “We received plenty of recipes, so had a good and varied selection.”
Since the Eat and Explore state cookbooks series spotlights various festivals, Campbell says, “I looked for more quirky, off-the-beaten-path events that more locals know about.”
Recipes are nicely grouped into categories starting with appetizers and beverages; continuing with soups, salads and breads; vegetables and side dishes; meat and seafood; and ending with desserts and other sweets.
Several recipes featuring the same ingredient may be grouped together, but reflect different regions of the state.
For example, there is Wild Rice Soup from Bluffscape Amish Tours, Chilly Day Wild Rice Soup from Glenwood Chamber of Commerce and Sally’s Wild Rice Soup from Black Lantern Resort and Retreat. While these recipes all call for wild rice, other ingredients are needed as well, and give each soup a different flavor.
And since wild rice is very popular and native to Minnesota, the book contains other recipes than soup that feature wild rice as an ingredient.
All the recipes are listed in the index, and the festivals and destinations are listed in their own index so it is easy to locate an event or recipe. When choosing the recipes for the book, Campbell says that it was more important to know if the recipe works than how it tastes. Some recipes were tried in the huge kitchen at her office while others were tested in her home.
“Some of the recipes were unfamiliar to me,” Campbell says, because rhubarb is very specific to northern planting zones and does not grow in Mississippi. “So the recipes with rhubarb were different and a bit of a challenge.” She explains that Southern cooks can’t find a good rhubarb substitute to use in recipes.
Campbell says her growing boys especially enjoyed the Minnesota soups. “There were some amazing choices.” One interesting sounding recipe is Dessert Soup from the Stand Still Parade held the third Saturday in May in Whalan, a tiny town located in southeastern Minnesota near Lanesboro.
Since the Whalan downtown is only one block, the parade stays still for an hour and people walk around the parade entries from beginning to end. Besides food, the festival also offers music and games. Sounds fun.
The events and recipes in the book span the four seasons. For example, a cold-weather recipe is Polar Pete’s Baked Alaska from Detroit Lakes Polar Fest, and a spring recipe is Maple Apple Crisp from The Syruping Day at Audubon Center of the North Woods near Sandstone. For summer, Potatoes with Leeks from Tater Daze in Brooklyn Park is listed, and Country Corn Casserole from Sever’s Corn Maze and Fall Festival in Shakopee is an example of an autumn entry.
Small towns and bigger cities, from Albert Lea and Alexandria to Wabasha and Waconia, are featured. Readers can learn about community events, festivals, resorts and annual parades, all associated with special foods and recipes.
You don’t have to go far to enjoy some of the events and places in the book. So eat and explore, or explore and then eat.
Vonny Rohloff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org  or at 51-748-7861.