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Eating the Past: South Dakota

Potato dumplings on a wooden cutting board.
RitaE, Photographer

Tammy: Hello, this is Tammy Proctor. We have come to the end of our culinary tour of these United States with our last state, South Dakota. We are also welcoming for this episode our new host, Dr. Laura Gelfand, and we are previewing a comfort food as a teaser for next season. We will introduce Laura properly next week, so consider this a teaser for our exciting new season.

Jamie: Our original plan for today, to celebrate doing a show on all 50 states and the District of Columbia (good job everyone!) was to feature another cookbook from the Merrill-Cazier Library’s special collections and archives cookbook collection.

Using cookbooks from the historic cookbook collection was how the idea of a history and food show first started, back during the pandemic. We were going to feature the book, Famous Dishes from Every State, published in 1936 by the Frigidaire corporation during the great depression.

It featured recipes from every state, as well as tips from the Frigidaire home economics division on how to make good use of your new coolerator of course, and it seemed like a fine way to wrap up our show!

But then we looked at the recipe for South Dakota – our last state. The recipe was for “pheasant mushroom delight.” The first step was to “disjoint one young pheasant.” I thought perhaps, as a form of gentle hazing, we should have our new vegetarian host, Laura, cook this up for us?

Laura, tell us about your pheasant disjointing skills?

Laura: Well, I am too busy admiring the pheasants that run through my backyard to consider ripping one to bits. However, I could make the recipe for South Carolina, right above the dead bird dish, which is for sweet potato biscuits.

Jamie: How have I never had a sweet potato biscuit?

Tammy: That said, we decided to go in another direction. For South Dakota, noodle and dumpling-like dishes are common delicacies. As with many foods that are local staples in the United States, this one began with immigrants to the upper Midwest and plains states.

For South Dakota specifically, German immigrants to the region reshaped the cuisine, bring lots of carbs. Think homemade egg noodles, dense German breads, and strudels. One of the big dishes of the region is a potato strudel, which takes patience and technique to prepare. Once you put the dough on top of the potato, onion, fat mixture, you have to keep the pot covered while cooking. No peeking or it ruins the texture. I'm not sure I can describe on the radio how dreamy a potato strudel is – it's creamy loveliness.

There are also stews featuring dough as well.

Jeannie: Tammy are you talking about the famous Knoephla? It is a traditional German soup of dumplings with potatoes and carrots. It looks to be a very hearty stew. Most recipes I’ve looked at have a chicken stock base with heavy cream.

The dumplings in this soup is not a stuffed dumpling but rolled dough that is more like a chewy noodle. This recipe is a great segue from this past year of exploring states and our new theme of dumplings! We will be discussing in the future if a definition of a dumpling must include stuffing.

Very controversial.

For more episodes of eating the past, please visit the u-p-r dot o-r-g website.

Stay tuned next week for the start of our new season!

Tammy Proctor is a specialist in European history, gender, war, and youth. Dr. Proctor has written about Scouting, women spies and the way war affects the lives of ordinary people. Currently she is writing a book on American food relief to Europe during and after World War I. She has worked at Utah State University since 2013 and is a native of Kansas City, Missouri.
With a BA in Political Science and a Master of Divinity, Jeannie Sur has been at USU since 2017. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Jeannie loves Utah for the outdoors and its mountains, although she misses the Pacific Ocean. No matter where she's lived, she's been a listener and supporter of public radio. Jeannie enjoys mid-size cities, textiles, and individual sports, especially cycling and swimming. If she could have one superpower, she would shrink furniture for easy moving. She hopes to one day have more animals and a sauna. (#lifegoals)
Jamie Sanders is a historian of Latin America at Utah State and his family’s cook. He grew up in the rural South and loves its regional cuisine, but a study abroad trip to the Yucatán when he was a teenager really awakened him to international food culture.