About the Book

Fish Keg Fried WalleyeMany years ago, working on a story for the Chicago Tribune, I noticed that a farm stall at the market near Northwestern University was selling out of their greens by 8 a.m. Farming is tough in any case, but these farmers were growing organic heirloom Italian vegetables in clay soil. Puntarelle, Treviso, cavolo nero, arugula—not exactly the regional foods that come to mind when you think of the Midwest.

The wheels in my head began to spin. Clearly, there was a change in our food landscape and I was looking at its nerve center. Beyond Illinois, a fast-growing regional food movement had taken root: Dairyland Wisconsin Cheddar had entered a new era; Hmong farmers had settled in the upper Midwest; the new-butchering trend of purchasing sustainably raised whole animals was popping up all over the place.  The Midwest was clearly not the epicenter of average, a moniker we had been wearing for a long time.

Pie PosterAbout the same time, I noticed a seemingly bottomless appetite for books on the subject of food. Not conventional cookbooks, the ones with recipes and photos. The publishing world had moved on to the literature of food —to autobiographies of chefs, confessions of food critics, memoirs of restaurant owners.  Instead of meal plans, these books had themes.

And so, Fried Walleye and Cherry Pie: Midwestern Writers on Food began to take shape. It became my labor of love: to look at the arc of Midwestern food through the lens of the most reputable writers from the Midwest. Authors who could write about our region’s food through memoirs or personal essays that would, collectively, give a voice to the region.