Swift: Welcome to non-spicy North Dakota, where that bland is our bland


Punchline: When they need to buy their second bottle of Tabasco sauce.

It’s the closest I can explain our region’s relationship to spicy food, which gained international attention this week after a tweet from a client at a Fargo Thai restaurant went viral. The tweet from Twin Cities visitor Jason Wittenberg included a photo of a sign posted at each booth at Fargo’s Leela Thai that read, “Spice Level Warning: Level 0-5. We will no longer issue a refund when you order your spicy food and cannot handle it.

Since Olivegardengate in 2012, our state’s food culture has not generated as much buzz.

Some responses on this spicy thread mention that cashiers in Thai restaurants around the world sometimes mark “white people” on food orders so that cooks will remember peppers and ginger.

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I would go so far as to suggest that they take it a step further and take note of “spicy North Dakota”. You see, while the rest of the world can function according to the Scoville scale to measure the spiciness of peppers, many of us North Dakotas (this author included) operate on a whole new scale that I like to call “the Tollefsrud unit”. It goes from a slight “uffda” when Ole Tollefsrud has heartburn after his wife Phyllis slipped a bell pepper into his sloppy Joe mix to an enthusiast. “Fida! “ when she tries to spice things up with a teaspoon of Sriracha in the hot dish.

You see, for most others, spicy can be an authentic phaal curry or a blister Grim Reaper Caroline macaroni and cheese. But for generations of North Dakotans, with our preponderance of Scandinavian (38%) and German (43%) ancestors, our palates have become accustomed to what’s safe, easy to digest and bland.

While we have certainly diversified in recent years, the majority of North Dakotas came from hardy, hard-working people who didn’t want their taste buds to work as hard as they did. They wanted cheap, reliable and satisfying food that would support them while they prepared the lowlands by pulling tree trunks from the ground with their bare hands or walking 17 km uphill to school each. morning while carrying their sisters.

Today, we still rely on simple and hearty food to support us. After all, we need three full squares to feed us when we clear 6 feet of snow from our 20 foot long driveway or jump a car in 40 weather below.

Our ancestors lived on milk, flour, butter, potatoes, cabbage and cream. The Germans in Russia managed to feed their families of 17 by adding large spoonfuls of white paste to everything. Like knoephla soup, kase knoephla, fleischküchle and kuchen.

And then we have the Scandihoovians, known for their love of rice pudding, lefse, klubb, rommegrot, kransekake and other white foods. Heck, even their sausage isn’t spicy. Have you ever had potato sausage? It contains nutmeg. Nutmeg. The Ed Flanders of spices.

I remember eating Thanksgiving in a Norwegian / Swedish household as they rave about the potato sausage given to them by their neighbor Lars. They offered it to me as if they were serving the rarest beluga caviar, then watched expectantly as I tried it.

With my outer voice, I whispered the ultimate Norwegian compliment – “” Hmm, that’s not too bad then “, even though my inner voice said,” Who is this Lars and why is he making his apple sausage? of land from spackle? “

Of course, in recent years, the palate of all of our population has become more adventurous – partly because we have a greater diversity of dining options locally, people travel more and therefore are exposed to different cuisines and the phenomenon that I call it “the taste-tosterone factor.” ”

The latter is the ability to tolerate swelling mouth pain – especially if you are male – as if the ability to swallow food equivalent to a flaming porcupine is positive proof of his masculinity.

But if Ghost Pepper Chili isn’t your bag, don’t worry.

If, deep down, your idea of ​​“hot” is a seasoned pad thai with Mrs. Dash, you just have to own it.

Go ahead and order this Level 1 spice.

This bland is your bland.

Tammy Swift can be contacted at [email protected]


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