November 14, 2019
It's funny when people on the coasts figure out Midwestern culture.
For several months, I've read magazine articles about and website postings dedicated to what may be a true middle-of-the-country delicacy: the pairing of chili with cinnamon rolls.
It's even funnier when Midwestern folk figure out what's popular in the Midwest.
Even a Sioux Falls radio station featured a segment on the union of soup and dessert, noting it's popular in Nebraska, Colorado, Utah Montana and Kansas. In South Dakota? Not so much.
It's as American as apple pie and ice cream, although according to a Washington state television segment, the combo derived from logging camps, where chili was poured over a cinnamon roll to provide workers with high calories necessary for the strenuous work.
"They just go together," Scott told me Monday evening as we discussed whether other sweet treats could be paired with the soup.
No other dessert should be paired with chili, according to Scott.
"It has to be a cinnamon roll," he insisted.
Which, he informed me, he never gets served when I make a pot of chili.
"I'm lucky if I get saltines," he joked.
He is joking, right? Sometimes, I set out a make-your-own chili buffet, including shredded cheese, diced onion and sour cream. Maybe a few corn chips, too, in place of crackers.
I'll admit I usually don't plop a cinnamon roll on a plate when I make soup because:
1) I don't have time to make homemade cinnamon rolls.
2) I could pop open a tube of Pillsbury cinnamon rolls and toss them in the oven, but, again, they aren't homemade and that's kind of a big thing at our house.
3) It requires grocery shopping. See number one: who has time?
"Marilyn (Good) made the best cinnamon rolls," he reported.
My school served the combo, too, but it was the second best lunch. Blame it all on my German roots, but the best school lunch featured hot dogs with sauerkraut atop a homemade bun, mashed potatoes with a pat of butter and a side salad, although when you're in third grade, you don't realize it's a side salad. For dessert: O Henry bars.
What makes chili and cinnamon rolls great? I think it's the spiciness of the soup coupled with the sweet cinnamon. One relies on the other to bring out the flavor.
Maybe it's our Midwestern taste buds. Maybe it's how we fuel our bodies on a cold winter day.
Or, maybe, it's a medley of our favorite flavors, combined for a hearty meal.