Midwestern Food: A Chef’s Guide to the Surprising History of a Great American Cuisine, with More Than 100 Tasty Recipes (Hardcover)
Celebrated chef Paul Fehribach has made his name serving up some of the most thoughtful and authentic regional southern cooking—not in the South, but in Chicago at Big Jones. But over the last several years, he has been looking to his Indiana roots in the kitchen, while digging deep into the archives to document and record the history and changing foodways of the Midwest.
Fehribach is as painstaking with his historical research as he is with his culinary execution. In Midwestern Food, he focuses not only on the past and present of Midwestern foodways but on the diverse cultural migrations from the Ohio River Valley north- and westward that have informed them. Drawing on a range of little-explored sources, he traces the influence of several heritages, especially German, and debunks many culinary myths along the way.
The book is also full of Fehribach’s delicious recipes informed by history and family alike, such as his grandfather's favorite watermelon rind pickles; sorghum-pecan sticky rolls; Detroit-style coney sauce; Duck and manoomin hotdish; pawpaw chiffon pie; strawberry pretzel gelatin salad (!); and he breaks the code to the most famous Midwestern pizza and BBQ styles you can easily reproduce at home. But it is more than just a cookbook, weaving together historical analysis and personal memoir with profiles of the chefs, purveyors, and farmers who make up the food networks of the region.
The result is a mouth-watering and surprising Midwestern feast from farm to plate. Flyover this!
— Food and Wine, Best Food Books of 2023
"With more than 100 recipes from across the region (some his own, others adapted from old cookbooks) and the fascinating histories behind them, including Fehribach’s family stories, Midwestern Food is part memoir, part history textbook, and lucky for us, part cookbook. . . . Though some dismiss the Midwest and its cuisine as boring, Fehribach’s book proves it’s anything but."
— Bon Appetit, Best Cookbooks of 2023
“Ambitious, personal, and deeply researched, Mr. Fehribach’s beguiling opus is sure to attract controversy, not only over what dishes he includes and excludes but also over his deﬁnition of the Midwest’s boundaries and which regions within them warrant his focus. The area is so vast and diverse that even its residents don’t always agree whether they should identify as Midwestern, but navigating this geographic and culinary opacity with a guide as knowledgeable as Mr. Fehribach is an indisputable delight. . . . [A]s an addition to the conversation of what has and will make Midwestern food important, this volume is a welcome and generous contribution.”
— Wall Street Journal
"Fehribach applies his penchant for painstaking historical research and vivid recollection to his roots in Indiana, as well as broader foodways throughout the Midwest. Personal, historical, and practical, the book touches on family and regional histories, as well as recipes like Detroit-style coney sauce, sorghum-pecan sticky rolls, and pawpaw chiffon pie."
— Eater, Best New Chicago Cookbooks 2023
“Fehribach dispels dismissive notions of the Midwest as a land of just meat and potatoes, processed foods, and casseroles (although he does include recipes for some, like the Thanksgiving staple green bean casserole or a Native American twist on hotdish.) . . . Fehribach’s goal: to argue that Midwestern food, so often scoffed at or ignored, is a legitimate and valuable cuisine.”
— Daniel Hautzinger
“In Midwestern Food, Big Jones chef Paul Fehribach digs through centuries-old cookbooks and community publications to explore Midwest culinary practices and how immigration has shaped the way people eat, and he includes recipes for the dishes he writes about.”
— Chicago Magazine
“Well beyond a collection of recipes, Midwestern Food is an ambitious history of modern Midwestern foodways that developed over the past two centuries when people from many different cultures descended upon this part of the continent to create better lives for themselves.”
— New City
"It’s as much a collection of recipes as it is a tour through our region’s food history. . . . By celebrating these recipes in his new book, he also wanted to dispel some of the small-minded views people might have of Midwestern cooking."
— WTTW, "Chicago Tonight"
“Fehribach includes more than 100 recipes in the book. His Midwest encompasses not just home cooking, but restaurant and street food — including a regional sampling of pizza and barbecue styles and Mexican and Delta tamales — plus quintessential Midwestern condiments and cocktails, such as ranch dressing and Old Fashioneds.”
— Block Club Chicago
"While the book includes more than 100 recipes, it's Fehribach's engaging essays about each dish that make this book a must-read for any food-minded Midwesterner worth his or her salt."
— Cincinnati Enquirer
"Fehribach presents a master class in a cuisine that has a far-reaching popularity for its salt-of-the-earth origins and deep history. . . . Any midwesterner past or present will enjoy reading about the history of their food and discovering recipes for old favorites and lost gems; all will revel in the detail and nostalgia of Fehribach's tribute to midwestern food."
"There are many good chefs, fewer great chefs, and then there's Paul
Fehribach: Not just a fabulous chef, but a scholar, storyteller, and exemplary ambassador for the foodways of the American Midwest. Midwestern Food will be studied, referenced, cooked out of, and flat-out enjoyed for decades to come."
— Kevin Pang, America's Test Kitchen
"The Midwest has long been the neglected region of American cookery. It is no longer. Midwestern Food maps the 'unknown country' with a chef’s sensitivity to local and ethnic foodways, both its country cooking—the most Eurocentric in America—and its city mélange of global cultures. From German Rye Pretzels to Ojibway Manoomin, from cornbelt cornbread to Skyline Chili, the landmark dishes appear—140 in all. Yet Fehribach does more than instruct cooks—he tells the stories—the migrations, adaptations, and creations that make the Midwestern table meaningful. Doing so, he brings the rich story of American Food closer to completion."
— David Shields, author of "The Culinarians: Lives and Careers from the First Age of American Fine Dining"
“What a wonderful book. This is a dish-by-dish story of what makes the region America’s true heartland cuisine. Part memoir, a very well-researched history of classic Midwestern foods, and a first-rate cookery book, Midwestern Food is and will be the go-to Midwestern cookbook for years to come."
— Bruce Kraig, cofounder and vice president of the Culinary Historians of Northern Illinois
"Chef Paul Fehribach captures our region with his newest publication, essentially a love letter entitled, Midwestern Food, which shares wonderful stories and delicious recipes, all the while folding in snippets from local chefs, farmers, bakers, and more. The book is more than a good read it’s a quintessential handbook to the heartland!"
— Colby and Megan Garrelts, owners of Rye Restaurants, Leawood and Kansas City, Kansas
“What I love about this book is that here in the Midwest many of us grew up with a connection to the land, the farmers, and our grandmothers. I know I grew up cooking with my Grandma Dorothy and like so many incredible people in what is usually considered fly-over land, there is a deep and rich connection to what makes this part of the United States so comforting. In this book, you will find recipes from Chef Fehribach that give you history as well as precise execution to help make your table more like the homes we grew up in. Enjoy!”
— Gavin Kaysen, chef and founder, Soigné Hospitality Group
“What the great Edna Lewis did for Southern cooking, Fehribach has surely done here for his beloved Midwest. As a child of Minnesota, who studied in Wisconsin, and lived and worked in Iowa, Michigan, and Illinois, I thought I knew all there was about our regional delicacies. Fehribach goes deeper—like a gumshoe detective with a laser focus on culinary tradition—uncovering and sharing his research like a proud blue ribbon winner at the county fair. Not only does he introduce you to forgotten dishes like Persimmon Pudding and the Horseshoe, but he also leads you by the hand, helping you recreate the dishes originally created by the German, Scandinavian, Jewish, and Polish settlers who planted roots here and made the region their home. I’ve eaten hot dish and Delta tamales and chili dozens of times, but now I want to go make them in my own kitchen, so I can teach others the lost art of the Midwestern table.”
— Steve Dolinsky, Food Reporter, NBC 5 Chicago and 13-time James Beard Award-winner