Home / General / Minnesota’s Food Crimes

Minnesota’s Food Crimes



Minnesota has a lot to answer for on the culinary front. That includes from their members of Congress.

It’s that time when Al Franken makes jokes and eats casserole. Or, as he and his Minnesota colleagues call it, hotdish.

Rep. Collin C. Peterson won the seventh annual Minnesota Congressional Delegation Hotdish Competition with his dish that had bear in it.

It was called “Right to Bear Arms.”

“This bear was shot by Mike in my ag office,” Peterson said. But, ahe dded that it was shot in Wisconsin and cooked by the staffer, not him. Franken, the host of the event, was cracking up.

The senator humorously apologized for Peterson getting political and thanked the crowd for joining the event.

Hilarious. Oh Mike, you and your bear shooting. Of course this is just one of many, many culinary crimes from Minnesota. And to say the least, the fact that said hotdish contest gets a 1500 word or so write up in the Minneapolis newspaper is plenty telling.

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  • The Great God Pan

    I was under the impression that even the most macho manly-man hunters don’t actually eat bear due to the meat allegedly tasting really unpleasant.

    Also, the phrase “hot dish” always causes me both annoyance and a slight twinge of nausea.

    • Johnnie

      Bear is like pork, its flavor is highly influenced by what the bear has been eating. A bear that’s been eating a lot of roadkill and fish is pretty nasty, a bear that’s been eating acorns and berries is significantly tastier.

      • leftwingfox

        “You can really taste the terroir.”
        “What does it taste like?”

        • tsam

          You can taste the terrier in bears jabbed near populated areas.

        • efgoldman

          “What does it taste like?”

          Tastes like chicken….

      • SeattleCyclist

        As a former Minnesotan, I can tell you deer also tastes like what it’s been eating, so unless the buddy offering you venison actually watched it grow up next to the cornfield he shot it in, you’re better off paying for farm-raised stuff from New Zealand. I imagine the taste being influenced by what you eat thing is also true of people, but you have to go next door to Wisconsin, home of Ed Gein, Jeffrey Dahmer and Paul Ryan to find the kind of folks that know the answer to that…..

    • A great local restaurant for all you haterz –


      • Johnnie

        I rarely spend any time in that part of Minneapolis, but that looks good as hell.

        • Give it a go. There are actually quite a few great restaurants over in that area.

      • I think that may be new since I lived there (2009-2010). But if you’re coming from Minneapolis, and you’re not sure about that place, you can use that map & keep driving, across the river, to the Red Stag Supper Club, which is not outrageously priced but it outrageously superb.

        The Twin Cities are the most bizarrely average place to eat I’ve ever seen, because it arrives at average from extremes. What people celebrate as quintessentially Minnesotan is mostly awful. How does this sound: two bland, under-salted burgers, overcooked, that you have to eat when they’re cold, because they’re pressed together, and if you bite in to them when they’re hot the molten lava of cheese they’ve crammed between them will send you to the burn unit; if that sounds good, you’ll love the Juicy Lucy. Or, meals centered around cream of mushroom soup? Or, meals at home on Sunday without alcohol, if you had none in the house when the nine places statewide that sell alcohol, half of them run by local governments, closed Saturday night, because they’re not reopening until Monday (although did I see they may finally have changed this law)? And don’t get me started about the cult of the Minnesota State Fair.

        HOWEVER, there’s also the goodness–and I mean that in a deep, moral and ethical and serious way–of the Lutheran influence on Minnesota, which through Lutheran World Services, has for decades settled large and diverse populations of immigrants and refugees–especially refugees–throughout Minnesota and even the Dakotas. You put a bunch of refugees from across the globe in a place like the Twin Cities, you nearly instantly have some great food. The Minneapolis farmer’s market–which my wife chose for our second date, and which was perfect in so many ways for who she is and what mattered to us–is a marvel. Probably a third of the place is stalls run by Hmong farmers, and the range of what’s for sale there is staggering. One of her former colleagues is half-Thai, and he said the only good Northern Thai food he’s ever had outside Northern Thailand is the first place I’ll go back to next time in in the Twin Cities, a Thai place behind the cell phone/money exchange place. The Vietnamese food is outstanding. We had amazing Szechuan and Northern Indian food. And the Mexican places in St Paul are outstanding. And I even had good Lebanese food, about which I’m a bit of a snob (having lived in Dearborn MI).

        Whether related to the new cuisines or it’s own development, another thing about the Twin Cities is there are a lot of really outstanding non-“ethnic” restaurants that don’t serve tater tots on a stick. Even those, like the place I mentioned above, that build upon the northern European and local fare of traditional Minnesotan cuisine, but drop the hotdish and the irony.

        The other thing that is amazing in the Twin Cities is just about every neighborhood bar has 20-50 beers on tap, and they almost all have really solid burgers, sandwiches, pasta, etc. Bars have to serve food, and most of them, if you go in there at 5:30 on a weeknight, have a clientele that’s closer to a family restaurant than an after-work happy hour.

        I have a love-hate relationship with Minnesota. Hate the DFL endorsement process. Love the progressivism of the Minnesotan Democrat. Hate that anything that could be simply run by gov’t is maddeningly complicated (I never did figure out the recycling), but I love the community solidarity and reverence for the public sector. And Minnesota has a lot of awful food. But I’d love to go back to MSP and eat out every day for a week. Or three.

        • Sounds about right, though believe it or not, there are actually more Catholics here than Lutherans.

        • wengler

          the cult of the Minnesota State Fair.

          I chuckled a little bit. People in other states won’t understand it.

          Also it tells you what a piece of human garbage Trump is when he came in Minnesota and started bellowing out his Nazi lines against the Somalis.

          • MDrew

            As a transplant to St. Paul from outside the state, I will say that it’s not so much that they can’t understand it – they will understand if exposed – but that until exposed, they simply can’t conceive of it. There is just no point in trying to conjure what this thing is or the outsized role it plays in civic life here. There is no reference point.

            I guess Carnival, except replace costumes and floats with deep-fries foods skewered on sticks.

        • Paul Chillman

          Nice writeup! One thing I’ve read is that restaurants here have an above-average supply of ingredients thanks to the proximity of local farms.

        • Paul Chillman

          Oh, and most places have single-sort recycling now.

        • gusmpls

          Insulting a Juicy Lucy? Fighting words.

          • Paul Chillman

            I don’t know. I used to live near Matt’s, and I’m not convinced that putting the cheese on the inside rather than the outside of a hamburger counts as a major culinary innovation.

            • Randy

              At the risk of being That Guy, I wish to remind you that Matt’s serves the “Jucy Lucy.”

        • Randy

          I get the love-hate part. I feel the same way.

          Beginning July 2, liquor stores will be allowed to be open on Sunday, so that’s a point for “love.”

        • sigaba

          I can confirm the Red Stag, also the Vietnamese. Right next door to the Red Stag is probably the best vegan sausage market I’ve ever seen.

          (I hesitate to point out that this post is basically a caricature of every Rod Dreher post against multiculturalism: "Elite liberals only like diversity because of the food!")

          • The Great God Pan

            I mean, it is a pretty good reason for liking diversity. That seems like such an odd critique to hang your hat on: “You only like diversity because it makes life more enjoyable!”

            • leftwingfox

              No kidding. The Heritage Days multicultural festival back in Edmonton when I was growing up was like the world’s greatest food court for a weekend. Nations around the world were represented in music, costume dance, art, and of course, food.

          • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

            I grew up in the 1950s/early 60s in small town and suburbia, and if I could only eat the limited menu that was available back then, please, shoot me.

        • MDrew

          This notion of outstanding Mexican food in St. Paul is relevant to my interests. Can you elaborate?

      • The Great God Pan

        OK but that stuff doesn’t look like baked vomit. It looks like normal upscale American food.

        I’m imagining actual upscale hotdish as beige slop with some foie gras thrown in and truffle oil sprinkled over it.

        • The cream of mushroom soup is made with pasture-raised organic milk.

          • The Great God Pan

            And mushrooms supposedly foraged by the chef.

            • …from next to the chicken coop in her backyard on Cathedral Hill.

          • sigaba

            You guys have got it all wrong, the Cream of Mushroom is either Campbells or from a packet. And you don’t eat it straight, the soup is just used as a base for… tuna hotdish, green bean hotdish, stroganoff (possibly known as beef hotdish)…

        • Not sure if you made that up or scrolled through the menu, but in any case, it’s not far off. Here’s a pic of their signature, the Tater Tot Haute Dish: http://haute-dish.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/HDTaterTot.jpg

    • David Allan Poe

      It depends on the bear. Bears that have been eating mostly berries taste better than bears that have been eating mostly fish, and nobody really eats grizzly, even Alaska Natives. If Alaska Natives don’t eat something, you can assume that it’s terrible.

      It’s a bit of a challenging meat to cook because it typically has a lot of parasites, including trichinosis, so it usually gets done to death or ground. It doesn’t braise that well because there isn’t much intramuscular fat and unless you get a young one the tendons are pretty tendon-y. I haven’t had any for a long time, but it might be interesting to try the loin sous-vide, where you could cook it to medium and hold it long enough there to kill all the parasites.

      I’ve never thought it was particularly delicious, even when young and in the spring, though. It never had much character to me outside of a sort of generic “wildness”.

      • CP

        It depends on the bear. Bears that have been eating mostly berries taste better than bears that have been eating mostly fish, and nobody really eats grizzly, even Alaska Natives. If Alaska Natives don’t eat something, you can assume that it’s terrible.

        ::Paul Hogan voice:: “Well, you can live on it, but it tastes like shit!”

      • sigaba

        In other words, your throw it in a crockpot for 36 hours, dump paprika and onions in it and then it’s ready for the macaroni noodles and green peas. Thus, hotdish. :)

  • Kurzleg

    I won’t defend bear hunting, but Peterson IS from a pretty rural district.

    Having gotten that out of the way, I had my fair share of casserole as a youngster in WI. But normally it was w/ canned tuna or hamburger.

    I’ve lived in MN for over 30 years now, and every Thanksgiving and Easter it was green bean hot dish and tater tot hot dish. I finally told my wife that I wouldn’t be joining her for these outings. She understood completely.

    • El Guapo

      tater tot hot dish

      Anything with tater tots is good, right? Unless it’s got some hidden pickled fish or something?

      • Johnnie

        Please don’t hide the pickled fish. Just leave the jar out with some rye crisps and I’ll help myself.

      • Kurzleg

        Not if they’re smothered w/ Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup…

        Speaking of pickled fish, my wife’s family is about 3000% Norwegian, but I never saw lutefisk at any of these gatherings.

        • Johnnie

          Lutefisk isn’t really pickled and you’ve gotta go to the Sons of Norway lodge around Christmas if, for some reason, you are seeking it out.

          • Kurzleg

            Oh, I know. Bad segue by me.

            • Johnnie

              The shame of lutefisk is that plain old stockfish is pretty great and also keeps very well. There’s no reason to soak it in all that lye and turn it into jelly.

              • CornFed

                Tradition isn’t a good enough reason?

                • LNM_in_LA


                • leftwingfox

                  It’s the culinary equivalent of being bitten by bullet ants without crying out.

              • sigaba

                Lutefisk done right is better than what some restaurants call “chilean sea bass.”

                • (((Malaclypse)))

                  Lutefisk done right

                  You mean thrown away, uneaten?

      • David Allan Poe

        You’d think, but the way they do it is to bury them in cream of mushroom soup, so the tater tots are just soggy and gross. The whole point of the tater tot, like the french fry, is the textural contrast between crunchy interior and soft interior. Without that, you’re just eating soggy potatoes, and soggy potatoes, like most potatoes, suck.

        • El Guapo

          Gah! A travesty, it is.

          Let’s give Minnesota back to Canada.

          • Kurzleg

            I’m open to that offer…

          • gusmpls

            Please don’t throw us in that briar patch!

        • Kurzleg

          DAP is right on the money. Tater tot hotdish is a very regrettable situation.

          • Even worse when it’s served on a stick at the state fair.

            • MAJeff

              Even worse when it’s served on a stick at the state fair.

              I have had State Fair hotdish on a stick. This is very true.

              • leftwingfox

                I’m simultaneously appalled and eager to try it.

        • They gotta put the tots on top, not underneath. Then they crisp up nicely in the oven.

        • scamp.le

          Lies! You’ve obviously been fed fake hotdish by a Packers fan. The Tots are always placed on top, an homage to Shepherd’s Pie, so that they crisp properly.

          In the same way, crushed potato chips are layered on top of tuna hotdish.

          • David Allan Poe

            Hot canned tuna is the grossest thing ever. Grosser than balut, grosser than stinkfish, grosser than ketchup on a hamburger, grosser than Sicilian maggot cheese.

            I once read an article in which some Chinese gourmands, who were very fond of what to Western palates would be impossible foods, tasted and were utterly revolted by various cheeses*. I would love to get their impressions of cheese combined with hot canned tuna.

            *They did enjoy the Roquefort, however.

            • keta

              A grilled tuna and cheese sandwich is delicious. Mix the tuna with some mayo, chopped green onions and salt and pepper. Use old cheddar. I prefer sourdough bread.

              Swap out tuna for just about any seafood (ling cod, salmon, prawns, crab) and the same combo is also delicious.

              Warm tuna fish milkshakes, on the other hand…

            • ExpatChad

              Grosser than balut

              Nothing is grosser than balut.

              I’ve been here 7 years, and when one of the helpers brings in balut, I run shrieking to my room.

              And I was an embalmer for 12 years.

            • rea

              I always liked hot tuna

              • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

                Jorma and Jack could really jam.

                • Dennis Orphen

                  Especially with Bob Steeler on the drums.

            • Schadenboner

              What’s wrong with a nice tuna melt with provolone?

          • MAJeff

            You’ve obviously been fed fake hotdish by a Packers fan.

            Or an Iowan.

        • CornFed

          Who’s been cooking your hotdish? The tots go on top, not in and you give it a good 15 minutes uncovered on the top rack in the oven at the end to crisp them off.

          • El Guapo

            My faith in humanity has been restored. Minnesota may remain in the Union.

    • wengler

      I dunno why anyone thinks the green bean one is any good.

      • BigHank53

        It’s not supposed to be good. You’re not supposed to enjoy it. You’re supposed to eat it out of good clean Midwestern guilt, goddamn it, and then compliment the chef, too.

        • Hogan

          And go home muttering, “All this and I have to go to hell, too.”

        • LNM_in_LA

          You must have met my Mom at some time in the past, that exactly spells out our dinnertime most days.

        • Randy

          If you really hated it–and by “hated,” I mean “considered having your stomach pumped to get rid of it”– you’re allowed to say “that was different.”

    • Dennis Orphen

      A entire bag of frozen tater tots fits perfectly on the grill of a Weber Kettle. Just sayin, and yes, I was quite buzzed when I discovered that. Try it (the tots, not the buzz), you can thank me later.

      Also, Totchos, hipster’s hotdish.

      • efgoldman

        A entire bag of frozen tater tots fits perfectly on the grill of a Weber Kettle

        Grill ’em in the plastic bag? Yum.

        • Dennis Orphen

          Helps keep the ketchup off, prophylactic effect.

  • The Temporary Name

    Bears in the ag office are a common problem.

    • Betsy DeVos warned us

      • Kurzleg

        Betsy DeVos warned armed us

        • Those of us that survived, yes. And that gets back to the thread above. Bears that have been eating people who’ve been eating a lot of fish and carrion taste awful. Bears that have been eating people who’ve been eating a lot of acorns and berries are much better.

    • It’s almost justifiable to shoot them. Unless they were invited it.

      • rm

        But in Minnesota they are constituents.

      • Derelict

        Yeah, yuk-yuk! Lookit the rubes shooting bears!

        Until you’ve walked out your front door one evening to come face to face with a black bear that was snuffling around your house looking for rodents, don’t tell me how cute and innocent these things are.

        • But rodents are cute and innocent!

          Except for the ones that seem to have stolen the edit button.

    • Hogan

      Like elephants in pajamas.

    • rea

      “This bear was shot by Mike in my ag office,” Peterson said, “what the bear was doing in my ag office, I’ll never know.” (/Groucho)

  • petemack

    The only relay criminal thing Is that the winning dish included chow mein noodles.

    • sigaba

      My mom would use those instead of potato chips on tuna hot dish, that’s an accepted thing.

    • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

      Dear God, you’ve reminded me of when my mother decided to try Chinese cooking, and got cans of Chun King. IIRC, the crispy noodles were in a smaller can on top of the big can of “sprouts”.

  • gccolby

    Execrable “cuisine,” killing bears and on top of that, second amendment-based puns. That’s a hot dish of something.

  • efgoldman

    Erik, is your objection to the [yik!] awful sounding food, or to the bear hunting?

    I don’t understand the objection some people have to hunting, but they’re perfectly happy chowing down on a bovine that stood around for a year or two before being shipped to a slaughterhouse.
    I don’t happen to care for venison, and I don’t understand the charm of standing around for hours in the woods on cold, wet November mornings waiting to shoot a deer, but i don’t object if you want to do it.

    • I don’t really approve of bear hunting although I have no problem with increasing deer hunting given how many of them there are. But the real crime is the food.

    • witlesschum

      Bear hunting with radio collared dogs doesn’t seem particularly sporting or humane. Bear hunting over a bait pile seems more humane, as the bear’s last thoughts are probably of cake frosting and sugar beets then lights out. But hunting things you don’t intend to eat the major portion of is generally not cool with me. I shot a deer this past fall and have been enjoying different sorts of venison, so obviously I don’t see a problem with hunting itself.

  • Denverite

    I’m guessing in the unlikely* event that any Chinese tourists ever make it up to Minnesota and order “hot dish” from a restaurant, they’re going to be in for one heck of a surprise/disappointment.

    * Actually one of my favorite vacations ever was going up to the North Shore by Lutsen in the dead of winter. The cross country skiing is spectacular, and even the ski hill they have at Lutsen is good for a half day’s worth of skiing. Plus walleye is really tasty.

  • XerMom

    Hot Dish is awesome! (You bake it in a dish called a casserole.) My hubby, the transplant, actually prefers funeral hotdish, which includes chow mein noodles. My dad’s leftover turkey hot dish with cream of chicken soup, rice, broccoli, and paprika was my favorite day-after-thanksgiving treat.

    Diehard Minnesotan that I am, I love flotegrot (or rommegrot, depending on which scandinavian is making it) with lots of cinnamon, but it’s hard to turn that into a contest.

    If you need spicy, you can get yourself some doro wat. You can use your electric lefse iron to make the injera.

    • You can use your electric lefse iron to make the injera.

      But remember—to avoid blandness, be sure you don’t forget to add in salt to injera.

      • LNM_in_LA

        Whatever you do, though, do NOT use the Lefse iron for burgers, like what my idiot of a brother did with my grandmother’s. And he then complained that the Lefse iron did not work for what God and Grammah intended . . .
        Did I mention he’s an eedjit?

      • muddy

        Nice one!

    • MAJeff

      Hot Dish is awesome! (You bake it in a dish called a casserole.)

      Something every Minnesotan understands.

    • MDrew

      F Minnesota. Seriously. It sucks here.

      It’s 9 degrees right now, and in 24 hours we will lose an hour to make way for daylight savings.

      That, in a nutshell, is Minnesota.

      • MDrew

        Btw, that’s 9F air temp. Wind chill is -3. Being from Wisconsin, I cite the *temperature* when I report the temperature…

        Everyone here just says the wind chill number so that they can say, “When I was a kid we went to school when it was 60 below!”

        That would be wind chill. It was probably -15 on the morning in question.


  • Victor Matheson

    First of all, this trashing of the cuisine of America’s most reliably liberal state (at least in presidential elections) is for shame. Furthermore, I would submit that many people condemning the Minnesotans’ taste for a hotdish probably love themselves a shepherd’s pie, a perfect example of a hotdish.

    Finally, rejecting all cuisines Minnesotan will deny you chance to enjoy one of our country’s great ethnic meals: the Norwegian Christmas smorgasbord.

    It starts with lefse, a Norwegian potato tortilla which is white and fairly flavorless, but pretty good with butter and sugar. Follow that up with rommegrot, a cream pudding that is white and fairly flavorless, but pretty good with butter and sugar. Then have some lutefisk, a lye cooked fish that is white and fairly flavorless, but not bad with butter, and some boiled potatoes, which are white and fairly flavorless, but pretty good with butter. Finish is all off with riskrem for dessert, a rice pudding that is white and actually fairly flavorless, but pretty good with a little sugar. You can put bright red lingonberries on the riskrem, but I find that really ruins the aesthetics.

    • Casseroles can be delicious, they can be horrible. You can’t tell if a casserole called a casserole is horrible like you can tell it’s horrible if the casserole is called hotdish.

      Think of it like steak:
      “Steak” can mean it’s exquisite, horrible, and anything in between=casserole
      “Steak cooked the way Donald Trump Likes It” is horrible=hotdish

      • Victor Matheson

        Now that’s just untrue. A hotdish is simply a casserole served to you by someone with Frances McDormand’s accent in Fargo, dontcha know.

        • My wife couldn’t watch that film when she lived there. I think now, having been gone for several years, she could appreciate it better.

          Tangential point: A Serious Man is seriously underrated.

          • The Great God Pan

            I talked to some native Minnesotans not long after Fargo came out who were fucking scandalized by that movie. Seriously offended, not jokingly offended. “We DON’T talk like that. NOBODY HERE talks like that.”

            • MAJeff

              I think Drop Dead Gorgeous may get rural Minnesota accents better.


              Plus, this:


            • Randy

              The hell we don’t.

              One of the best parts of riding public transit in Minneapolis is seeing Somali girls wearing hijabs, talking like extras from Fargo. “Oh, yah, we’re goin’ to the mahll.”

            • LNM_in_LA

              Yup. As did my relatives.

              In the same accent, without any irony.

            • A lot of my relatives talk exactly like that. My clan all arrived in Otter Tail County in the 1880s and basically are still there.

    • Origami Isopod

      The take I heard is that everything on the table has to be white, except for the red Jell-O.

      • And the Maraschino cherry from the fruit cocktail.

        • LNM_in_LA

          Pronounced mare-a-sheeno.

    • rea

      Couldn’t you just eat butter and sugar, and forget the nonessentials?

      • CornFed

        But what would you put the butter and sugar on?

        • Sheesh. You put the butter on the sugar, and the sugar on the butter!

          • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

            Put the lime in the coconut, then you feel better . . .

            • Dennis Orphen

              Before or after jumping into the fire?

        • You’re right…you need saltine crackers, as well.

    • keta

      Don’t forget smalahove!

    • Solar System Wolf

      I have had the Norwegian Christmas meal, because my stepmother is from Minnesota. Her cousin came over from Norway one year and said something to the effect that even in Norway they don’t eat that crap anymore.

      But yes, it was pretty inoffensively bland, except for the lutefisk, which is like eating fish-flavored tapioca pudding.

      • Dennis Orphen

        Norwegian Stepmother

        Band name or strain name? You decide!

      • sigaba

        I have had the Norwegian Christmas meal, because my stepmother is from Minnesota.

        You realize, we only do that when out-of-towners visit, right? When it’s just the family we make roast beef or turkey :)

        • Solar System Wolf

          Oh, we had the real dinner alongside. I wasn’t obligated to eat the white stuff, but wanted to try it so I could say later that I did.

    • Musashi

      I’ve always said that Norwegian cuisine is essentially just a delivery system for butter, sugar, and gravy

  • Paul Chillman

    Sorry, but tater tot hotdish done right is amazing. My wife makes it regularly — the key is bechamel instead of mushroom soup.

  • MAJeff

    My parents used to live in a little town of about 700 people. It’s also got what some consider the best bratwurst in Minnesota. I have a dozen regular, and a half dozen jalapeño-chedder brats in the freezer. These were part of my Christmas present from my parents, and they couldn’t make me happier. (already gone through a half dozen of the regular, and 1 of the four smoked pork chops.)

    God, I miss that little meat shop.

  • Eukaryote

    As a former Minnesotan, I am offended by the failure to mention Lutefisk, and the Emergency Lutefisk Hotline.


    • Johnnie

      Wisconsin’s employee right to know laws specifically exclude lutefisk from the definition of “toxic substances”

  • Karate Bearfighter

    Can’t believe no one’s pointed this out, but that’s not Minneapolis’ newspaper. MinnPost is an online-only nonprofit – complaining about how they use their space is like complaining about the Seattle Post-Intelligencer wasting ink. Minneapolis’ newspaper is the Strib.

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