The United States is a lot more diverse than a lot of people give it credit for. The United States, as presented to Canadians though the American media, is more often than not tailored by the view of the country as seen from New York or Los Angeles. When it comes to the perception of Middle America, the reality is sometimes distorted, and sometimes not presented at all.
The differences are little, but they are noticeable. Cross the Mississippi River into Iowa and you’ll know the difference the moment you step inside a convenience store. The cashier will invariably ask you if you want “a sack”. Of course, he means a bag. The people in Illinois generally refer to bags, as do the people of Nebraska, but in Iowa, it’s a “sack”. There is also some debate over whether Coca Cola and Pepsi are sodas or pops, but that’s more commonly known, as I remember more than one marketing campaign played off this regional debate.
You see the regional differences in the fast food chains that exist here and in no other place in America. In Iowa and in parts of western Illinois, there is a restaurant called Maid Rite, which offers seasoned loose meat sandwiches that are like dry sloppy joes. And in eastern Nebraska, there is a chain around serving a unique (for fast food chains anyway) type of sandwich called the Runza.
A Runza has a ground beef and onion concoction baked inside a small bun. The result is juicier than the Iowa loose meat sandwich, and more flavourful than your average fast food hamburger. Indeed, I’m strongly reminded of the ground beef buns offered by Ying Sing Pastry on Baldwin Street in Toronto, except that the Runza is a German-American delicacy rather than Chinese. They also serve just a beef bun, rather than the curry beef, barbecue pork, ham and egg or other varieties offered by Ying Sing Pastry. If you want anything extra, like cheese, bacon or barbecue sauce, the people behind the counter have to cut the buns open to put the extra ingredients in. Still, the result is a step up on your average fast food hamburger, and a sign that you’re eating in Lincoln.
I expect similar regional differences exist throughout Canada that I remain largely unaware of, as ill travelled as I am, but I’m glad that they’re there. Regional differences give a country a spice that makes travelling through it all the more interesting. Why would I want to go somewhere else if everywhere else I go is the same as the place I left?
It’s been a busy couple of days. This past Friday, we went into Omaha to take in the Zoo, and you can see the shots on Flickr. I’m working away on the first of three writing commissions, explaining the Universe to 8-to-12 year olds, with less than a week to go before the first deadline. Things are going well, although I find myself trying to explain E=mc2 in seventy words or less. Now that’s a challenge.
Today and tomorrow promise to be hot, so I expect there will be a visit to a local splash park. It seems that I missed a lot of rain and cool temperatures back at home. Oh, well.