We Kansans are a funny bunch. My husband picked up on it right away when we met, noting that he'd never met someone who knew so much about the history and customs of her particular state. Part of it has to do with our war-torn genesis into statehood, which centered in the area around my hometown. Part of it has to do with being derided as a "flyover state," with little to offer the nation in terms of culture. Part of it was the fact that our state mandated a month of Kansas history every January in the schools, so each year we learned about Kansas history, geography, foods, indigenous animals and plants, and more. I can tell you without using Google that our state bird is the meadowlark, state flower is the sunflower, state motto is ad astra per aspera, state insect is the honeybee, state reptile is the barred salamander, and that our primary crop is wheat.
No matter how long I live away from Kansas, I don't think I will ever be able to say that I'm "from" somewhere else. It's too far back in my blood - at least five generations. And Vicki is a Jayhawker, too! Even if she never remembers Topeka, where she was born, she can claim the title of a native-born Kansan.
The reason Kansas history centered on January is because January 29 is Kansas Day. This commemorates the day that Kansas finally joined the union, as a free state, in 1861 (my elementary school was named Centennial because it opened on 1/29/1961 - the Centennial of Kansas Day). Walking around my hometown, you might actually hear people wishing one another a happy Kansas Day.
I decided we needed to celebrate. On Tuesday, the 29th, we had a Kansas Day dinner. I served:
Buffalo Burgers and fixings (okay, okay - they were going to be buffalo, but that is surprisingly hard to find around here! It would have meant a crosstown trip to Whole Foods at 12.99/lb. No thanks! I served beef)
Buns made of wheat flour
Oven fries with honey mustard to dip
Sunflower seed cookies
All the bolded foods are parts of Kansas agriculture and history. We had a little crowd of Kansans over and talked geography, history, and just shared our wholesome Midwestern values. It was lovely.
|Sidenote: Ugh, pregnant fat face + foregrounding myself. The worst.|
This may all sound like a fun and silly idea for a theme party - which it was - but it was also really important for me. Moving away from Kansas felt like a betrayal of my ancestors and my history, and I wanted to commemorate our special day. I was talking this over with my Grandpa Louis, who made the very valid point that the Reeves family came from England to Long Island, moved to Kentucky/Tennessee, and then only made the trip to Kansas in the mid-1800s. So, really - I'm back where my people came from now!