1. Turn down a butter popsicle.
“Iowa” food is both simple and challenging. We’ve taken our “meat and potatoes” comfort food origins to a new and glorious level. After all, fried butter on a stick is the ultimate American culinary contribution, is it not? In fact, at the Iowa State Fair, we can (and do) put just about anything on a stick and fry it up, Jell-O included. No wonder there’s a freaking Broadway musical about the wonders of this event. Skip the fair and your palette hasn’t lived.
But, alas, the Iowa State Fair is only once a year, and we don’t actually hand our children butter popsicles on the daily in an effort to get them closer to their culture. But we might have a scotcheroo when we’re having a bad day, or maybe we’ll sit down with a tenderloin the size of Kim Kardashian’s backside. Or we’ll walk around with a walking taco at a football game because why would anyone walk around with a regular taco? That’s just silly. We’ve mastered comfort and convenience. Now that’s American. Put down your kale and Iowa up already.
2. Ask us about Cleveland, Cincinnati, or Columbus.
Why shouldn’t you ask us about those three cities? Because they’re in Ohio. Oops, your bad. Short words with lots of vowels are confusing, right? Yeah, we get it. It’s all kind of the same there in the middle, isn’t it? Sure, sure. We’re actually from Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Dubuque, Sioux City or some other place you’ve never heard of, so we’re not going to get into specifics.
Don’t worry — we won’t bust a map out on you. We have a feeling if we show you that Ohio is three states away and would take 12 hours to drive to, that it would just lead to lots of questions, including the glaringly obvious one about your geographical understanding of America. And yeah, we probably do know a thing or two about where you’re from. The world doesn’t pay much attention to us, so we have to pay attention to it.
3. Expect us all to be “Iowa Nice.”
This “Iowa Nice” thing you may or may not have heard of is kind of a sham. We’re not going to argue about it because we’re happy for anything with our name on it, but it’s just not true. “Iowa Respectful” would be more accurate. We’ll gladly pull over on 218 when your car is smoking from the hood and we’ll smile at you if both of us are walking down an otherwise-empty aisle in Hy-Vee, but we’re not those neighbors that come over with a pie and ask you to attend church with us.
4. Assume we grew up on a farm and were voted last year’s Pork Queen.
Just don’t. While 88 out of our 99 counties may be classified as “rural,” the vast majority of us do not live on a farm and don’t have much experience with farming. We might’ve spent a summer detasseling corn when we were 14 or 15, but we’ve probably never milked a cow, chased a chicken, or called out “Suuuuuuuey!” after the family pig. We spent our childhoods in shopping malls, movie theatres, and blanket forts, just like you did.
We probably haven’t won any tractor pulling contests at the local town fair, though we’ve heard about these quaint little anecdotes from virtually every depiction of Iowa ever. We have pretty “normal” stories about attending church on Christmas and Easter, living for the Hawkeyes or the Cyclones, and praying for snow days even though we know we need about a foot and a half of the stuff for anything to shut down. We might know a family or two that lives on a farm, but they don’t let us ride their horses anymore after the incident of ’07.
5. Ask us if we have an airport.
The FAA has promised us one if we can keep the hogs off the highway and use it as a runway.
We’re messing with you. Yes, we have airports. Yes, we have street lights. Yes, when you drive through, you’ll still have your LTE coverage. We live the same way you do, indoor plumbing and all. We just stop in the Planet Fitness parking lot for corn once or twice a year.
6. Think we’re just “flyover country.”
Iowa has the misfortune of sitting just west of the Mississippi River, placing it just about smack dab in the middle of America. It’s a day’s drive to any coast, so most people experience us from 36,000 feet. But the next time you fly over us, take out your earbuds, look out the window, and give us a grateful wave. Why? Well, if it weren’t for our hard work, life as we humans know it would be incredibly, incredibly different (and we’re not just talking about Ashton Kutcher’s existence).
You know that phrase, “it’s the best thing since sliced bread?” That was invented in Iowa (the bread, not the phrase). Not impressive enough? So was nylon. Still not convinced? So was the computer. Believe it or not, Iowa is the home to the humble beginnings and lavish comforts of modern-day life. You’re welcome. And right now we’re even working on a virtual driver’s license app, grabbing a firm foothold on the cutting edge of technology. And in this little talk, we haven’t even touched on agriculture yet — you like to eat, yeah? The average Iowa farmer feeds 155 people a day. So whether we’re working on the farm or working in Silicon Prairie, we’re clearly worth a stop, or at least a wave.
7. Assume we don’t know how to party.
A Saturday night in Iowa City might as well be a march through a drunken North Face ad. Iowa has more bars per resident than any other state and, fortunately or unfortunately, we drink the most too. Even in subzero temperatures, we can usually be found out and about with a Coors Lite or Blue Moon in our hand.
8. “Oh you’re from Iowa, do you know so-and-so?”
In short, no. There are more than 3,000,000 people in Iowa and that number is actually growing. We didn’t grow up in hamlets walking into town barefoot with the kids from the next farm over. Most of us grew up in small towns (some of us even cities!) where you knew the people in your neighborhood, but that’s about it. If our moms were particularly involved in the PTA or on the school board, maybe we knew a few more. Someone might look vaguely familiar when we vacation in Okoboji or visit Adventureland, but other than that, we keep to ourselves. Our heads won’t turn when you walk into our favorite local café or Hy-Vee. We might wave to a car or two as we drive down old Highway 20, but it’s only because we’re being polite.
9. Claim we’re not progressive.
Ready for your mind to be blown? Iowa was the 2nd state in the nation to allow women to own property. We were the 2nd state in the nation to legalize interracial marriage (a century before the rest of America). The University of Iowa was the first university in the nation to offer degrees to women (and one of the first universities to have an LGTBAU group). We were the 2nd state to outlaw segregated schools (again, about a century before the country). We had the first female attorney, and the first female to practice law before a federal court. The Iowa Civil Rights Act was one of the first Civil Rights Acts in existence. And maybe you can think back to 2007, when we were the 2nd state to legalize gay marriage. So apart from just getting the ball rolling for our first black president, we have hundreds of years of being on the cutting edge of political progress. If you think we’re unfit for the role, you’ve got quite the case to make.
This article was originally published on January 8, 2015.