By Judith M. Fertig

Published on July 10, 2013

When I first arrived in Kansas, stepped off the plane, and saw the big blue sky open up over the prairie, I knew I was home. This is a place that can free you in unexpected ways, a place where the Beat writer William Burroughs was as much a part of the local fabric as our church ladies with their chili suppers and homemade cinnamon rolls; where 60 different immigrant groups settled after the Civil War, each one seasoning the melting pot. Today you can taste their influence throughout the state: Mennonite beef and cabbage pies called bierocks, Volga German green bean dumpling soup, plenty of bison burgers, smoky chili, heirloom tomatoes, and iced sugar cookies. In a place where the weather is a cocktail of thunder, snow, blizzards, droughts, ice storms, and 100 degree days, it's no wonder we veer toward comfort when we eat. If we could click our ruby slippers three times, we'd be at the farm, where fried chicken comes to the table golden and crispy, the side dishes are all homemade, and a hefty slice of cake means that all is well.

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