Iron Range ethnic foods draw national attention

The NPR show America’s Test Kitchen shared a two-part series that writer Carolynn Purpura MacKay penned for Cook’s Magazine about two popular ethnic foods from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. She traveled to Hibbing last January to learn about the Italian spiced pork dish porketta and the eastern European dessert bread potica. (puh-TEET-za)

It’s a very well done pair of articles and I encourage you to read them this morning.

Purpura MacKay’s visit to Hibbing has all the calling cards of a classic “journalist visits Iron Range” story. Irrational fear of January cold,* the unfortunate encounter with a gruff local**, and the rush of amazement at the fact that this weird little place exists off the radar of most of America.

She spent a lot of time at Fraboni’s in Hibbing learning about porketta. This is the part where I get to brag that Leo Fraboni was my great-uncle, his wife Irene being my grandfather’s sister. She’s mentioned in the article as well. It’s true that my only claim to the porketta dynasty is through marriage, but nearly all family gatherings on that side have included porketta since I was a baby, a joyous fact indeed.

The potica article is also good, but misses out on the epic story of how Jån Gadzo escaped from behind the iron curtain with his Slovakian potica recipe at Andrej’s.

* It is cold in January, but let’s get serious here. It’s only 10 degrees colder, on average, than Minneapolis, which is a major city. It’s a fair amount colder than New York, but the typical cold day here is not unheard of in New York. Further, you can put a coat on. You can start a fire. You can live. But when you go to Arizona in the summer there is not a damn thing you can do but hide in the air conditioning and hope the power never goes out, ever. If it ever did, thousands would die in 48 hours. You can get a good coat for a few bucks at the Salvation Army. And the summers here are perfect. Hear me: PERFECT.

** It’s important not to take the actions of gruff locals personally. They’re not mad at you, they’re mad at the idea of you.

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