Smack dab in Midwestern America sits the beautiful state that is Iowa. Iowa is known for many things, from waves of grain to Hawkeye Football to Field of Dreams to the Iowa State Fair. What’s not to love about the state? Nothing. Iowa knows how to do many things, and one of the major things is food. Iowa has changed the food industry in so many ways. Here’s a couple more things that the rest of the country should thank Iowa for:
1. Sliced Bread
The only thing better than sliced bread is the fact that sliced bread was invented by a dude from Iowa. Otto Rohwedder, born in Davenport, began to hear the familiar complaint among housewives — that cutting loaves of bread was time-consuming, tiring, and sometimes dangerous.
He sent out an ad in several large newspapers asking what an ideal thickness of a slice would be. Otto received an overwhelming response from housewives across America, and decided to sell his jewelry store and filed a patent for a “single step bread slicing machine.” After some quibble here and there, the bread slicer came to life and is arguably the most revolutionary piece of machinery in history. And there we have it. Sliced bread.
2. Blue Bunny Ice Cream
Blue Bunny, a product of Wells Inc., began with founder Fred H. Wells as a milk distributor in Le Mars, Iowa in 1913. A few years later, Fred, with the help of his brother and his sons, began making and selling ice cream to surrounding Iowa towns. As the popularity of their ice cream grew, the Wells brothers decided to sell the sweet treat in Sioux Falls. The brothers then decided to ditch the family name and held a “Name That Ice Cream” contest in the Sioux Falls Journal, where the winning name “Blue Bunny” was chosen from a man who got the idea from his son enjoying the blue bunnies in a department store window around Easter.
3. Vending Machines
F.A. Wittern, the inventor of the vending machine, was one smart fella. As a sophomore at a high school in Des Moines, F.A. sent President Woodrow Wilson a design for an underwater magnet bomb that would destroy enemy submarines. Sophomore year of high school, I was struggling to pass Trigonometry, but it’s fine.
One of his first claims to fame was a peanut machine that disposed cups of peanuts, and would ring a bell and give bonus amounts of peanuts to every ninth customer – kinda like peanut roulette. Over half a million of these peanut machines were bought by shop and bar owners and people were eating peanuts more than ever before.
Although the vending machine had already technically been created, a major flaw was that the machines could only take single coins and didn’t provide proper change. Shortchanged customers were left unhappy and hungry. This fueled F.A.’s engineering brain, and the modern-day change dispensing vending machine was born. The Wittern Group now serves as one of the nation’s largest vending machine manufacturers in the world.
Our go-to headquarters for recipes, style tips, cute puppies and more was created right here in Iowa. Des Moines native Ben Silbermann ditched his plans of becoming a doctor and instead decided to be an Internet entrepreneur. He started out at Google, thinking he would be living his dream and building online products and softwares, but instead he was “making lots of spreadsheets.” Ben ultimately quit Google, buddied up with friend Evan Sharp, and co-created Pinterest. The first users were Des Moines residents. It wasn’t until a “chain letter” program was organized called “Pin it Forward” that Pinterest took off.
5. Eskimo Pies
Christian K. Nelson was originally born in Denmark and lived in many different places in the U.S. before settling down in Onawa, Iowa and opening his own candy shop in 1903. The idea for Eskimo Pies derived after witnessing a young man in his shop wanting both ice cream and a candy bar, but only having enough money (a nickel) for one. For weeks, Christian worked around the clock to concoct a treat that worked by dipping frozen ice cream in melted chocolate. In the first 24 hours that Eskimo Pies were available, a total of 250,000 were sold in Des Moines.
6. Strawberry Point
Strawberry Point, Iowa contains the world’s largest strawberry. Who woulda thunk? Although this strawberry does look incredibly yummy, it’s actually made of fiberglass. The sculpture is 15 ft. tall and was mounted in the 1960’s by an Iowan ad agency.
Fun fact: there are about between 14 and 15 billion pigs in Iowa at a given point in time. That’s about seven times the amount of pigs in the state as there are people. You know what pigs mean (vegetarians cover your ears). Pigs mean bacon. So you’re welcome for bacon.
8. International World Food Prize Award
The World Food Prize Award honors those who have done an outstanding job to make enough quality food available to all parts of the world. The ceremony is held in Des Moines every year and was started by Dr. Norman Borlaug, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his agricultural research and is an inspiration to thousands.
9. Red Delicious Apples
In Madison County, Iowa an elderly man by the name of Jesse Hiatt lived on an apple orchard. Legend has it, he was very particular about his apple trees being lined up perfectly in a row. There was one stubborn little seedling that grew smack dab in the middle of two rows, which bothered Jesse, so he chopped it down. Summer after summer, the tree would grow back no matter how many times it was chopped down. Finally, Jesse said to the tree, “If thee must grow, thee may.”
Jesse nurtured the tree for ten years and eventually named the delectable fruit it beared the Hawkeye, after his good ‘ole Hawkeye state. Although it eventually became known as the “red delicious,” this Iowan original is now the most popular variety of apples in the world and a festival is held every year in Madison County to honor the original tree it was derived from.
10. Sterzing’s Potato Chips
If you haven’t tried Sterzing’s Potato Chips, you’re missing out. This staple was concocted in the 1930’s by a man named Barney Sterzing and has been an American favorite ever since. The unique process of making these potato chips includes slicing them and slow cooking each batch separately, as opposed to frying them in oil. When servicemen in the Vietnam War wanted a “taste of home,” they would request Sterzing’s to be shipped out to them. Presently, boxes of these chips are sent to troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
11. Quaker Oats
Cedar Rapids, IA hosts one of the biggest Quaker Oats cereal mills in the world. In 1890, soon after opening, the plant launched an “all Quaker Oats train” to ship the cereal to different parts of the country. From there, the corporation boomed. Thanks, Cedar Rapids, for making sure our childhoods were complete with dinosaur egg oatmeal.
12. Ashton Kutcher
Alright, so this isn’t food related. But let’s all give a big thanks to the state of Iowa for creating the dazzling creature that is Ashton Kutcher. Ashton was born in Cedar Rapids in 1978 and went on to study engineering at the University of Iowa until he was discovered at Iowa City’s very own bar The Airliner. Without Ashton, there would be no Punk’d, Kelso, or Dude, Where’s My Car? (although I think we could’ve done without the latter). He and wife Mila are heard to hang around the grocery store Hy-Vee and Casey’s General Store, who happens to have a bomb breakfast pizza.