Some of the world's great creations call Arkansas and Missouri home from cheese dip to the Pony Express. Take advantage of your winter break to discover the spirit of innovation that hails from the heartland.
In Hot Springs, Arkansas, cheese is big. This is said to be the birthplace of cheese dip, a notion you'll find celebrated throughout central Arkansas in all kinds of ways including an annual festival, a magazine column and even a documentary film. Story has it the concoction got its start in the 1930s at Blackie Donnelly's restaurant Mexico Chiquito. Today, you can sample the original recipe at any of the restaurant’s five locations, and knock-offs of all sorts are widely available statewide. Learn all about the unique Arkansas obsession by watching In Queso Fever: A Movie About Cheese Dip, a film by Nick Rogers available online on Vimeo. Rogers is one of the founders of the World Cheese Dip Championships, which has attracted thousands in its first two years. Learn more about cheese dip and the event that glorifies it at www.cheesedip.net, and cook up your own for fun with the "original" Mexico Chiquito recipe, available at www.grouprecipes.com/101348/mexico-chiquito-cheese-dip.html.
That's not the only tasty treat that got its start in the Midwest; “Aunt Jemima,” too, was born and bred here in St. Joseph, Missouri more than 120 years ago. The famous lady made her debut in 1889, inspired by an 1875 minstrel song "Old Aunt Jemima." When St. Joseph Gazette
editor Chris Rutt and his friend Charles Underwood purchased the Pearl Milling Company, they branded surplus flour as a ready-made pancake mix and a star was born. The Aunt Jemima brand was trademarked in the 1890s, a time when St. Joseph was flourishing as a manufacturing hub. A tour of the city's historic architecture is evidence of the era when the American industry was burgeoning with products such as Premium Saltines and St. Joseph Aspirin first introduced here, in addition to Aunt Jemima pancake mix and others. St. Joseph was one of the first cities in the country with electric telephone lines and a municipal airport, and at one time, even more streetcar lines than New York City. Download a Public Art Tour or a Civil War Tour of St. Joseph at www.stjomo.com/see-do/itineraries-tours.
Long before its heyday as a center for commerce, though, St. Joseph gave rise to one of the innovations that paved the way for our country's development: The Pony Express. It took off in 1860, prior to the Civil War, as a means to deliver mail across the plains and over the Rockies to the West Coast. The first Pony Express headquarters was Patee House, located a block from Jesse James' home and site of his death. Take in all the sights for yourself. Here, you'll find 17 museums and as many districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places. To plan a visit to the Patee House or Jesse James’ home, visit www.ponyexpressjessejames.com/patee/index.php. For information about the town of St. Joseph, go to www.stjomo.com.
Arkansas and Missouri are home to good old-fashioned ingenuity, so get inventive with your winter break in the coming weeks. You might just create a getaway for the history books.