Being in New Mexico provides a certain amount of reverse culture shock for a Midwestern girl. By reverse, I mean that I wasn't too shocked at the high number of New Mexican restaurants, or Hispanics, or the dryness of the area. I expected all of those things.
The thing I didn't expect was a lack of Midwestern food.
Hear me out on this: I grew up in Wisconsin, Land of the Cheeseheads. Until I came out here, excluding a four-month stint in Chicago proper, I had never lived outside of the state. Delicious, well-made cheese was available at every gas station on I-94 (or at least cheese that was advertised as such). There was a Norwegian restaurant ten minutes from my house. I never imagined life without certain delicacies, such as cheese curds and lefse.
Imagine my horror at finding out there is no lefse here. None. Zero.
That was bad enough, though it was kind of expected. There isn't much of a Norwegian population here. (Though really, not even Santa Fe has lefse? What kind of hippie artist town can it really be, then?)
I can make do without the lefse because tortillas are so popular here - whenever I feel homesick for Midwestern blandness, I pull out a tortilla, apply butter and sugar, and roll it up. Tada! Lefsetilla! I just imagine a floury, potato-y taste instead of wheaty. It is as close as I can get to heaven here.
What I have more trouble living without are cheese curds, and for a long time I didn't realize there were none to be found out here. There are two Dairy Queens in town, and (at least to my mind) it goes without saying that Dairy Queens carry deep-fried cheese curds. Right? Of course right. That's how it is all across Wisconsin. You're usually not more than 20 minutes from heart-attack-inducing processed and separated cow milk. Yum yum.
It was two summers ago, when I was particularly homesick, that I decided I needed cheese curds or I would take to my bed for lack of them. I jumped in the car. Spousal Unit (then Boyfriend) was by my side. He did not agree with my cheese curd theory.
"This isn't the Midwest, honey. Most people out here probably don't know what cheese curds are."
I would not hear of it. They must at least know what cheese curds are, and, in knowing them, love them. Why wouldn't they have them? That's what Dairy Queens are known for: their ice cream, sure, but the cheese curds were a close second.
I think you know where this story ends: at the drive-through window, not a curd in sight, with tears, anger, rending of garments, etc. It's true. They don't know what cheese curds are. I pity their existence.
This isn't to say we haven't found them in New Mexico, though. Last fall at the Balloon Festival in Albuquerque, there was a glorious sight to see: a Wisconsin cheese curd booth, complete with grilled cheese, and t-shirts and hats emblazoned with cows and cheese.
And, of course, cheese curds.