Why Does South Dakota, Nebraska, and the Rest of the Midwest Eat Cinnamon Rolls With Chili?
When the weather turns cold, it's soup weather. I made a big pot of chili in my Instant Pot because let's face it, there is no such thing as a "small" pot of chili.
When I was a kid, we had chili a lot at my house because my dad loved chili. We weren't fancy. We didn't put cheese or any fixings on our chili and we ate it with saltine crackers, but never a cinnamon roll.
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My mom got a cinnamon roll with her chili from Meals on Wheels one time. I thought it sounded like an odd combination, so I wanted to find out where the strange combo came from.
I decided to do a little research and found that like how chili on top of spaghetti is popular in Cincinnati, chili and cinnamon rolls are a staple in Nebraska. It's such a part of life in Nebraska that even the Runza restaurants serve the two together. Many schools served chili and cinnamon rolls for hot lunch.
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I asked a couple of friends to see if we were served cinnamon rolls along with chili for school lunch. One thinks we were and another doesn't think so. I think I would've remembered this combo.
A popular origin story for having cinnamon rolls with your chili is that it comes from logger's breakfasts. Tradition says that logging camps would take yesterday's leftovers and make chili and dump it over a cinnamon roll for high calories the loggers needed to complete their work.
According to Smithsonian Magazine, some researchers think that the combo started showing up in school lunches after WW2. A combination of the establishment of the USDA school lunch programs and a rural baking tradition led to the wider adoption of the meal.
The chili/cinnamon roll union seems to be most popular in Nebraska, Colorado, South Dakota, Montana, and Kansas. I even found an entire Pinterest page dedicated to cinnamon rolls and chili.
Cornbread and chili, yes. Crackers and chili, yes. The jury is still out on cinnamon rolls and chili. Have you ever had the two together?
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