In Praise Of Farmer Hotdish

I visited an ag business recently where the hard-working employees — too busy to leave for a noon meal — had brought food from home. The main dish was immediately recognizable to me, as it should be to any self-respecting Upper Midwest aggie: the combination of macaroni, hamburger and tomatoes (and more) often known as “farmer hotdish.”

Oh, it goes by other names, too. “Church” hotdish. “Funeral” hotdish. “Lutheran” hotdish. “Catholic” hotdish. “North Dakota” hotdish. “Minnesota” hotdish.

Well, I’ve eaten it at farm dinner tables, at churches, at funerals. It’s been fed to me by Lutherans and Catholics, North Dakotans and Minnesotans. I enjoyed it every time, too. There’s no such thing as bad farmer hotdish, just some kinds that are better than others.

Is farmer hotdish a part of your life, too? If so, what do you call it? And how often do you eat it?

If you’re feeling ambitious, drop me a line with a recipe.

And if you’re really ambitious, make up a batch and drop off a sample for me here at the office. I guarantee you, nobody would enjoy it more.

Finally, farmer hotdish is mentioned, in passing, in the Agweek cover story I’m writing for May 15.

5 Responses

  1. Adele C.

    We called it goulash in my Dutch-Irish northeastern Minnesota family, and added onions and paprika. We ate very few hotdishes.

  2. We call it Goulash and it is my favorite food! We ate it all the time as kids and it makes it on our list a couple times a month. Something everyone can enjoy and eat while spending time together. Must be why it is my favorite food to eat and favorite to make when I’m with friends.

  3. Steph

    My Dad loved it with canned peas. We call it “squishy pea hotdish”. I hated it growing up, but it was something my Dad grew up eating on his parents’ dairy farm, so my Mom would lovingly recreate it for him. I haven’t eaten it since I moved out on my own and started my own family many years ago, but it will always hold a nostalgic place in my heart.

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