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Borscht 'beets' knefla every time

Editors. "Borscht 'beets' knefla every time." Dickinson Press, 30 September 2012.

An oil boom of this nature brings plenty of negative with it, as hundreds of newbies head to western North Dakota for work. Let’s lighten it up.

You’ve heard all this: Oil brings with it traffic, dust, environmental concerns, housing issues and such, but it brings culture. Mingle away — there is a whole world that your taste buds should be willing to take on.

To the old-timers, you may not be thrilled with the transitions the area is forced to take, but many of these newcomers have heads full of recipes. And if you think you’re the top chef, they may need to try your favorites. Ask your new neighbor from the south who can whip up over-the-top barbecue, or the guy from the coast who knows a little something about seafood, to come over some afternoon.

What does everyone have in common? What can bring everyone together? You know it — food.

So you’re new to North Dakota? The Press welcomes you, and here’s a look at the treats many of us who were not born and raised here never heard of until hitting the Queen City (for you newcomers, that’s Dickinson’s nickname).

Here is our rundown of the surprises and descriptions. We are preparing to hear about our inaccuracies in spelling, taste and ingredients, cause everyone’s kitchen is a little different (and, of course, everyone thinks their grandma makes the best knefla.

Knefla is the state soup of North Dakota — some say it has a nice subtle taste and it’s super filling on a cold blustery North Dakota day. It’s known pretty internationally but the Germans like to claim it. It’s basically drops of dough in chicken broth.

If you want something that you will really crave, go with borscht — or as a quick web search shows variations of spellings — borschdt, borscht, borsch, bortsch, borshor, borshch; is as bright-colored as knefla is bland. It is a mixture of beets, veggies, meat and cream, depending on the recipe.

Don’t wear a white shirt while eating, but you need to try it because this amazing concoction, native to Russia, is healthy and provides a good conversation piece with someone you just met (if you have time to talk between gulps of the delicious treat).

Germans also make hard clumps of dough to put in soup but, in an effort to be of little help, we can’t figure out what they’re called.

Germans also claim fleischkuechle — a deep fried dumpling stuffed with hamburger and onion.

Kugen, also very popular, is custard in a pie tin with a soft dough and prunes, cottage cheese, apricots or whatever the baker feels like adding. We know little more about it, besides we’ve had some pretty good kugen and some delicious kugen (fruit beats cottage cheese every time). You’ll have to meet with an expert, and there are plenty of kugen experts in the area.

Cheese buttons are from the Germans and Ukrainians. This is cottage-cheese filled egg dough. The Ukrainians put mashed potatoes and sauerkraut inside. Cheese buttons are also called knoepfla by some cultures.

If the Polish make them, they are perogies.

The Native Americans claim fry bread, but so do area Germans. It’s a flat dough fried in oil, but concocted to make numerous creations (including the oh-so-delicious base for what has been called an Indian taco). Throw a little honey on, and you’ve got a sweet dessert.

Kolaches, or kolaces, are a fruit-filled bun from Czech-Bohemian ethnic groups.

And let’s not forget the Norwegians, who swear by lefse — a potato and cream-based bread. For all the talk, it’s not overly impressive.

There’s so much excitement in oil country and it takes so much talent and expertise. That’s comparable to these cultural treats. We thank those in the kitchen who pass on these traditional recipes and we look forward to the creative tasty fare out-of-towners will bring to our tables.

Step back from disapproval of all the vast changes for a night and pick up a fork. You might learn something.

Reprinted with permission of The Dickinson Press

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