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Pumpkin Panna Cotta

Pumpkin Panna Cotta

The Midwest has its own quirks, as does any region. It isn't until you leave the area for awhile that they suddenly become apparent (and oh do they become apparent). I've moved around a bit in my 20s—living in North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, and Wisconsin for various lengths of time—but it wasn't until I spent some time in Europe that my Midwestern quirks really began to show.

As a child of the Midwest, I would occasionally see television shows or movies that would mock the Minnesotan "yah, sure, ya betcha" accent (Fargo and New in Town, I'm looking at you). Unlike the classic Minnesotan accent (which, by the way, is greatly exaggerated and I haven't met a soul who actually speaks like that except this woman), the quirks of the Midwest seem to stay in the Midwest. In fact, we hardly recognize we have them.

Pumpkin Panna Cotta

Lately, I've noticed the Midwestern use of the phrase I s'pose. Let's be clear; it is never "I suppose." It's I s'pose. Around the Midwest, this turn of phrase is used frequently and I've only recently started realizing just how often I use it myself. I s'pose has come to mean I-don't-want-to-talk-to-you-anymore when you are on the phone or I'd-really-like-to-be-going-now when you are visiting someone in person. It's perceived to be very polite, but it's nevertheless effective.

For instance, when on the phone with a relative or friend, simply saying "Well, I s'pose" will signal the end of the conversation and the goodbyes will soon begin. Just recently, when my family had the relatives over for Thanksgiving, everyone was sitting in the living room and it was getting late into the evening. My uncle said the magic words I s'pose in a short lull of conversation and everyone immediately stood up to head on home.

Who knew such a simple, grammatically incorrect phrase could hold so much power?

Pumpkin Panna Cotta Pumpkin Panna Cotta

Perhaps the biggest Midwestern quirk is our pronunciation of very simple words. We use long vowels instead of short vowels in certain situations. Simple words like bag, magazine, or dragon are pronounced with the long a sound (as in baby or mate) instead of the short a sound (as in cat or mat). While most Midwesterners would hardly bat an eye at this, I've found you do get made fun of for it when you venture out into the rest of the world (and I have, on several occasions).

This was never more apparent to me than when I was at a grocery store checkout in England. I was packing my purchases up in my backpack when I realized everything didn't fit and I would need another bag. I asked the lady for a bag (using the long vowel "a") and she stared at me like I had grown a second head. "A bag?"

"Yes, a bag? One of those?" I said, pointing to the paper bags in her hand.

She still stared at me, uncomprehending this seemingly ridiculous request.

"A BAG?" I said once more, confused, resorting to miming the shape and function of a bag to get my point across.

"Oh, you mean a bag." She said, using the short vowel a, looking sorry for me, as if I had gone through my life mispronouncing such a simple word.

What quirks do you notice in the regions where you live?

Pumpkin Panna Cotta

Pumpkin pie has been a staple of the holiday season for as long as any of us remember (and for good reason, too—it's delicious!). This Pumpkin Panna Cotta is a twist on the traditional pumpkin pie. With the buttery crust gone, the pumpkin filling finally has a chance to truly shine on its own. Panna Cotta is essentially a thick custard and, when combined with the flavors and spices of the classic pumpkin pie, it becomes the perfect substitute to the real deal. Once you taste your first bite, I have a feeling you will forget pumpkin pie ever had a crust.

One Year Ago: Blueberry Brownies

Pumpkin Panna Cotta

Yields 6 4-ounce servings

1 1/2 cups milk
1 envelope (2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
1 cup heavy cream (or low-fat half & half for a healthier version)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
Whipped cream (optional)

Place milk in medium saucepan and sprinkle gelatin on top. Let sit for 5 minutes to soften gelatin.

In a blender, combine heavy cream, sugar, pumpkin puree, and spices. Blend until absolutely smooth. Whisk together pumpkin mixture with milk. Cook over medium heat until mixture begins to steam (not boil), stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and ladle mixture into 4-ounce ramekins or containers.

Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight before serving. To serve, add a dollop of whipped cream and sprinkle with cinnamon or nutmeg.

Reader Comments (14)

I had to laugh at this post because just yesterday I was teasing my boyfriend, who hails from Minneapolis, for his pronunciation of bagel. I've always considered myself an extremely proud Midwesterner since I'm from St. Louis, but it wasn't until meeting his family that I realized that people consider Missouri the south (the horror!). St. Louisans are known for adding an "r" where it does not belong, e.g. "warsh" instead of "wash". I'm attending graduate school in Atlanta now and miss the Midwest pretty much every day of my life. Also, congratulations on the anniversary of changing your life. I've procrastinated many a seminar paper and now my dissertation with baking, but I still love what I do (most of the time) and am willing to tough it out for a while. I definitely admire your courage and wish you the best of luck!
12.5.2011 | Unregistered CommenterKatie
Oh my! This is simply lovely sounding.
haha that's too funny! growing up as an army brat, we moved around a lot and i got to experience a lot of different accents (although never the midwest). my dad has a southern accent so southern words & phrases have never seemed strange to me. but try using the phrase "over yonder" or "dadgummit" to anyone else and they look at you like you're crazy. on a similar note, having to explain what a biscuit is to a northerner is one of the hardest things ever!

anyways, your panna cotta looks gorgeous & sounds delicious! such wonderful shots! thanks for sharing! :)
Mmm This panna cotta looks so delicious! I would really love to try it. And I live in Colorado, but I'm not sure if we have any quirks in our state. You've got me thinking though, so I guess I'm going to be paying more attention to the way people speak.
12.5.2011 | Unregistered CommenterBecca
Katie-- I'm pretty sure I pronounce bagel "wrong" too, but behind the safety of the internet computer screen you'll never know. :) Thank you so much for the well wishes! I hope you find your way back to the Midwest soon.

Nicole-- Haha! Those phrases are great. I always though it was hilarious when I heard someone use the phrase in "I reckon" in a non-ironic way. Turns out I had thought that phrase was exclusive to western movies until then. Whenever I use the word "pop" instead of "soda," especially in the south, people always recognize I'm a Midwesterner at heart.

Becca-- Thanks! I hope you do. You might find quirks if you start looking for them. :)
12.5.2011 | Registered CommenterKristin Rosenau
There's alot of transplanted Midwesterners around. I moved to Houston,and got teased for saying 'uz guys' and 'my folks'. Now I live half way around the world in Pakistan with my hubby and son. And even here, well, I laugh alot since its mostly a British type english spoken with a heavy Pakistani accent. But, no one understands what I say, so I really have to think of the simplest way to get my point across. The MIDWEST will always and forever be part of us, and isn't that GRAND! Thanks for reminding me.
12.5.2011 | Unregistered CommenterJaan
I live in MA, and im a teenager so we all have this ridiculous sayings like.. Wicked. Wicked awesome, wicked mad, wicked pretty, wicked fun. We use it all the time and i didnt even know that other people didnt until i went to California for a week and said wicked and people stared at me, like What is Wrong With This Person?
Oh and in MA, i had a kid from Texas walk up to me and ask where the fountain was. I stared at him totally uncomprehending for about 3 minuates trying to understand WHAT he was talking about before i realized that no, he wasnt trying to find a in the ground water spewing fountain in Boston, he was looking for the bubbler.
And you dont say Boston like Boston, its Baahhhsten, and its not Worcester its Woooster. Say that to anyone not from New England and they will think you have a speech inpediment.
12.6.2011 | Unregistered CommenterRachel
I love that whole story about the "I s'pose"--too funny. I need a signal like that for my family. Never realized that carried so much meaning in the midwest. I don't think I really have an accent since I've grown up in DC all my life, but maybe I do? I definitely pronounce some words the way the Brits do, due to my dad being English -- tomahto, basil (with the long vowel), and probably others too. Still get teased about that sometimes by friends! :)

I love Panna Cotta, yumm. This reminds me that I don't have enough of it!
Oh my, now I'm wondering how to say "bagel" the correct way. :) Being a ND farm girl, I say BAY-gul.
12.7.2011 | Unregistered CommenterCasey
Hah, I'm from Eastern Canada (Newfoundland) and we say I spose all the time. But we actually mean it like "I suppose / I guess" and it doesn't have all that loaded meaning. We also like to say "spose b'y" which I think is like "I guess so man".

Love your blog!!
12.8.2011 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie
I stumbled upon your blog through pinterest. The name "the pastry affair" easily convinced me to click on the link. I had to laugh at this post. I am from North Dakota, now living in Minnesota after spending some time in the "rest of the world" just as you described. You don't realize the Midwestern quirks until you get out for a while, but when you do, they become even more special. Thanks for this great piece. The pumpkin panna cotta looks amazing!
12.9.2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrittany
I only discovered your blog yesterday when I was searching for Harry Potter recipes, and I have to say that both this post and the comments people are leaving are fascinating. I'm all the way from Australia, and I/many others constantly shorten words and use phrases like 'I spose' and 'I reckon' in genuine conversations all the time. But otherwise, the way I pronounce things is basically the British/Australian way most of the time.

What you guys call 'pop' or 'soda', I call soft drink. Lately I've been discovering heaps of differences between Australia and America, it's all so weird and foreign haha. I'll definitely be visiting your blog more often :)
12.12.2011 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria
I had to laugh at this post. I have just discovered your blog and find it beautiful. I was a navy brat and encountered many quirks in language over the years. I hadn't run into the bag (long a) until I moved to Montana. I think it is a Montana thing rather than a mid western thing. Anyway, keep up the good work. I will be back excitedly and often.
05.1.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBecky
I wanted to let you know that I tried the recipe and it was wonderful. ( Stunning, in fact. Thanks for the inspiration.

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