Corny Comforts: Celebrating Iowa with the Comforts of Home

I can’t deny it—I’m an Iowa girl at heart, and no one can stop it. I’ll be honest. I’m ashamed to say that being an Iowan honestly is one of my personality traits. However, it’s a really awesome and overlooked state, which makes me less regretful and more excited to show people that Iowa is more than just the corn capital of the world. It isn’t just fly-over country—it deserves to be traveled, explored and appreciated just as much as other parts of the world. 


Since moving to Minnesota, I have become especially aware of my favorite parts of my home state, and this awareness has made me more excited and nostalgic for when I return to my hometown. Today, I want to celebrate February 8, aka National Iowa Day, with you all and show that my home state is much more than a glorified cornfield. Here are a few of my favorite things in Iowa that I just can’t get here in Winona.


1. Casey’s Pizza and Breadsticks

Every time I come home, there is no doubt that I will eat a meal of either Casey’s breadsticks or pizza—or possibly both. Casey’s Pizza, although not exclusively an Iowa thing, isn’t anywhere near Winona. The nearest Casey’s is a mere 53 minutes away in Rochester. And to be honest, I didn’t even know there was a Casey’s in Rochester. So, as I reach the conclusion of this article, I will most likely be chaotically running to my vehicle and racing to the nearest location serving this cheesy goodness. Trust me—Casey’s Pizza is a delicacy to come home to and is always on the top of my meal list when I spend the weekend at home.


2. A&E Chocolate Milk

Next up on my list is something that not many people around here have heard of, let alone tried. A&E chocolate milk is my personal favorite and cannot be found anywhere very far past the state line. To those who’ve never had it, I may sound crazy for idolizing chocolate milk; but after much experimentation, I’ve found that no other chocolate milk comes close to providing the savory satisfaction as A&E chocolate milk. After a weekend home, you’ll likely find me stockpiling it in my fridge after bringing a gallon or two back from my home state. Once you try it, you’ll never be able to see chocolate milk the same way ever again.


3. Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers

Once again, this isn’t an Iowa exclusive, but Freddy’s shoestring fries and chocolate shakes are something I desperately miss when I’m in my home away from home. The nearest locations are in either Waterloo, IA or the Twin Cities, neither of which is a justifiable jaunt to make for a few sliced potatoes. Either way, if you ever find yourself in either of these locations, you have to try Freddy’s. Truly, your life will be changed for the better.


4. A&E Party Sour Cream Dip

This also seems like a weird thing to obsess about, but this is hands down the best chip dip, and this flavor isn’t available at the local HyVee. Although the french onion is an okay alternative, nothing ignites my taste buds like a Ruffles chip dipped in A&E Party Dip—it truly makes a party in your mouth, and I’m constantly waiting to venture home and bring some of that party back to Winona.


5. Family and Friends

At this point, you’re probably thinking I’m a bit food obsessed—and you’d be right—but more than anything, I go back home to visit my friends and family who I so dearly miss. Although I hate being apart, I love how coming home for a weekend makes these short visits all the more sentimental and special—especially when they occur over one of my favorite meals. I love how the weekend’s meals include all of my favorites because my mom knows how much I miss her cooking. Most of all, I love that even though I’m far away, I can still connect with my friends and family in special and meaningful ways.


6. Community

Although everyone I reconnect with at home isn’t my best friend, I love being a part of my small-town community. Just last weekend when I visited for a basketball game, I was able to talk with lots of people who genuinely wanted to know how school was and, more specifically, how I was doing. Growing up in a small town has given me a unique sense of community that you can’t get in many other places. Winona may be a great place, but it sure can’t give me the solidarity and kinship my little farm town does. 


There are so many things to miss about home—from the food to the people, there are countless things that make coming home bittersweet. I love being here in Winona, but being separated from the place I spent my first 17 years makes me even more excited to return home after I’ve spent my time in college. Traveling out-of-state for college has brought me many highs and lows, but more than that, it has brought me personal growth, friendship and experiences I would have never had the chance to have had I stayed in-state.


Although it’s hard being away from everything I love, I’ve been able to find new loves, and I can’t wait to share my new city with my family back in Iowa. So on behalf of myself and all other Iowans, remember to celebrate our state this February 8th and know that we deserve a little more recognition than we typically receive.