“I wanted to dispel the myth that the Midwest is boring,” Cynthia Clampitt tells me when I ask about the inspiration for writing Destination Heartland: A Guide to Discovering the Midwest’s Remarkable Past (University of Illinois Press), her book about the many fascinating places to visit in the stretch of our country from the Dakotas to Ohio.
I’m happy to report that Clampitt’s goal was a success. Her book takes us to both well-known and out-of-the-way destinations that offer a historic perspective and—in some cases—a culinary delight. Think of it as an in-depth historical travel guide and choose from a plethora of places to read about and/or visit covered in her book. I certainly have a few I now want to explore. These include the Amana Colonies in Iowa which started off as a religious society that escaped religious persecution in Germany. But though it’s rooted in the past with many places to visit such as the High Amana General Store and Zuber’s Homestead Hotel which was built in 1862) it’s also one that embraced technology producing, writes Clampitt, “many high-end electronic products, including everything from microwave ovens to washing machines.”
Strictly old-fashioned though is the recipe Clampitt shares for pickled ham that was given to her the Ronneberg Restaurant which opened more than 70 years ago in Amana. Pickled ham, one of the specialties of the area, can also be purchased in jars at the Amana Meat Shop & Smokehouse that dates back to 1855.
Clampitt, a Chicago-based food historian and travel writer who has also authored other books including Midwest Maize: How Corn Shaped the U.S. Heartland, who says she also wants to keep these icons of the past from disappearing by creating an interest to visit them, learned to appreciate iconic Midwestern destinations when young and visiting places with her family. That developed a long-time fascination that endures to this day.
This love of exploration isn’t confined to just the Midwest. Clampitt has visited thirty-seven countries on six continents.
“When I’m not traveling, I’m thinking of traveling,” she says, adding that she does a lot of research in preparation as well.
Indeed, since the publication of her book, she has racked up more destinations so here’s hope for a sequel to her book. No matter what, Clampitt will keep traveling and she invites others to do so as well.
“There are so many places in the Midwest to visit that are remarkable, I don’t want them to vanish,” says Clampitt. “I hope people get in their cars and go visit.”