So, you’re moving to Indiana. Or maybe you are already here and just need a reminder that this state is totally underrated, there is plenty to do, and our quirks make us cool. Either way, here are a few things that all future Hoosiers should know (and might surprise you).
1. Don’t call us a “fly-over state;” we are the “Crossroads of America.”
Just because there are nonstop flights between Los Angeles and New York City doesn’t mean you should skip over everything in between. Indianapolis is a hub for some of the largest Interstate highways, which connect us with the rest of the nation. The National Road (Now US Route 40)—the first major highway built by the Federal Government—runs right through the state and served as the man route for Westward movement. Before construction began in the 1800s, the state was an important stop for horse and wagon travel, railways, and waterways.
2. Basketball is Life.
It is no secret that Indiana loves basketball. You might think you know what sports rivalry feels like…but you have no idea. Choose your colors wisely…an otherwise excellent friendship can be irreparably destroyed by the choice to wear black-and-gold or cream-and-crimson (that black vs. blue dress debate looks like child’s play next to the all-out brawl between the Hoosiers and the Boilermakers). But the love of the game runs far deeper college ball; 15 of the 16 largest high school basketball stadiums are in Indiana and the state has produced more professional basketball players per capita than any other state (26 of each million Indiana residents will end up in the NBA!)
3. We have all four seasons…sometimes in the same day.
It’s a small price to pay for the colorful fall days, snowy white winters, spring flowers, and sweet summer heat. Sure, it might be confusing when it’s a bluebird day on your front porch and a blizzard out back, but you’ll get used to it.
Ditto with the tornados. They might be scary at first, but after the first dozen or so, the storm sirens are just another part of your average August afternoon.
4. Local, County, and State Fairs are awesome.
If you’ve never been to one, you are missing out. It’s not just for cowboys, corn farmers, and children eating way too much cotton candy (although those things are fun too…); these fairs also serve as a showcase for musicians and artists and a place to taste delicious food from across the state (there is so much more out there than hot dogs, funnel cakes, and deep-fried-whatever). The State Fair has an excellent Beer & Wine Exhibition, but we suggest you venture beyond the beer garden to see some of the educational exhibits…you can find cool classic cars and even watch a live calf birth! If that makes you queasy, there are hundreds of (slightly older) baby animals to ogle over.
5. Indiana is more than just a giant cornfield. Seriously.
Yes, the state is part of “corn belt” and you will quickly learn the meaning of “knee high by Fourth of July,” but there is way more to do here than watching the corn grow. Indiana has a rich history, and played an influential role in the Civil War (in fact, there were so many volunteers that the Union turned thousands away!) The state is home to both busy metropolitan cities and a large Amish and Mennonite population up North. Speaking of which…
6. You will forever turn up your nose at paltry pastries after you try traditional Amish baked goods.
You will (gasp!) swear off doughnuts for life after a bite of the handmade bread, cookies, and pies sold at homestead shops and roadside stands. Pull your car over. Many of the recipes have been perfected over generations of practice, and you can taste it. In fact, pretty much all Amish food is delicious, and there are many restaurants throughout the state (but more common in Shipshewana and the surrounding Northern counties) that serve out-of-this-world comfort food carefully crafted with fresh homegrown ingredients.
7. The Amish have the sweet treats covered, but Indiana has plenty of food “quirks”...
For example, chili is eaten with a peanut butter sandwich. Some Hoosiers will disagree on this one, but we’re not kidding…it’s a meal many remember from their childhood (it was a school cafeteria staple). Oh, and noodles belong in chili as well.
8. And we call green peppers “mangoes.”
Yes, you read that correctly. Peppers = Mangoes. Why? The name goes all the way back to early colonial era. Before refrigeration was possible, it was impossible to ship fresh fruit to America, so mangoes were pickled, as were many other fruits and veggies. Somewhere along the way, there was a misunderstanding between the name “mango” and “mangoed” (which meant “pickled”) and stuffed green peppers was a favorite “mango” dish…eventually leading to the “mango” confusion you may have when you find yourself at the supermarket.
9. Also, “frog-gigging” is a common activity and fresh, fried frogs legs are delicious.
They look and taste a bit like chicken wings, but you have to try it to truly understand. Don’t freak out if they twitch—frogs don’t get rigor mortis quickly after death (which keeps them tender!) and the heat from cooking can make it seem like they are moving. This is normal.
10. Buy your booze on Saturdays.
Alcohol sale is illegal on Sundays, so plan accordingly if you are throwing a “Super Bowl Sunday” party (or really any Sunday if the Colts are playing). Luckily, this law doesn’t extend to wineries and microbreweries who sell drinks on-site.
11. Don’t worry, “Coasters”…there are still beaches in Indiana.
So what if they aren’t attached to oceans? Indiana is a Great Lakes State, even though we only have 40 miles of shoreline, and the region is considered the best beach on the whole lake! The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and Indiana Dunes State Park are home to some HUGE sand dunes, often called the “Singing Sands” due to the sound of the wind moving over them. With 45 miles of hiking trails to explore, you will swear you are back on an ocean coast!
12. What the heck is a “Hoosier”?
To be honest, we don’t really know either. Some say it’s origin is a blend of the question “Who’s here?” (a question likely asked of unexpected visitors who stumbled upon rural cabins). Others claim it comes from “Hoosa,” a Native American word for “corn,” or “Hoose,” an English word for a cattle disease. In all likelihood, it’s probably some odd combination of all three, and was originally used as a (somewhat insulting) name for a roughneck or country bumpkin (similar to “redneck”). Rather than get mad, Indiana has lovingly adopted the term with pride (we are Hoosiers, not “Indianans”)!
So there you have it: a crash-course in Indiana! We think you are now prepared to love your new home state!
(Still aren’t sure about the Chili-Peanut Butter Sandwich combo? Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.
AdventureBite has a great recipe!)
Do you have any other tips for Indiana “newbies”? Help them out in the Comments section below!