Midwestern Nice with a Side of Ceviche

 in Kitchen

In high school I was the kid who was friends with every type of person.  I was captain of the cheerleading squad, I learned how to play chess with the nerds during lunch, I was part of the speech team and drama clubs.  I went to my friends punk shows and stood up for them when others tried to make fun of their huge pants or eyeliner. I would talk to the annoying kids that no one else wanted anything to do with, and more than anything I would sit with the new kid at lunch.  I was raised this way, a true Midwesterner, to be nice to be sympathetic and to not box myself in. I don’t know what the rest of the school thought about me, but I was happy knowing everyone and being a little involved in everything.

It’s no wonder when I started college this trend of nice would continue.  I got to know the people in my dorm, and almost everyone in my classes, I went to various student groups first listening to learn then sharing myself to understand.  I made friends with people of color, queers, scientist, artist, student government and anyone in between. I wasn’t afraid to show up for International students meeting or get involved in German table discussions.  These groups were always open, and always happy to have me. I had a varied schedule so when I went to the dinning hall I almost always found a group to sit with, and if I didn’t quickly spot a familiar face but I had time I would try to make a new friend.  Even if I didn’t have time and sat by myself, someone would almost always come to join me. This is how I became one of the only American friends to a group of Chinese exchange students, It’s how I forced my closest friend group out of their comfort zone to befriend the new transfer students and how I came to know just about every corner of the campus.

Being nice is a trait I like to share daily and something I think helps the world.  We sometimes can’t change the problems of those around us, but we can live without judgment and without hate and this little nod of support, this moment of being nice can change a moment of their day for the better.

Despite my clear memory of getting to know many of my now dear friends from Grinnell, there is one who was always part of my experience but I can’t place where I met him.  Mark seems to have always been my friend but I know there has to be a starting point. When I asked him how we met, he equally drew a blank. Inevitable we decided it must have been during new student orientation, because we never had a class together, we didn’t frequent the same student groups, and we certainly didn’t know each other before Grinnell.  

Mark is the epitome of Midwestern nice, the same quality that I carry and that causes me to make friends with even the outcasts and newbies.  Midwest nice is something I wish more people would learn.  It is taking care of your neighbor, it is showing up for community meetings, it is smiling on the street and being polite to the point of suffocation.  It’s a true honest, do what right in your gut, don’t hurt each other mentality.  Midwest nice is not talking ill of anyone, even of your enemies. As my grandma puts it when you have nothing nice to say, saying nothing at all.  I hope to talk more about being nice but you should read this great article if you want to know more about Midwestern nice and all it’s facets.


Mark a science major and musician, helped me through stats study sessions and biology partner nightmares.  A review of our facebook friendship reminds me of all the times we simply wrote each other back a forth to meet up for coffee or a movie.  Times I wrote only to say “I miss you.” or “how are you.”  I suppose this is the natural progression of a friendship between two midwesterners, just checking in from time to time.  I haven’t seen Mark since our graduation day but I remember voting together in 2008; I remember him opening his house last minute for a stop over as I was driving through Nebraska on my way to Colorado; and I remember him volunteering to play music for my senior thesis play.

Most recently, Mark did the most remarkable (pun completely intended), nice thing for me.  He designed my website. It’s a beautiful thing to offer and accept help. Often in our busy urban world we try to do too much alone.  Mark’s wonderful job cleaning up and streamlining my ideas reminded me of how blessed we can be to have a community that loves us. I’ve already thanked him, but a public thank you never hurts either, so thank you again friend.  It’s been an amazing 11 years knowing you and I hope that it’s just the start.

When I asked Mark what kind of thank you recipe I could write, it was the end of winter or should I say the restart of it, and midwestern Spring seems as if it would never come.  He was dreaming of peas in a pod and all things green. On the opposite side, Yucatan was in dry season and the only food blooming was tree fruits. We came to a middle ground over my limes, a food Mark also loves, and today’s recipe was solidified.

I usually make this ceviche with coconuts, but in Nebraska a coco tree would be hard to find so today we are using cauliflower something both Mexico and the US has plenty of.

 Raw Cauliflower Ceviche 

500 g cauliflower florets
350 g tomatoes
100-120 g purple onion (to your taste)
20 g cilantro
40-60 g lime juice
salt and pepper to taste

Chop the vegetables and cilantro until very fine and mix in a bowl together. Add salt and pepper to taste. Start by adding 40 g of lime juice and continue adding a little by litter until your preferred tartness is reached. Let sit in fridge at least 1 hour for all flavors to meld together.
Serve with tortilla chips.

Notes: Every lime is different some are sweeter some more juicy that is why I suggest take it a little at a time.
If you are among the small percentage of people who can’t stand cilantro you can try this with parsley or basil or mint, it’s not a authentic but equally delicious.

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