As I sit watching the BCS Title Game between the Buckeyes and the Gators, I started to reflect back on how little I knew of the Ohio and western Pennsylvanian region before meeting my wife. Coming from Canada, American college football was foreign to me since hockey in Canada is king. Even more foreign were the customs of the hillbillies who call Appalachia home.
When I visited my future in-laws for the first time out in western Pennsylvania, I was asked if I wanted to eat some “buckeyes”. Knowing that my wife’s family are avid deer hunters, I assumed that they were being literal. Since I love food and embrace every opportunity to try food which is different, I was really looking forward to the experience. In my defense, before this moment I have visited quite of few exotic countries and enjoyed much stranger food. Still, I was looking forward to trying some fine Appalachia eats.
Imagine my disappointment and shock when I bit into a chocolate covered peanut butter ball when I was expecting something more spongy and less sweet. Embracing my many years of consulting skills, I was able to recover quickly and I thanked them for the tasty treat. Needless to say, I dared not mention or explain my confusion since I would have only embarrassed myself and possibly jeopardize my engagement. Still I couldn’t understand why on earth people would make candy and named after discarded animal parts.
Later on during the same trip we went to visit my finance’s grandfather in eastern Ohio and I saw some unusual brown balls by the back steps piled up – similar to a tasty treat I tried earlier. I asked my finance what they were and she told me that they were “buckeyes”. In my experience, whenever you are in an unfamiliar situation, it is best to identify the familiar. Falling back on what I already knew, that my in-laws were deer hunters, I started picturing my finance’s 92 year old grandfather sitting on the back porch gutting deer (or at least employing someone to) and discarding the buck eyes in a pile. It may have been best to ask for clarification, but I still had my dark secret from my previous “buckeye” episode.
Finally, on a different occasion I was watching an Ohio State football game on TV. In addition to seeing a good team play, what really stood out for me was that the Buckeye football players had stickers on their helmets while the other team did not. I was still pretty new to this American college football thing and my vision is poor, so I tried to make out what it was (I should have used Google).
I never took a botany course in school, but take a guess which plant I thought I saw:
Well, I must say that my view of the Midwest totally changed once I had that revelation. Instead of picturing the Midwest or Ohio as a closed region bound by rigid traditional values, I started to think of it more as a highly liberal region quietly residing within conservative America. That’s right Pacific Northwest states: You have nothing on Ohio state! Hey, if one of the best and most visible college football teams in the United States could wear “those” stickers on their helmets and still have the acceptance of the fans and Ohio residents then Ohio has to be a super liberal state… My, and so many stickers too!
Anyhow, since that time I have fallen in love with Wikipedia and was able to use it dispel my faulty knowledge. What I ended up finding is that Ohio Buckeye is a tree, the sticker is of the Ohio Buckeye tree leaves, a Buckeye is a nut from the Ohio Buckeye, and Buckeyes are also chocolate covered peanut butter balls.