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Hot Dishes

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

Shopping for a wedding gift for a Rock Islander is less painful than almost anywhere else in the United States—except, perhaps, South Dakota. The Swedish influence in Rock Island has left you with only one sensible choice: a Pyrex glass baking dish, an adequate assortment of which one can find in any True-Value Hardware store. It must be glass so that, at a potluck, one can tell what's below the surface. For a really special bride, you might get one that comes with its own holder. Wooden handles are also a nice touch.

Unless you have been invited to a Rock Island home for supper, you won't believe the innovative uses a bride can find for this gift: a casserole, a hot dish, or even a covered dish—in other words, about ninety percent of a typical Rock Island cooking repertoire.

To aid you in making a proper gift selection, let me explain the difference. A casserole is always round, but it's proper to serve a hot dish in a round container, too. The closer a recipe comes to including all seven basic food groups, the more likely it's a casserole. Meat, vegetables, cream, pasta and breadcrumbs, for instance. Any dish that has Campbell's cream of celery or mushroom soup in it is automatically a casserole. A hot dish, on the other hand, must have a base of macaroni and ground beef. It can get fancier: tomatoes, and even cheese.

There's more leeway when it comes to a covered dish, though it does have to contain more than one food. Local etiquette places lasagna in the category of covered dishes. A covered dish is often in a rectangular container and covered with aluminum foil.

One final pointer before you select your gift. Most often at potlucks, the As through the Ks will be asked to bring casseroles, the Ls through the Ps are to bring hot dishes, leaving covered dishes for the Rs through the Zs.

Don't even think about going to the Crate and Barrel for a fancy wedding gift for a Rock Islander. That fancy chip and salsa tray will just sit unused in its original box until it shows up down the road at a white elephant sale.

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois.

Beginning 1995, historian and folklorist Dr. Roald Tweet spun his stories of the Mississippi Valley to a devoted audience on WVIK. Dr. Tweet published three books as well as numerous literary articles and recorded segments of "Rock Island Lines." His inspiration was that "kidney-shaped limestone island plunked down in the middle of the Mississippi River," a logical site for a storyteller like Dr. Tweet.