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The Midwest’s ‘Minnesota Sushi’ Is Having a Pop Culture Moment

The dubious-looking ham, cream cheese, and pickle canape has recently shown up on “Jeopardy!” and HBO’s “Somebody Somewhere”

Two smiling characters from the show ‘Somebody Somewhere’ hold pieces of Minnesota sushi on toothpicks.
The ‘kind of good, kind of gross’ Minnesota sushi on ‘Somebody Somewhere.’
Sandy Morris/HBO

I am a regional food obsessive originally from the Midwest. So when someone on a recent episode of the charming Kansas-set HBO comedy Somebody Somewhere showed up to a school event with a conversation piece appetizer I had never heard of called “St. Louis sushi,” I immediately started researching whether this was actually a thing.

Turns out the combination of deli ham, dill pickle, and cream cheese (sometimes flavored with ranch seasoning or dill, but often plain), rolled up, cut up, and served on a toothpick, is better known as “Minnesota sushi,” but it’s clear the dish seems to have a presence throughout the Midwest. Recipes for making your own version are everywhere (and, perhaps unsurprisingly, have been satirized on TikTok). A Duluth, Minnesota ABC affiliate even published a cheffy version courtesy of Stuart Gordon with smoked gouda and dijon mustard.

On Somebody Somewhere, a quirky teacher shows up with the dish, and main characters and BFFs Sam and Joel warily try it. The verdict from Sam: “kind of good, kind of gross.” I gave it a whirl myself today when I realized I had all the basic ingredients in the fridge. Their description was pretty apt — I wouldn’t make a beeline for it at the potluck table, but it wasn’t terrible; the smoky ham flavor kind of gets lost in the dominant sourness of the pickles, but the cream cheese is actually a nice contrast.

For some reason the dish has been picking up steam on the pop culture landscape in recent weeks. Jeopardy! contestant Andrew He talked about his appreciation for it on the May 12 episode of the “Masters” tournament — apparently he was introduced to the dish by fellow champion Eric Ahasic. The show’s social media folks even shared a recipe for it on Facebook. As of Monday afternoon, it had generated more than 700 comments, with Jeopardy! fans from across the country noting they’re called everything from ham pickle roll-ups to Midwest Sushi in their necks of the woods.

If you want to give the dish a spin for your next homey gathering, make sure you don’t let these dairy-tastic canapes sit out too long — as (minor gross spoiler alert) two characters on Somebody Somewhere devastatingly found out after housing the snack, digestive issues could be a dramatic consequence. I, however, seem to be fine after my quick lunchtime snack... at least, so far.

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