Today is National Kansas Day. Like many who do not call Kansas Home, when I think Kansas I think Dorothy flying over the rainbow to Oz. I also think Bloody Kansas and the bitter division in the territory before the first shots fired in the American Civil War.
Kansas was also the site of one of the largest POW camps in America during World War II. Growing up in California, I was very familiar with the internment of Japanese Americans during the war. I never realized that German POWs were held in camps on American soil. POW camps existed throughout the country, from Maine to Arizona. I’m not sure what I thought we did with those who were captured, it just never occurred to me that we brought prisoners here.
Camp Concordia POW Camp was located on a swath of land in north-central Kansas, just a few miles north of Concordia, Kansas. The camp, designed specifically to hold German POWs, took only 90 days to construct its over 300 buildings. The camp had a hospital, fire department, barracks and warehouses for both the prisoners (with estimates of between 4,000 and 8,000) and the 800 U.S. Military Personnel assigned to watch them. Most of the German POWs held at Camp Concordia were captured during battles in North Africa.
When the camp was built and POWs began to flood in, many of the locals feared the German soldiers. To them, thousands of Nazis presented a clear threat to their community and to the American way of life. This was understandable since the Germans held in Camp Concordia at times surpassed the town’s entire population. Like many small towns in America, the residents of Concordia were old men, women and children as the young men had marched off to war.
In time a partnership was formed between the farming communities of America in need of abled bodied men to work the fields and the POW camps that needed to keep their prisoners busy. Life for many of the captured German soldiers was better than that of their comrades still fighting on the front lines or POWs laboring in the Soviet Union. While the men worked the fields, they also formed sporting teams together and were even allowed to take classes offered at nearby Universities. Some of the German Prisoners were known to form dance band that played put on shows at USO events.
Life at Camp Concordia was not always peaceful. On at least two occasions, the German POWs executed fellow prisoners for acts of treason. Little is known about these executions aside from the fact that they took place. By the end of the war, Camp Concordia was decommissioned, reverting once more to farm land, and the Germans held there were returned to Germany.
To celebrate the great state of Kansas, I’ve put together a delicious Burger, some awesome KC Chili (yeah, same chili I served at the Super Bowl to honor the Kansas City Chiefs) and Kansas Dirt Cake. The interesting thing about Kansas Dirt Cake is that there is no baking involved. It’s sort of a cross between vanilla pudding pie on a cookie crust and no-bake cheesecake. Guess the cheesecake part is where the “cake” comes in. Regardless, Kansans are proudly tied to their cattle and to the dirt of the land.
Feel free to serve the chili as a side with your burger or as another course in your Kansas Supper. Guess it all depends upon your appetite. Enjoy!
Kansas Beef Burger Supper
Kansas Steak House Cheeseburgers
Savory KC Chili
Kansas Dirt Cake
Kansas Steak House Cheeseburgers
1-1/3 lb Ground Sirloin
2 tablespoons A-1 Steak Sauce
Sea Salt to taste
Black Pepper to taste
1 large Beefsteak Tomato
8 Green Leaf Lettuce Leaves
Vegetable Oil as needed
8 Onion Rings
4 slices Applewood Smoked Bacon
4 slices American cheese
Kansas City Barbecue Sauce
4 Brioche Hamburger Buns
In a bowl, mix ground sirloin with steak sauce, season to taste with salt and pepper. Form 4 third-pound patties. Set aside until ready to cook.
Cut tomato into 4 nice slices, set aside. Break lettuce leaves from a head of lettuce. Rinse, pat dry and trim to fit nicely on hamburger buns. Set aside.
In a deep fryer or large pot, heat vegetable oil to 375 degrees. Select 8 frozen onion rings from a bag of breaded rings. Fry in batches about 4 minutes, turning as necessary, until crisp and cooked through. Remove from fryer with a slotted spoon or spider ladle. Drain onion rings on paper towels.
In a large cast iron skillet, cook bacon until nicely crisp, turning as needed to prevent burning and fry up evenly. Remove from skillet, place on paper towels to drain. Leave bacon drippings in the skillet.
In the now empty skillet, cook burger patties over medium to medium-high heat, about 5 minutes per side. Once the burgers are cooked, remove skillet from heat. Top patties with cheese slices. Cover skillet and let rest until cheese melts.
Spread a little barbecue sauce on the bottom buns. Place a lettuce leaf on each bottom bun, the a slice of tomato. Top with cheeseburger patty, Break bacon in half, lay over cheeseburger. Top each burger with two fried onion rings, then another lettuce leaf. Spread more barbecue sauce as desired on top bun, place bun over lettuce and serve.
Savory KC Chili
3 Yellow Onion
1 small Red Onion
2 Jalapeno Peppers
2-1/2 lb Ground Beef
3 (15 oz) cans Kidney Beans, drained
3 (15 oz) cans Diced Tomatoes
3 cup KC Masterpiece Original Barbecue Sauce
2-1/2 tablespoon Chili Powder
2 teaspoons Lemon Juice
2 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese
Peel and dice the yellow onions, set aside. Peel and dice the red onion, set aside. Stem Jalapeno Peppers, dice and set aside.
Heat stockpot over medium-high heat. Cook the ground beef in the pot until browned, add the yellow onions and cook until tender.
While the meat mixture cooks, rinse and drain the kidney bean. Add the beans, canned tomatoes, Barbecue Sauce, chili powder and lemon juice, and stir until everything is combined. Cover and turn the heat down to low. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
Top with cheese, red onions and Jalapeno peppers as desired.
Kansas Dirt Cake
2 (3.5 oz) packages Instant French Vanilla Pudding
3 cups Milk
1 (16 oz) package Original Oreo Cookies
1 (8 oz) block Cream Cheese
1 cup Powdered Sugar
1/2 cup Butter
8 oz Cool Whip, thawed
In a large bowl, whisk pudding mix with very cold milk. Continue to whisk until soft pudding is formed. Cover, refrigerate until well-chilled and set, about 30 minutes.
Crush Oreo cookies in a blender or food processor fitted with a blade. Spread half of the crushed cookies into the bottom of a 9-inch by 13-inch by 2-inch deep pan. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter. Sift in the powdered sugar, beat until smooth. Fold prepared pudding and Cool Whip into the cream cheese mixture. Spread mixture over cookie crumbs. Smooth out top. Sprinkle with remaining cookie crumbs.
Place the Dirt Cake in the freezer for at least 8 hours before serving to fully set.