Not being a native Hoosier, I didn’t really “get” the Indy 500 right away. Oh sure, I’d heard of it; in our southern Illinois home, we usually had it on TV on Memorial Day, and my dad had gone several times. I had even attended the actual race with my then-fiancé (now husband) where we had general admission tickets and spent our time in the infield. That’s an entirely different blog post! Needless to say, it still wasn’t a big deal.
That changed about 15 years ago when I started working for the American Dairy Association Indiana (ADAI). As sponsors of the Drink of Milk in Victory Circle at the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, I quickly learned a thing or two about tradition, history, race cars and drivers. The Indy 500’s first three-time winner (1928, 1933, & 1936), Louis Meyer, unknowingly established a tradition when he asked for a cold glass of buttermilk to quench his thirst in 1933. At his third trip to Victory Lane, Meyer was photographed drinking his buttermilk, and a representative of the Milk Foundation vowed to have milk in the winner’s circle from then on. Well, that did happen, off and on, but in 1956, Tony Hulman, owner of the track, made the Bottle of Milk a permanent Victory Lane celebration. The two people that hand the bottles of milk to the winning driver and team owner are true, blue Indiana dairy farmers. Talk about tradition!
Over the years, we’ve managed to create some of our own memories and traditions. When we first started going to the race, it was just my husband and me, and we had regular seats; the infield wasn’t as desirable as it was when we were footloose and fancy free. It was only a year later that we started bringing the kids along. And yes, we were those parents who took our kids out of school on Community Day! Gradually other family members joined us for the race– my brother, his son, another brother, a nephew-in-law, etc. Last year I believe we had twenty in our brood; this year we’re down to only fifteen.
One of our traditions has been to enjoy a big breakfast before heading to the track. This year the menu includes Cheddar and Mushroom Breakfast Squares. These can be mixed up the night before and baked in the morning. They’re even great if we end up with a grab-n-go breakfast!
- 2 teaspoons butter
- 2 cups sliced white button mushrooms
- 1/2 cup sliced green onion, including green tops
- 6 slices country style bread, cubed
- 2 cups shredded, reduced-fat Cheddar cheese
- 2 cups fat-free or low-fat milk
- 2 cups egg substitute
- 1 teaspoon red or green hot pepper sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
- Spray an 8 x 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.
- In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt butter and add mushrooms.
- Cook mushrooms about 5 minutes or until softened and brown at edges.
- Stir in green onion; set aside.
- Place 1/2 of the bread cubes in prepared baking dish.
- Scatter 1/2 of the mushroom mixture and 1/2 of the cheese over bread cubes.
- Layer remaining bread cubes and mushroom mixture; set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat milk, egg substitute, pepper sauce and salt, if desired, until well blended. Pour milk mixture over bread cubes and top with the remaining cheese.
- Make ahead suggestion: cover dish with foil and refrigerate for 8-10 hours before baking.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Bake, covered for 45 minutes.
- Remove foil and bake an additional 15 minutes or until top is puffed up and cheese is browned at edges.
- Let cool for 5 minutes; cut into squares to serve.
So what memories will you create this year at the Indianapolis 500?