Never fear, South Dakotans. Your legislators are working hard to address our stagnating wages, rising living costs and projected budget shortfalls at the state level.

But first.

Let us discuss “agnostic chislic.”

Sen. Stace Nelson, champion of Only Important Causes, represents District 19, which includes my native land of Bon Homme County. He’s the one who brought this to the fore, introducing a bill to declare chislic as South Dakota’s “state nosh.”

South Dakota, like most states, has a “state —” in a variety of categories. Our state animal is the coyote (and how you pronounce it really matters), state flower is the pasque and state bird is the Chinese ring-necked pheasant, which we celebrate by annually slaughtering hundreds of thousands of them.*

“Nosh,” according to Merriam-Webster, is a verb that means “to eat a snack.” One search defines it as “to eat food enthusiastically or greedily.”

So they want to make a state-designated snack. But to just call it a snack would be too pedestrian and straight-forward. Thus, “nosh.”

Enter the debates.

On the South Dakota Senate floor, Sen. Reynold Nesiba, a Democrat from Sioux Falls, asked what really constitutes chislic. Purists would say only lamb; others say it can be lamb, beef, venison or any meat product properly skewered and seasoned.

It is “quite a controversy,” the legislators noted, with a level of seriousness entirely proportional to this topic, and not at all on par with how it sounds when my preschool-aged nieces fight about what their toy horses should say to each other.

Once satisfied that Nelson wasn’t a lamb-only zealot (the horror!), Nesiba said he, too, could support this Important Bill.

It’s nice to see the parties join together.

Lt. Governor Matt Michels then coined the phrase “agnostic chislic,” thus perfectly searing the flavor into the issue.

It’s not the first time the Legislature has addressed the hard issues.

During the Great Kuchen Kaper of the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, our intrepid legislators got more heated than a bakery oven about making kuchen (a delightful German custard concoction) the state dessert.

Frank Kloucek, another Bon Homme senator, opposed the bill. If there’s to be a state dessert, he said, it should be the kolache (a similarly delightful pastry of Czech origins).

The debate continued, with Kloucek himself dubbing it “the kolache wars” in 2010. But then, other ethnic groups got worked up. In a debate that definitely did not resemble school children arguing about whose dad is biggest, Sen. Tom Nelson, a Republican from Lead, boasted of his Italian heritage and the virtues of cannoli. Homestake Miners ate Cornish pastries. Sen. Stan Adelstein, a Republican from Rapid City, talked about the bagel, which reflected his own Jewish heritage.

Now, eight years later, we’ve switched courses, but it’s the same dining room.

Incidentally, we also have a state drink (milk) and state bread (fry bread).

Now that lawmakers are finally addressing the things that matter, why stop with adding a slangy word for snack that no one really uses into the state books? Why limit ourselves? Let’s get creative:

  • State element: Wind. Obviously.
  • MVP: Captain 11.
  • Tool: One of those tape measure/level combinations.
  • Tot: Tater.
  • Road sign: Something Wall Drug-related.
  • Side dish for meals before 2 p.m.: Salad with ranch dressing.
  • Side dish for meals after 2 p.m.: Mac ‘n’ cheese
  • Utensil: Spork.


— Candy DenOuden is a South Dakota native, full-time purveyor of sarcasm and part-time adult. She manages Compass and writes for the Journal. Contact her at