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Posts Tagged ‘food and culture’

By Bob Chrisman

The temperature at 3:50 p.m. is 101 degrees with a heat index of 106. Chocolate melts in these temperatures. I can’t even buy it and put it in my backpack without arriving home to a glob of a candy bar wrapper that, at one time, held a perfectly solid bar of chocolate.

I’m going into withdrawal in this heat. Either I eat the chocolate as soon as I buy it or I don’t have it. The summer isn’t fair to us chocolate eaters. I pray for cooler temperatures, ones below the melting point of chocolate.

Perhaps that accounts for my foul mood of the last couple of weeks when temperatures soared into the upper 90’s and I abandoned any attempt to purchase chocolate and walk home with it. The withdrawal has reduced me to a feral human being scouring the fridge for substitutes. Carrots won’t do it, neither will broccoli or Brussels sprouts. I could always eat butter and crackers, but the mere thought of being without any chocolate, even for chocolate emergencies which occur quite frequently in my house, has made me sullen. I WANT CHOCOLATE…a bar of chocolate, a chocolate kiss, a dish of chocolate ice cream, a piece of chocolate cake…no, cake won’t do…it’s not the pure joy of the taste of chocolate on my tongue.

Pure chocolate (and I’m talking milk chocolate) melts on my tongue and wraps each of the thousands of taste buds in the bliss and ecstasy of the taste. They go orgasmic surrounded by the luscious liquid that bathes them in milky darkness. The saliva fills my mouth at the thought of the experience. This isn’t a good thing. No, I must quit thinking about chocolate or I’ll go crazy and rush out in the heat to a store where I will buy and eat chocolate bars until I satisfy this craving.

Reminds me of the time I decided to diet. I found myself in church with a friend who recommended the minister because of his good sermons. As he got up to deliver his address, I noticed that he walked like a chicken. The thought of chicken made my mouth water and from there my thoughts descended into all my favorite chicken dishes: fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy, chicken in a tarragon cream sauce, and finally my mind settled on cashew chicken from my favorite Chinese restaurant with a side of the greasiest and best egg rolls on the planet. My mind danced with the image of that dish, the smell, the taste. My stomach rumbled with anticipation.

Cashew chicken. I must have cashew chicken. I’ll die if I don’t have it. Feed me cashew chicken.

I felt the drool running down my chin and quickly wiped it away.

My friend turned to me, “Did you enjoy the sermon?”

“Yeah, I did. Is church over?”

“Sure is. What do you want to have for lunch?”

“Chocolate.” No, that’s now, not then. Right now I want chocolate in whatever solid form I can have it, heat or no heat.


NOTE: WRITING TOPIC — CHOCOLATE is the latest Writing Topic on red Ravine. Frequent guest writer Bob Chrisman joined QuoinMonkey in doing a Writing Practice on the topic.

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CHOC 4 2011-07-15 18.11.43 AUTO c

Chocolate – One Of Life’s Simple Pleasures – 28/52, BlackBerry 52 – WEEK 28 BlackBerry 52 response to Jump-Off from Lotus, Around the City: Simple Pleasures, July 15th, 2011, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


It’s late in the evening at the end of a long week, so I’m going to make this Writing Topic short—and sweet (the way I like my chocolate). Though today we think of chocolate as having at least a hint of sweetness, it wasn’t always so. According to the Smithsonian’s article A Brief History of Chocolate it is estimated that chocolate has been around for over 2000 years, and for about 90 percent of that history, it was strictly a beverage, and sugar didn’t have anything to do with it. It wasn’t until Europeans came to the Americas that chocolate was sweetened with cane sugar and honey.

The Timeline of Chocolate History at The Gourmet Chocolate of the Month Club states that in 1765, the first chocolate factory appeared in the United States in pre-revolutionary New England, where the production of chocolate proceeded at a faster pace than anywhere else in the world. And in 1797, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe toured Switzerland and insisted on having chocolate available at all times, along with a chocolate pot.

According to the Smithsonian, we often misuse words related to the origins of chocolate:

Most experts these days use the term “cacao” to refer to the plant or its beans before processing, while the term “chocolate” refers to anything made from the beans. “Cocoa” generally refers to chocolate in a powdered form, although it can also be a British form of “cacao.”

Etymologists trace the origin of the word “chocolate” to the Aztec word “xocoatl,” which referred to a bitter drink brewed from cacao beans. The Latin name for the cacao tree, Theobroma cacao, means “food of the gods.”

Nectar of the gods. The Midwest Writing Group I am in never meets without indulging in a few bars of gourmet chocolate. (And it’s no secret that our teacher Natalie loves chocolate.) Reading, writing, and chocolate just seem to go together. Have you ever read Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or delighted in Gene Wilder’s portrayal of Willy in the film (based on Dahl’s book) Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory?

______________________

The Secrets Of ChocolateWhat is your favorite chocolate? Do you prefer milk chocolate or dark chocolate? Do you believe chocolate has aphrodisiac properties? Scientists have isolated phenylethylamine (PEA) which is a stimulant found in chocolate, and also in the brain. A miniscule amount of PEA is released at moments of emotional euphoria, raising blood pressure and heart rate. Is there a connection between food and the brain?

Last week Liz brought these chocolate bars home from Trader Joe’s. She chose the dark with walnuts and pecans; mine is the Swiss milk. Let’s put a slightly different twist on this Writing Practice. Instead of writing Chocolate at the top of your page, head into the kitchen and rip open your favorite chocolate bar. Slip a square right on top of your tongue, and write down what connects pen, page and a delicious chunk of chocolate — 15 minutes, Go!


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, July 16th, 2011

Lotus and I will continue to respond to each other’s BlackBerry Jump-Off photos with text, photography, poetry (however we are inspired) for the 52 weeks of 2011. You can read more at BlackBerry 52 Collaboration. If you are inspired to join us, send us a link to your images, poetry, or prose and we’ll add them to our posts.

-related to posts: the velveeta cheese of donuts haiku, WRITING TOPIC — CANDY FREAK, Homage to a Candy Freak, On Candy, Candy Stash — Barter Is Better

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MN State Fair -- Fairchild & Fairborne

MN State Fair — Fairborne & Fairchild, MN State Fair, St. Paul, Minnesota, August 2010, all photos © 2009-2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


The Minnesota State Fair kicked off this week and it’s time for our annual State Fair post on red Ravine. We’ve covered a lot of history over the years, including the debut of Peach Glazed Pig Cheeks On-A-Stick, the fine art of Princess Kay of the Milky Way (and the Butter Queens), Minnesota State Fair poster artists, the history of Fairborne and Fairchild, and the tradition of Tom Thumb Donuts.

This year we honor the work of two writers who have written about the Minnesota State Fair. In 1928, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote his classic short story “A Night at the Fair.” And this year, Debra Frasier, author of On the Day You Were Born and the Minnesota State Fair Foundation’s current Author-in-Residence, has written and illustrated A Fabulous Fair Alphabet.



Debra Frasier — A Fabulous Fair Alphabet


What started as a collection of photographs taken by Minneapolis author Debra Frasier on daily visits to the Minnesota State Fair, has turned into a work of book art. A Fabulous Fair Alphabet is Frasier’s tribute to the “Great Minnesota Get-Together” and the impetus for the State Fair Alphabet Project, a labor of love for hundreds of Minnesotans who are passionate about early learning. The book has also gained national acclaim, with the New York Times noting,  “Frasier brings to life a jaunty Ferris wheel, a sunburst-yellow pitcher of lemonade and a swirling roller coaster.”

The book is interactive and there is a wonderful article about Frasier’s process in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. She intentionally left the front-piece page blank in hopes that families will use the page to personalize their copies of the book as a keepsake, a place to store their own Fair memories, images, and words:

Going to the State Fair together is a ritual for many families. Grandparents have passed along their favorite Fair traditions to their grandchildren. The book is a place for all generations to record their experiences together. Imagine if we had a list of favorite words from our relatives’ 1901 trip to the Fair, or 1945, or 2010 for fairgoers of 2060!

-Debra Frasier

Debra Frasier will be giving book signings from Noon to 2 p.m. daily at the J.V. Bailey House (across from the Space Needle) and I plan to visit her there. You can also visit the Alphabet Forest at Baldwin Park, across from the 4-H building. There are teaching materials based on the book, coloring sheets, instructions on making animals-on-a-stick or a cereal box stage, a bibliography of fair-themed books, display letters, a script that deepens the story and a look at how Frasier created the book at her official website.



F. Scott Fitzgerald — A Night at the Fair


IMG00661-20100723-1957.jpgF. Scott Fitzgerald is a Twin Cities icon who continues to live on through art and author happenings at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul. Most Minnesotans know that he penned the short story, “A Night at the Fair,” but after a comment from one of our readers, I started to wonder how many had actually read the story (myself included).

It begins like this:

The two cities were separated only by a thin well-bridged river; their tails curling over the banks met and mingled, and at the juncture, under the jealous eye of each, lay, every fall, the State Fair. Because of this advantageous position, and because of the agricultural eminence of the state, the fair was one of the most magnificent in America. There were immense exhibits of grain, livestock and farming machinery; there were horse races and automobile races and, lately, aeroplanes that really left the ground; there was a tumultuous Midway with Coney Island thrillers to whirl you through space, and a whining, tinkling hoochie-coochie show. As a compromise between the serious and the trivial, a grand exhibition of fireworks, culminating in a representation of the Battle of Gettysburg, took place in the Grand Concourse every night.

–F. Scott Fitzgerald,  A Night at the Fair

If your imagination is captured, you can read all 15 pages at Project Gutenberg. One of my favorite parts is when Scott writes about Ye Old Mill. Fitzgerald - Commodore HotelThe same Ye Old Mill at the Fair today. Located at the southwest corner of Carnes Avenue and Underwood Street, and touted as the “original tunnel of love,” Ye Old Mill is the oldest ride on the fairgrounds and is owned by the same family who first operated it in 1913.

The ride runs on a 40-horse power engine that turns the mill wheel and keeps water running through the 1300-foot channel. When you read Fitzgerald’s descriptions, you can imagine Basil and Riply chugging along on the Fair rides and Midway of the 1920’s. Memories preserved through story.



F. Scott Fitzgerald Walking Tour — St. Paul, Minnesota


I’m a writer who has lived in the Twin Cities for over 20 years. Until this summer, I had never seen the place where F. Scott Fitzgerald was born, walked on the steps of St. Paul Academy where he went to school (with a Fitzgerald IMG00657-20100723-1952.jpgstatue created by Aaron Dysart), or taken a photograph of the sign at the Commodore Hotel where Scott and Zelda lived when their baby girl, Scottie, was born. Those old hotel walls have breathed in tales we can only imagine, real life stories of their drinking and partying at the Commodore bar.

For my birthday this year, our Poetry & Meditation Group walked the 13 stops of a self-guided Fitzgerald tour, from 481 Laurel, where Scott was born, to Mrs. Backus’ Boarding School at 586 Holly, the building where Scott enrolled in dance class. However, the heart of the tour is a four-block radius surrounding the intersection of Kent Street and Summit Avenue, “one of the grandest rows of Victorian Boulevard architecture anywhere in America.” From there, Summit IMG00643-20100723-1938.jpg stretches nearly five miles to the Mississippi River in the country’s longest span of residential, Victorian architecture.

Slip on a comfortable pair of shoes, and walk in the footsteps of the writers who came before us. Francis Scott Fitzgerald (named after Francis Scott Key) has a birthday coming up on September 24th; take the tour to celebrate his birth, brushing oaks along streets his parents walked in 1896. At the time he lived in St. Paul, F. Scott visited with writers like Sinclair Lewis and Donald Ogden Stewart. Here’s a link to every stop on the F. Scott Fitzgerald Walking Tour.



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Spaghetti & Meatball Dinner On-A-Stick, Fried Fruit On-A-Stick, Macaroni & Cheese On-A-Stick, Bull Bites, Deep Fried Tater Tots On-A-Stick, Grilled Shrimp On-A-Stick, Vintage Kids & Fair Food!, Leprechaun Legs, MN State Fair, St. Paul, Minnesota, August 2008, all photos © 2008-2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



MN State Fair – Foods On-A-Stick


Our Minnesota State Fair post wouldn’t be complete without the annual foods on-a-stick list. Here’s the lineup for 2010. If you are looking for the location of specific foods at the Fair, here’s a link to their FoodFinder with a map of the Fair. The Minnesota State Fair runs through Monday, September 6th. From the 20,000 gallons of milk served by the the American Dairy Association, to the 338,000 dozen mini-donuts consumed, and the 22,000 rolls of toilet paper used at the Minnesota State Fair, there is nothing else to do but ENJOY!

  1. Alligator Sausage on-a-stick
  2. Baby Potatoes on-a-stick
  3. Bacon (Fried) on-a-stick
  4. Bananas (chocolate covered) on-a-stick
  5. Beef Kabobs on-a-stick
  6. Bologna (deep-fried) on-a-stick
  7. Bomb Pops on-a-stick
  8. Butterscotch Cake on-a-stick
  9. Camel on-a-stick
  10. Candy Apples on-a-stick
  11. Candy Bars (deep fried) on-a-stick
  12. Caramel Apples on-a-stick
  13. Caramel Apple Puppies on-a-stick
  14. Catfish on-a-stick
  15. Cheese on-a-stick
  16. Cheesecake (chocolate covered) on-a-stick
  17. Chicken on-a-stick
  18. Chicken Bites on-a-stick
  19. Chocolate Tornado on-a-stick
  20. Coffee (frozen) on-a-stick
  21. Corndogs on-a-stick
  22. Cotton Candy on-a-stick
  23. Dessert Pizza on-a-stick
  24. Dixie Wings on-a-stick
  25. Espresso (frozen) on-a-stick
  26. Fruit (fresh) on-a-stick
  27. Fruit (fried) on-a-stick
  28. Fry Dog on-a-stick
  29. Fudge Puppies on-a-stick
  30. Hot Dago on-a-stick
  31. Hot Dish on-a-stick
  32. Hot Dogs (wrap) on-a-stick
  33. Jerk Chicken on-a-stick
  34. Key Lime Pie Dipped in Chocolate (frozen) on-a-stick
  35. Kufta Kabob on-a-stick
  36. Lamb (leg of) on-a-stick
  37. Macaroni & Cheese on-a-stick
  38. Marshmallows (Chocolate-dipped) on-a-stick
  39. Mashed Potatoes (deep-fried) on-a-stick
  40. Meatballs (porcupine wild rice & ground pork) on-a-stick
  41. Meatballs (Scotch) on-a-stick
  42. Meat Kabobs on-a-stick
  43. Nut Roll (chocolate-dipped) on-a-stick
  44. Pickles on-a-stick
  45. Pizza on-a-stick
  46. Poncho Dogs on-a-stick
  47. Pork Chops on-a-stick
  48. Pronto Pups on-a-stick
  49. Sausage on-a-stick
  50. Sausage and cheese stuffed jalapeno poppers on-a-stick
  51. Scotch Eggs on-a-stick
  52. Shrimp on-a-stick
  53. Shrimp (grilled) on-a-stick
  54. S’mores on-a-stick
  55. S’mores (deep-fried) on-a-stick
  56. Spaghetti & Meatballs on-a-stick
  57. Spudsters on-a-stick
  58. Steak on-a-stick
  59. Taffy Pops on-a-stick
  60. Tater Tots (deep-fried) on-a-stick
  61. Texas Steak Dinner on-a-stick
  62. Texas Tater Dog on-a-stick
  63. Tornado Potato on-a-stick
  64. Turkey Tenderloin (bacon-wrapped) on-a-stick
  65. Turtle Puppies on-a-stick
  66. Vegie Fries on-a-stick
  67. Vegetable Kabobs on-a-stick
  68. Waffle (Belgian) on-a-stick
  69. Walleye on-a-stick
  70. Wild Rice Corndog on-a-stick
  71. Wonder Bar (chocolate-dipped ice cream) on-a-stick


Total Number of Foods-On-A-Stick: 71*


New Minnesota State Fair Foods In 2010
(including *2 new foods on-a-stick not on list above)

    Caramel Apple Puppies (a Fudge Puppy with baked apple and covered with caramel)
    @Fudge Puppies, located on the outside west wall of the Food Building
    Cheese Pizza Served With Corn Dogs (a cheese pizza topped with corn dogs sliced the long way)
    @Pizza Shoppe, located inside the Food Building
    Chicken Fried Bacon (thick cut bacon, battered, breaded and fried, and served in a boat covered with gravy)
    @Giggles’ Campfire Grill, located on Cooper Street and Lee Avenue
    Chocolate Tornado (spiral-cut Tornado Potato dipped in chocolate)
    @Sonny’s Spiral Spud, located inside the Food Building
    Cincinnati Chili (spaghetti noodles smothered with chili and topped with shredded cheddar, beans, and diced onions)
    @Sabino’s, located inside the Warner Coliseum
    Danny Boy Burger (burger made with corned beef and covered with kraut, Swiss cheese, and Thousand Island dressing)
    @O’Gara’s, located on the corner of Dan Patch Avenue and Cosgrove Street
    Deep-Fried Avocado (avocado pieces batter-dipped, deep-fried, and served with Ranch dressing)
    @Tejas, located in The Garden
    Deep-Fried Bacon Cheddar Mashed Potatoes On-A-Stick
    @Potato Man and Sweetie, located on Liggett Street, south of Carnes Avenue
    Deep-Fried Bologna On-A-Stick
    @Netterfield’s Food Court, located on Cooper Street, north of Dan Patch Avenue
    • Deep-Fried Breakfast Wrap (scrambled eggs and bacon in a soft shell wrap, deep-fried and smothered in cheese)
    @Axel’s, located outside on the southeast corner of the Food Building
    •Deep-Fried Shortcake (shortcake batter deep-fried and covered with strawberries and ice cream)
    @Granny’s Cheesecake and More, located on Dan Patch Avenue at Underwood Street
    Fresh Fruit Salsa and Chips (salsa made on-site with fresh fruit and covered with tortilla chips)
    @Fried Fruit, located in Carousel Park on the east side of the Grandstand Ramp
    Fried Pig Ears (thinly sliced pigs ears dusted in seasoned flour, fried until crispy, and served with lime chipotle glaze)
    @Famous Dave’s, located on the corner of Dan Patch Avenue and Liggett Street
    Ghost Wings (chicken wings covered in a habanero pepper sauce)
    @Wings and Things, located inside the Warner Coliseum
    Grilled Marshmallow Chocolate and Banana Sandwich
    @Moe and Joe’s, located on Judson Avenue by the CHS Miracle of Birth Center
    Korean Moon BBQ (Korean “street vendor” style tacos with beef short ribs, spicy/sweet pork or chicken)
    @Blue Moon Dine-In Theater, located on the corner of Carnes Avenue and Chambers Street
    Sausage and cheese-stuffed jalapeno poppers
    @Sausage Sister & Me, located inside the Food Building
    Sloppy Joe served over spiral-cut potato chips
    @Sunny’s Spiral Spuds, located inside the Food Building
    Turtle Puppies (Fudge Puppy covered in caramel and nuts)
    @Fudge Puppies, located against the outside west wall of the Food Building


State Fair photos on Flickr.


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, August 29th, 2010

-related to posts: MN State Fair On-A-Stick (Happy B’Day MN!), On-The-Go List Of Must-Haves (MN State Fair), Nightshot – Carousel, MN State Fair On-A-Stick II – Video & Stats, food on-a-stick haiku, F. Scott Fitzgerald: On Money & Mess, Runes, Oracles, & Alphabets

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New pages, testing out my new doodle journal, Christmas gift to myself, December 26, 2009, images © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

 
 
 
 
Today is all mine. It’s almost two and still I’m dressed in my light blue, light flannel pajamas. They’re old-fashioned, the kind of button-down-top and pants that Ricky Ricardo and Lucy used to wear. As Jim said, “Now if someone comes over early on a weekend, you won’t have to scramble to get dressed.”

No scramblin’ today.
 
 
 
 

my three cranes

 
 
This was the view from my kitchen window yesterday morning. The three cranes who’ve been hanging out here for over a month had meandered up to the spot where the pasture meets the patio—the closest point to the house without actually being on the patio.

One crane stands sentinel while the other two eat or preen. If they catch us in the window watching them, they sometimes stop what they’re doing and stare back. Us watching cranes watching us watching them.

It’s reminiscent of that spring when we had nearly two dozen turkeys lounging on the patio furniture, including the farm table that’s pushed up against the exterior wall of the kitchen. Turkeys looking in on us, and now cranes. Birds, Big Birds, are social animals. Either that or curious ones.
 
When I crept out the sliding glass door over to the low wall that separates patio from pasture, the cranes booked on out. They didn’t take flight, but they wandered away on their incredibly long and skinny legs to a more comfortable gazing distance.
 
 
 

December Cranes, cranes in the pasture retreating when I move closer, December 28, 2009, photos © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

 
 
 

November Cranes, same cranes, November 28, 2009,
photo © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

 
 
 
 
 

changing tradition

 
 
My sister Patty and Mom made Christmas tamales this year. It’s a tradition in our family. Patty suggested that Mom try adding red chile to her masa this time around. Mom had never done that before. Normally the masa is made straight up—corn mixture and water or broth. Not being the most traditional of women, Mom agreed to the change.

Turned out be a good idea. This year’s Christmas tamales were the best ever. I’m not kidding. Chile in the masa made for an interior sort of heat, the kind that comes from deep inside. And tastyyyy?! The kind of taste that you crave days after Christmas has ended and you wonder if anyone has Christmas tamales still tucked away in the freezer.
 
 
 
 

  

Tamales for Christmas, Mom’s tamales stacking up for the big holiday,
photo © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

 
 
 
 

tart and sweet

 
 
One of my favorite gifts for Christmas was a package of Sharpies in Caribbean colors. They remind me of tropical Jelly Bellies or Skittles. The kind of bright colors that people in island cultures use to paint their homes, although you never can tell since the sun fades the colors over time to a sort of Easter egg pastel palette.
 
 
I bought myself a new doodle journal, on sale at Anthropologie. I love that store; the buyers there have the best taste for eclectic and gorgeous furniture, bedding, clothing, shoes, kitchenware.

This journal has a full year’s worth of pages, each month a different color. The months aren’t labeled but the dates are—1 through 31, or however many days there are in that particular month. January is salmon, February creme, March red, April green, May yellow, June blue. The paper has little specs in it, like sun spots on skin. The freckles come out when you apply a marker to the surface.

A doodle a day, starting January 1. I can’t wait. In fact, I didn’t wait. For the first two blank pages, I already doodled. Real doodles, not the fancier drawings I tend to call doodles. I’ll still do those, but sometimes my own complexity—my desire to outdo myself—gets the better of me. Back to basics. (With a mango twist, of course!)
 
 
 
 

  

 
 
 
 
 

retreat, retreats, re-treaty

 
 
I recently became a member of Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe. I received the 2010 Catalog of Offerings and have decided to take two classes in 2010.

One I want to take with Jim. One of my intentions for 2010 is to share my passions with him. I seem to spend a lot of time in my own world, and while I’ve always appreciated the latitude my husband gives me, I also realize he’s open to exploring new things.

We had a couple’s massage on his birthday, and I’m always surprised by how willing he is to do things I might otherwise assume he wouldn’t want to do.

Don’t make assumptions, one of The Four Agreements®. I reflect on this particular agreement most of all, although all four are principles to live by.
 

  1. Be impeccable with your word
  2. Don’t take anything personally
  3. Don’t make assumptions
  4. Always do your best

 
Read The Four Agreements® again. Live them all year long.
 
 
This wasn’t meant to be a post about new intentions. Remember, I’m sitting in pajamas, chillin’. I guess the reflecting and looking forward are percolating, even as I cling to lazy days spent in coffee shops or movie theaters or my writing room.

The waning days of 2009. Another year. Another decade.
 
 
 
 

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The most wholesome, delicious potatoes I’ve tasted in a long time came from the Minnesota Garlic Festival this summer. It was pouring down rain when Liz and I ducked under a canopy that led to a small booth of farmer’s produce. On the table were two paper dishes of homegrown potatoes. One held a buttery Yukon Gold variety. The other, Russet baking potatoes about the size of a garlic, so clean and shorn it was hard to believe they emerged from under the Earth.

We came home with the baking potatoes, sliced them up, boiled them and served them with butter and pork chops a few days later. I’m a big potato lover. In fact, anything carbohydrate hits the spot. Potatoes remind me of Woody Guthrie and the Dust Bowl days but maybe that’s because I was watching a documentary on him at 2am Monday night because I couldn’t sleep.

Last night for dinner, we had a couple of steaks grilled on our new Grill It! from the Minnesota State Fair and microwaved Bob Evans mashed potatoes from Byerly’s. The last time I was at a Bob Evans was with my brother after he picked me up at the Baltimore airport. On the drive back to Harrisburg, we stopped at a Bob Evans and had dinner in between catching a few geocaches. I’m sure I must have ordered mashed potatoes.

I remember Granny’s mashed potatoes, my paternal grandmother who lived in Morristown, Tennessee. That woman could cook. I was probably in high school the last time I saw her. But it’s the holiday dinners at her home when I was a much younger child that I remember best. I don’t know if I’ve ever tasted mashed potatoes like that anywhere else in the world. She also canned her own green beans; she’d sit on the porch and snap them one by one into a glass bowl. Always served with butter. In the South, vegetables were always served dripping with real butter.

Mashed potatoes are comfort food to me. They are cheap and filling. You can buy the real deal or microwave them in tater tot form, bake them au gratin, shred them into hash browns, or scrub their skins with a vegetable brush and pop them into the oven or microwave to bake, then slather with butter and sour cream.

There is nothing as flexible as the iconic potato. And if you free associate the word “potato,” that tricky deadly Nightshade can take you all the way to Ireland, or sliding down the back steps of the political campaign of Dan Quayle. Now that’s a versatile tuber.

 

-related to Writing Topic post: I Found Potatoes In My Pantry (& They Scared The Hell Out Of Me)

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Potatoes are a heroic food. They emerge from the dirt, lumpy and misshapen. It is rare to find a perfectly round potato. They are the Salt of the Earth among vegetables. Not a diva or prince among them. If potatoes were people, they would be the peasants, toiling in the fields.

I love the potato, filling and hearty. There is little as satisfying as potato salad made with small red potatoes, mayonnaise, spicy mustard, dill, and hard-boiled eggs. Sure, the accoutrements add flavor, but it is the potato that takes the show.

And the mashed potato is a dish without compare. Wasn’t it just the other day that Dee was craving roasted turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy? A meal that satisfies like no other, and while one may give credit to the turkey and the gravy, it is again the potato that keeps us going back to that ensemble again and again.

Jim says that the potato is most prone among vegetables to be affected by toxins in the environment, and I suppose in that way the potato is the toad among vegetables, warty and thin-skinned. And like the toad, the potato is an essential member of the ecosystem, a staple in the food pyramid, like corn or wheat or rice, and among all of those the potato takes you further, sustains you, keeps your tummy from grumbling overnight.

Mom was a fan of potatoes. She sliced them thin and fried them with garlic and onion, and we ate them greasy and salty with a piece of overdone meat and a salad. Or cubed in teeny tiny squares reminiscent of board game pieces, mixed with ground beef—filling for tacos.

The potatoes of my youth were always greasy, except for baked potatoes, although I don’t think Mom made those until after we were out of the house. Three fried Russets could feed a large family, whereas the same number of baked Russets feeds only three.

Jim buys his potatoes now during Growers Market season from the Johnstons. They are among the handful, maybe less, selling potatoes. They grow small red ones and one that is such a deep purple color it looks like a bruise, and I have to say I’ve never tasted as smooth and creamy a potato as theirs.

Tonight it’s turkey cutlets, which I’ll lightly bread and fry, and some of those bruised potatoes, which I hate to peel, but there’s nothing more appetizing than a cream-colored mashed potato (and with my girls, anything that resembles mashed prunes will be rejected outright). And gravy. To satisfy the need in all of us for heavier food, to keep us warm during cooling nights.

If I were to write a potato haiku, it would read:

Mister Potato
hero among veggies
Here to save the day




-Related to topic post I Found Potatoes In My Pantry (& They Scared The Hell Out Of Me) and haiku 2 (one-a-day)

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Flowering Onion, MN State Fair, St. Paul, Minnesota, September 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



It’s Labor Day, final day of the Minnesota State Fair, when the last of 12 Butter Queens will take her place in the Butter Booth at the Dairy Building. The Fair signifies the unofficial end of Summer (officially marked by shadows of the Fall Equinox). We spent 6 hours walking around the Fairgrounds last Friday.

The art in the juried show seemed of a higher caliber this year. We saw some great work in the Art Building, including the commemorative painting from artist Leo Stans displayed front and center.

In the food category, we bought a paring knife at Standing Buffalo Knives and a Grill It! in the Merchandise Building. As strange as the Grill It! looks (an engineer must have designed it), we made the best bacon ever for breakfast yesterday morning. But we weren’t as adventurous as usual when consuming Minnesota State Fair foods on-a-stick.

Liz and I are eating 8 leftover Tom Thumb Donuts as I type and trying to recall what else we had to eat last Friday. We split a Flowering Onion four ways with our friends, a bucket of fries with vinegar and ketchup, a Papa Pronto Pup from one of the original 1947 stands, two large cups of fresh squeezed lemonade (refills half price), and a few morsels of chicken from the Grill It! demonstrator.

We brought home Saint Agnes Baking Company’s blueberry lemon sourdough bread, named after the widowed Grandma Agnes Rod who began baking in the 1940’s. That might be all we consumed in the food department. Well, except for our personal best — Peach Glazed Pig Cheeks from Famous Dave’s.


Peach Glazed Pig Cheeks On-A-Stick, MN State Fair, St. Paul,
Minnesota, September 2009, all photos © 2009 by
QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


These little morsels are pork cheeks marinated in garlic, herbs, spices, and honey served on-a-stick and grilled with peach chipotle glaze. Our friends really liked them. But we found them a little gamey. Though they were extremely tender, they tasted more like dark meat than the white pork I tend to eat. The peach glaze, however, was fantastic.

I did a little research and it seems that the pig cheeks are different than the jowls. I’m no expert, but I read that the pig jowl tends to be the actual fatty part that is almost like pork belly in its striation and normally does not include the pig cheek.

The pig cheeks are mostly from the side of the head, not from under the chin. The upper part is rather thin and mostly skin. The lower part is adjacent to the true jowl, so it is thicker than the upper part and has the same striations as the jowl.

Whether cheeks or jowls, I’m not much for consuming dicey parts of a pig. But I’m glad we tried them. My favorite times were when we stopped to chat with people like Stan Stokesbary of Standing Buffalo Knives who handcrafts knives out of old buzz saw blades. Or Ronald Kelsey who has part of his collection of 500 vintage seed bags displayed in the Horticulture Building.

How many pounds of seed are in a bushel? You’ll see the number on the bottom corner of each and every sack.

-posted on red Ravine, Happy Labor Day, Monday, September 7th, 2009

-related to posts: MN State Fair On-A-Stick (Happy B’Day MN!), MN State Fair On-A-Stick II – Video & Stats, On-The-Go List Of Must-Haves (MN State Fair), Nightshot – Carousel, Mary In Minnesota, food on-a-stick haiku

-More photos from this year’s Fair in QuoinMonkey’s Minnesota State Fair Series

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