Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Minnesota - May 11, 1858

My first experience with Minnesota was probably watching the Mary Tyler Moore Show in the 1970s. I have good memories of my whole family lined up on the sofa to watch the show on Saturday night on our black and white television set, and eventually on our new color set. I really loved that show. Mary Richards was so cool, and she had that groovy apartment! Why she moved to that generic one-bedroom in a high rise is a mystery to me!

My first visit to Minnesota was in 1998. We spent my daughter's first birthday at the COMO zoo in St. Paul while we were visiting our friends David and Lesley who lived in the Twin Cities. We've been out one other time since then, but they have since moved to Australia. We have also visited Duluth where one of James' former colleagues lives and works at the University of Minnesota. I can say for sure that Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth are all great place to visit in the summer. I remember seeing lovely gardens in Duluth. I am not sure I would fare well during a Minnesota winter though.

I couldn't resist a Garrison Keillor book for my Minnesota reading. Lake Wobegon Summer 1956 tells the story of young Gary, a fourteen-year-old boy who lives with his Sanctified Brethren family in Lake Wobegon, and lusts after his older cousin Kate. He listens to the Doo Dads on the radio and hopes for them to make it big. While Gary reads his clandestine copy of High School Orgies (which includes an obligatory story about a horny librarian), and writes his own ribald tales on the typewriter his Uncle Sugar gifts him, he imagines the conversations his grandfather in heaven must be having about him with Jesus. His typewriter also allows him to work for the local paper writing about the Wobegon Wippets. And we wonders what possessed his classmate Roger Guppy to run off across state lines with his girlfriend in a stolen car. The descriptions of "the older sister", whom he never names, are purely the work of an unsympathetic teen. As a reader I just couldn't like her, all the while I knew that if we read the same story from her point of view that young Gary would come off as a mean-spirited pervert. Keillor's descriptions of the house, the town, and the school were vivid, and the story was just plain funny. It was a great airplane read - really passed the time.

American Dream is the story of the Austin, Minnesota Hormel Packing Plant strike in the late 1980s. The begininng reminded me a lot of Roger & Me (see my Michigan post), but then moved away from it. James pointed out that what was different is that a Michael Moore documentary would give much more of the big economic picture, whereas this one told the story of a group of workers through a very close lens, and told the story well, and in-depth. A long strike forces some workers to go back to their jobs at a lower salary, those who tough out the strike are angry at the strikebreakers and scabs, fist fights and family rifts are some of the consequences. Sadly, the movie has a Moore-esque ending, with the corporation winning and most of the stikers out of a job. Watching the families pack, and seeing the "going out of business" signs posted on store fronts one can only hope that Austin will fare better than Flint. A final note that the Hormel Plant had leased part of its building to another company that was paying much lower wages prompted to James to say that this movie is really a pre-quel to Fast Food Nation, demonstrating how the packing plants became the destination of new, undocumented immigrants, and I had to agree.

The Minnesota State Fair is known for its Food-on-a-Stick, so after I chose two recipes from the Minnesota State Recipes website (Indian Fry Bread and Blueberry Milkshakes) I decided that I should attempt to make the Fry bread on a stick. I found three wooden chopsticks in our utensil drawer and wrapped the dough around them before putting them in the hot vegetable oil (I chose not to fry them in fat as the recipe suggests). It was a bit cumbersome to do it that way, and then hard to eat on the stick, so we ended up removing from the stick and just tucking in to them. All three of us enjoyed them, and they were so flavorful there was no need for butter or other condiments, plus, they retained their steamy heat for a long time. We will remember these next winter as an easy-to-make warm treat. They made the house smell delicious, too. As my brother-in-law would say, "they put the "come" in comfort food".

Fruit shakes are a common breakfast item at our house, usually made with a combination of fresh and frozen fruit, juice, and yogurt. The Blueberry Milkshake was made with actual milk and ice cream. I don't buy ice cream much, but I remembered that Breyer's had some sort of purity pledge involving using only all-natural ingredients, so when I saw a low-fat version of their vanilla flavor I bought it. When I got home James asked me why I bought ice cream with Splenda. Did I? Yep. All-natural? I don't think so. We may not be purists ourselves about everything we eat, but one thing we really avoid is artifical sweetners. Blech. The Regan Administration pushed those through in the 1980s even though the FDA advised against them. In any case that was the ice cream we had, and I have to admit it tasted good. James and I liked the milkshakes. Paloma tried hers, but after a few tastes informed us that she doesn't "tend to like things that are blueberry flavored and frozen". Well, who knew?

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post, as always, and a great time learning about another state. A couple days later, I heard something very geographic about Minnesota on NPR. Fishing season is apparently a very big deal there: