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14 posts from September 2011


Ultimate hotdish contest judging is complete — results coming next week

I got an email today from accomplished regional chef Tom Skold, regarding my mention of him in an Aug. 30 column about his Rochester Community Ed. cooking class ("One dish wonders").

Here's the class description in the course listings: “Check your cream of mushroom soup at the door. These one-dish meals are all from scratch and up to date: just add a salad and bread for a complete meal. We'll work in groups to make these stand-alone sensations: Straw Potato Gelatte with Leeks and Smoked Salmon; Baked Pasta with Chicken, Mushrooms and Smoked Mozzarella; Tamale Pie with Pork and Green Chilies; and Roasted Vegetable Gratin with Walnuts and Feta. Please bring an apron. (Preferred aprons will contain jokes about 'hot dish.')"

I used the course description as a jumping off point for a defense of cream of mushroom soup in general, and of my "Ultimate Minnesota Potluck Recipe Contest," in particular.

Here's Tom's email: 

Thanks for just sayin something about my class. We were full to the gills and everyone had a great time. By creating interest through your writing you help the cause of better eating in Southeast Minnesota. And yes I do like things made with canned soup though I'm forbidden from using it myself. I'm also Lutheran and Scandanavian, though I'm seldom allowed in my church's kitchen by the ladies who run the place.
Best regards,
Chef Tom Skold 


Speaking of the contest...

On Wednesday night about 30 people at the church my family attends, Mt. Olive Lutheran in Rochester,got together to judge the 19 finalists at a mini-potluck organized by a Mt. Olive "church lady," Pam Berg, whom I enlisted to coordinate the judging. The judges were ages 6 through 70-something and ranged from accomplished cooks to accomplished eaters. I'm in the process of compiling the results and judges' comments, and I'll list the winners in my Saturday, Oct. 8 column. I'll include the recipe for the overall winner in the print edition. Other recipes will be posted online.

Thanks again to the 80 or so people who submitted recipes for the contest. This has been great fun! Stay tuned.


Letter from a man who lost a keepsake

Here's a letter from an Albert Lea man who's looking for help in recovering a lost keepsake.

On Sunday September 25, 2011 at 2:30pm, my daughter's U-12 soccer team played on Watson 2 North field by Essex Parkway.  Somewhere between the parking lot, the sideline, and back, my wedding ring slipped off my finger after apparently losing weight from a recent surgery.  The ring was gold in color with a blue manufactured sapphire stone and small diamonds on each side.

While the ring is not an extremely high valued one, and certainly does not define the love of my wife nor the 17 years of marriage, it still was a gift from my beautiful wife and the love we share.  I am absolutely sick over the loss of this ring.

I am offering a reward, or donation in your name to your favorite benefit, for its prompt return along with my most heartfelt gratitude.  With the tough economic times it is a lot to expect a person to look for the owner, yet I have the deepest faith in the people of Minnesota to do the right thing and return the ring.  If you have the ring, or know who does, I would really appreciate getting it back on my finger as soon as possible.

Bryan Purdie
(507) 318-9313
Albert Lea, MN 56007


Mayo Clinic alert: Joe Mauer speaks

Here's a new feature of this blog. I see and hear references to the Mayo Clinic in the media all over the country and internationally. Yesterday's Mayo Clinic alert was that University of Minnesota Football Coach Jerry Kill would be examined at Mayo Clinic in Rochester in an effort to cure or quell the seizures that have stricken him over the past couple of weeks.

Today's Mayo Clinic alert comes from ESPN 1500 radio (based in the Twin Cities) columnist Phil Mackey, who interviewed Joe Mauer. He did a Q and A with Joe Mauer during batting practice at Target Field this afternoon. 

Here's an excerpt of the interview:

When we hear Mayo Clinic we think serious stuff. Were you or the doctors worried it was more than pneumonia?

"That's what Mayo does; they check everything, and that's what they came up with. I trust the doctors and am doing everything they told me to do."

So do you sit there and wonder if it was something more serious?

"You think about a lot of things, but you go down to Mayo and they rule a lot of things out. The thing is, right now I've got to get over this pneumonia, and hopefully I can get over it sooner than later and have a productive offseason."




Family appreciates what their deceased son's employer has done for them

Here's a letter to the editor we can't run in our print edition because of the precedent it would set: Individuals thanking private businesses for jobs well done. But it's a nice letter that deserves some attention.

Our family is so impressed with the staff at Rochester Ford. Our son, Garrett, passed away July 4th in a car accident. He was employed by Rochester Ford since last December. They have been exceptional to us
going above and beyond what is expected of an employer.  This is one of the hardest situations for a family to experience.  They have supported us at our son's memorial service and went as far as to start a fundraiser for our family.  The employees donated money which was matched by Rochester Ford and given to our family.  If you are in the area or do business with Rochester Ford, please remember our son, Garrett, and the support we received from their company.

Thank you,
Bill, Lavonne, Jessie and Keatton Steiger

Cartoon idea from a reader

I love getting column ideas from readers. In fact, many of the column suggestions I've received from readers over the years have resulted in actual columns or feature stories. So, keep 'em coming.

Conversely, it's been my experience that cartoonists aren't real thrilled about using ideas from other folks. Something about the creative process, I guess. "If I draw something someone else suggested then I no longer have ownership" is the theory. Or something.

So, the following cartoon idea we got via email the other day from a reader probably won't get drawn. You'll just have to visualize it in your mind. Here's the email:

Well, I don't know who to give this to, and i'm not much of an artist.

One guy (hobo outfit) is hanging from a cliff, with a rope of money.  At
the end of that rope of money is Uncle Sam.  On top of the cliff is an
incredibly wealthy guy holding a sign saying "don't tax the rich", or "we
won't help".

(This is the reader's punctuation, not mine.)

I have a question. Are there still hobos out there, and, if so, what do they wear?



What's with the Honeycrisp apple craze?

Images-6 All right, all right. I just have to say something. I've been reading and hearing a lot lately about the fact that the first Honeycrisp apples of the season are now available at grocery stores, farmers markets and roadside stands. People are excited. So excited that they're paying $4 or $5 a pound for these highly sought after gems, when they could be paying less than half that for other varieties of delicious apples.

Personally, I'm a Zestar fan. Later in the season, I love to munch on Haralsons and Jonathans. SweeTangos are good too. (Maybe, now that the University of Minnesota has been forced by lawsuit to broaden the number of trees made available, and to whoe, I'll actually find them a little more often.)

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the Honeycrisp. It's firm and sweet, with just the right amount of tartness. But is it worth the current price, when there are so many other cheaper options available? Personally, I think not. I enjoy going to orchards and sampling the various varieties. I'll pay more for a bag of apples at an orchard that offers samples than I will at a grocery store. This is because although I know which varieties I generally like, you often can't tell by looking at apples whether they're at their peak or have been sitting around for a few weeks. You have to taste them. Jonathans, for example, are great when they're fresh-picked, but not so good when they've been sitting in the 'fridge or garage for a while.

All of this is making me hungry for a cool, crisp Haralson. I'll hold off on the Honeycrisps until the seasonal novelty wears off and the price comes down.


Who was the best Minnesota governor of the past 50 years?

DownloadedFile-4 I'm working on a column about the best governors of Minnesota during the last 50 years. This is completely subjective, but it's going to be based on my reading and observations about the governors who've served our state since 1961, three years after the Legislature expanded gubernatorial terms from two to four years. I'll probably list the top three, with a couple of honorable mentions.

Any feedback from readers is welcome and ecouraged. Just to refresh your memories, history and political buffs, here's a list of the 11 governors who've served Minnesota in the last half-century:

Orville Freeman, DFL

Elmer L. Andersen, Republican

Karl Rolvaag, DFL

Harold LeVander, Republican

Wendell Anderson, DFL

Rudy Perpich, DFL

Al Quie, Republican

Rudy Perpich, (two non-consecutive terms)

Arne Carlson, Republican

Jesse Ventura, Independent

Tim Pawlenty, Republican

Mark Dayton, DFL



Are euphemisms for profanity OK in online comments?

We're having an interesting discussion among editors here in the newsroom about whether we should permit our online commenters to use euphemisms for swear words. Is use of the now-common conversational term "freakin'" OK as a replacement for ... well, you know what it's a replacement for.

Same with friggin' or, my personal (un)favorite — "effing."

On first blush, I'd say no. We should keep things civil. But it's really not that simple. If we disallow "freakin'" then what about "gosh darnit?" Most people are OK with their 5-year-old saying that. But it's really nothing more than a euphemism for a profanity that takes the Lord's name in vain.

And what about words like "crap," and "suck?" Should we allow those? 

Or, how about commenters who take columnists', editors' and their fellow commenters' names in vain. Like, the perpetually grumpy "freeman" who calls me Buylater and refers to P-B Managing Editor Jay Furst as "Mr. Last."

Yes, we want folks to be civil. But if we start eliminating borderline offensive stuff, what are we left with?

Just askin'?

Let me know what you think about allowing online euphemisms for profanity. 


Prepare your pet peeves. Punctuation Day is fast approaching

I know a guy — well educated person — who doesn't like periods. He can write a 200-word paragraph without using a single one, until the end. Instead, he pauses long, long sentences with multiple semicolons and commas. Drives me crazy.

He could benefit from a little remedial training on sentence structure. Strunk and White's "The Elements of Style," might be a good start. 

National Punctuation Day for the last seven years has been celebrated on Sept. 24. That is, if you can actually "celebrate" a day dedicated to proper punctuation in an era when a lot of people under the age of 30 have a difficult time writing a complete sentence without straying from using actual words :)

Anyway, send me your biggest punctuation pet peeves and I'll include them in a blog post and/or column a week from Saturday.



Beware, the end is near!

DownloadedFile-3 Boy, you'd think armageddon was approaching, what with all of the Tweets, blog posts and warnings I've been seeing regarding the frost of the season predicted for Wednesday night.

Just a reminder. It's mid-September. We live in Minnesota. Every year about this time, it gets so cold at night that petunias, tomatoes and basil plants freeze and die. Sometimes people — me included — put old blankets and sheets over our plants in an effort to prolong the inevitable. Later, tired of covering our precious plants night after night, we pick unripe vegetables, and promise ourselves we'll make fried green tomatoes or sour green salsa but then allow them rot in brown paper bags. 

For several weeks, we're in denial that winter is approaching. We continue to go to work in our shirt sleeves, and leave the windows open at night when we're sleeping, even when it's 40 degrees outside. We shiver in our sweatshirts but refuse to turn on the heat when it is so cold in the living room you could hang meat in it. We leave the lawn chairs in the trunk, and the camping gear in the garage with the hope that it'll be nice enough for one more outdoor outing.

And, yes, sometimes we get that nice day, or maybe even a few days. That Indian summer. That brief respite from the Cold Season.

Still, we know in our heart of hearts that...