Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Twinkie Sushi

Hi folks,

Do you have plain old twinkies lying around and the kiddies or the husband just wont eat them anymore? Cue the sound of kids moaning, "ahhgh, twinkies are just not hip anymore" (as if kids today use the word "hip"). Well then, run--don't walk--to the kitchen and ask your mom (as if mom is conveniently in the kitchen, think Joan Allen in Pleasantville) to help you turn those dusty old Twinkies into TWINKIE SUSHI! Now if your mom is challenged in the kitchen, or lacks creativity, or is just ambivalent about presentation, the good folks at Hostess have written this recipe and many more here: http://www.hostesscakes.com/recipe_view12.htm

"Hey ma, will you pass the wasabi?"

Related note: Best line in a film referring to the Hostess Twinkie goes to Nick Reve (Steve Buscemi) to Chad Palomino (James LeGros) in Tom DiCillo's film about filmmaking Living in Oblivion (1995): "You Hostess Twinkie mother f*****...."


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Another culinary curiosity

After spending the day at Oval beach, Lake Michigan, we bummed around Saugatuck. We all wanted to ride the chain ferry, but it was closed due to high winds, which causes me to ask what high winds? Anyway, here's a pic of Jessica and Emily wishing they could ride the chain ferry.
While looking into the shops in town, we came across Kilwin's Old Fashioned Chocolates, Fudge, Ice Cream Est. 1947 and decided to go in.
To my surprise, in amongst the over-sized nut-caramel-chocolate patties, I found the most pedestrian/ unique item in their candy case...a chocolate covered TWINKIE!
This kind of stuff causes me to abruptly shift into academic gear and describe/ analyze what I see going on here. I'll spare the blog the gory details, but here is the condensed version: (1) Twinkies have been around since 1933 and can be purchased at finer gas stations nation-wide. (2)Virtually anyone who grew up with any measure of affluence in the US has consumed or is at least aware of this "delicious" cream-filled snack cake, but here, (3)the good folks at Kilwin's have taken the "beloved" snack cake and ramped up the presentation with a liberal--not Democratic--dipping in milk chocolate, then is drizzled with both dark and white chocolate. (4)One may purchase this triple chocolate bomb for a just $6.50 each. If you are wondering if I bought one? The answer is NO.
When looking at the points above, One may see that Twinkies--an industrial food, common across the nation--can be personalized/ presented in a way that capitalizes on the nostalgia of eating this food while increasing the desirability/ visual appeal by adding value, here multiple layers of chocolate, that raises the price and makes the "Striped Twinkie" significantly less affordable than the original product and may be seen as more exclusive. Unlike the common Twinkie, a staple of lunch boxes across the nation, this Twinkie is only available at Kilwin's and is made uncommon by what Kilwin's does to it--in the same way that adding a signature to a document communicates authorship--Kilwin's adds their identity to a mass-produced food.
Happy eatin' NC

Last weekend before semester starts

Title says it all but could also be titled: last weekend before the craziness starts. I'm looking forward to teaching Cultural Anthropology and Minority groups, but needed one last fling with the family before the "real" work starts. Se we went to visit Neil & Erica in Grand Rapids and then back out to Saugatuck and Lake Michigan for a day. I caught some interesting bird pics (below) and invite you to vote on YOUR favorite. (1)"Drunk Bird Walking" (2)"podiatric self-diagnosis" (3)"I dare ya..." or (4)"hop-d-wash"

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

First day of school

Jessica survived her first day of junior high...
But she sure looks tired:

Emily is happy to be in fifth grade and is looking forward to earning her way to camp by selling candy bars...would any readers care to buy one, or ten?

Best, NC

Monday, August 18, 2008

34th Annual Birmingham Ethnic Festival

Isten Hozott!

Thirty-five years ago, the Birmingham neighborhood in East Toledo was about to be bull-dozed in the name of "progress." They rallied the neighborhood by rolling out their traditions and heritage for a one-day event under the mid-August sun. Thanks to that large hand-full of active, forward-thinking individuals who stood in middle of the intersection of Consaul and Genesee--under the shadow of St. Stevens Church--and stared down "progress," the traditional Hungarian neighborhood still exists today. Subtitled "A Sunday in the Old Country" the Birmingham Ethnic Festival has celebrated the victory with a street festival that functions as a large family reunion. I overheard comments like "If you want to see someone from the old neighborhood, this is the place to be" and witnessed embraces from friends who may only see each other when they make their annual return to the Birmingham neighborhood.

Unlike the rainy day last year, it was a gorgeous day for the festival; I hope they experienced record attendance and that the coffers of the community organizations, that depend upon this festival to provide funding for their activities all year, burst from the proceeds. This year, Michelle and I attended the Calvin United Chicken Paprikas Dinner--delicious--of a perfectly seasoned chicken breast and wing, perched atop on a bed of dumplings, all covered with Paprikas Gravy, with hand-made Kolbaz, a side of creamed cucumber salad, crusty Vienna bread, butter and choice of beverage (water, fruit punch, coffee) in the basement of the historic church.

Out on the street, there were options galore. Calvin United had a stand selling Szalonna Sütes(Hunky Turkey) Sandwiches. Their version differs from that prepared by the Hungarian Club, in that the Jowl Bacon is freshly roasted over a apple wood fire and the rendered fat is drizzled over the entire combination of bacon, pepper, onion, and tomato on a single slice of crusty Vienna bread:

And there is beer, beer, beer, running through the streeths. I'm amazed how much beer there it here. Each church has a beer stand, the bars are open, and according to one of my informants from last year it's a tradition of sorts for him "Uncle Andy" to introduce the underage nephews to their first beer at the festival. Not only is this ritual tolerated, it's expected--it's part of the culture in Birmingham.

There's music:

And Dancing:

Games of chance:

And no trip to Birmingham is complete without a stop to George Takacs's Market for foot-long links of their delicious kolbasz sausage.

Best, NC

Saturday, August 16, 2008


There's a lot to do this weekend in NW Ohio. All of the venues I am writing about occur within an hour's drive (the way I drive) from BG. In addition to the Bucyrus Bratwurst Festival and the Pemberville Free Fair, there are:

The National Tractor Pulling Championship, in Bowling Green, Ohio which I have never been to but since I live within 2 blocks of the grandstand at the Wood County Fairground, I can hear the roar and smell the exhaust well enough from my back yard:

Here is a shot from across the street from the fair grounds--a short 4 minute walk from my house:

Corn City Festival in Deshler, Ohio. These are photos from last year. I don't think we will be able to attend this year.

Steamed corn in the husk:

Over-sized ear of corn made out of MANY 1 gallon and 1/2 gallon milk bottles (I love folk art):

I'll have to see if I can make it to the International Festival at the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo in Perrysburg, Ohio today. I have "real" work I need to do before the semester starts like finish writing two syllabi and prepping for two new courses: Cultural Anthropology and Minority Groups. But what better sets of data can one research? I guess you could ask me where the distinguishing line between work and play is here...but as an academic who works with an expanded definition of "academic" I can blur that line as long as I produce something useful.

On Sunday, we will be at the Birmingham Ethnic (Hungarian) Festival in Toledo. If you remember Jamie Farr's character from M*A*S*H, Corporal Klinger, you have heard of Tony Packo's Hot Dog Stand in the Birmingham neighborhood in Toledo. Tony Packo's anchors the festival at the intersection of Front and Consaul. There's an amazing story about this festival, peppered with a dose of intrigue, literally about taking back the street and preserving the neighborhood from "urban progress" and those who want to "improve" a public/ private space.

Hunky Turkey Sandwich (flame-roasted jowl bacon, onion, green peppers, tomato, and a liberal dousing with rendered jowl-bacon grease on crusty Vienna Bread, two douses if you want it "Hungarian" style:

When we think of the average work-a-day Joe as the repository of culture, these types of events gain traction and one may ask, what is it about this festival that generates such interest and what does it do for those who organize, participate in, or attend this festival?

Best, NC

Pemberville Free Fair 2008

The tiny village of Pemberville, Ohio lies approximately 10 miles down the Portage River from BG and hosts a plethora of historic and heritage events. Historic in that the Pemberville Free Fair is the last remaining free fair in the State of Ohio and the community regularly selects an item, event, activity to highlight as a way of communicating and constructing community pride. There are events throughout the year, and the community puts on a quality gathering--all the time. The restaurants are a notch above serviceable and I have never walked away dissatisfied. Pemberville is also the home of Beeker's General Store, one of Ohio's oldest general stores. A great place to visit and shop if you are looking for a unique item. I tend to buy a lot of gifts for friends and family at Beeker's.

Last night, we were in PV for the free fair. Michelle wanted her annual Waldo Sandwich fix. A "Waldo" is named after a small village near Delaware, OH where they take thick-sliced Eckrich Bologna and fry it on a griddle, slap it on a sandwich bun with a slice of American, dill pickle slices, and offer your choice of condiments: HEINZ ketchup or French's mustard. Michelle says it tastes like a flat hot dog. It's my hand, but I don't eat fried bologna:

Here is an image of my friend Sam Herrington with his heart-healthy Giant Tenderloin Sandwich I talked him into buying. I compared it to a Wienerschnitzle folded in half and slid between a diminutive bun with pickles and your choice of condiments: Heinz and French's. He took my advice that it was delicious and dove in. Since he had just finished the five-miler, he downed it with glee and declared it delicious! His metabolism runs so high, you should watch this dude down a plate of fried potatoes at The Corner Grill in BG at 2:00 AM.

Kermit the Tenderloin says HAVE A NICE DAY!

Best, NC

Bucyrus Bratwurst Festival 2008


One of the chapters of my dissertation focuses on the role of ethnic foods and heritage in constructing a sense or connection to place. I have conducted a significant amount of field research at this festival but needed to attend and document the opening ceremony. So, this past Thursday, I dragooned my junior research assistant, Emily, and we drove to Bucyrus to be at the kick-off and to interview some of the participants.

If you want a more detailed description/ analysis, you'll just need to buy the book when it becomes available.

For 36 of the Bratwurst Festival's 41 years, Boyd Long has run a ceremonial "First Brat" from the Colonel Crawford Lions Club booth located on Sandusky Avenue two blocks South to the main stage on Warren Street.

As he rounds the corner from Sandusky to Warren, the two-man band strikes up a rousing rendition of "Happy Wanderer."

Long delivers the "first Brat to the standing, and anxiously awaiting, Bratwurst Queen and she takes the first bite, passes it to her first attendant, the first passes it to the second and then to the festival director, Greg Northrup. In unison, the royalty declare the 2008 festival officially open.

Then they all dance to the "Beer Barrel Polka."

Polka music fills the streets and the HEAVENLY aroma of brats wafts on the gentle breeze. You'll notice that the streets are busy for 12:00 PM on a Thursday...wait til after the parade. This festival typically draws 150,000 people to this town of around 14,000 for delightful treats such as Pita-Wurst from the Colonel Crawford Lion's Club:

Bratwurst Casserole lovingly prepared from a fifth-generation family recipe by the First United Methodist Church in Bucyrus:

Hand-cut-and-battered fried Swiss cheese:

Jumbo Bavarian Cream Puffs from Schmidt's in The German Village, Columbus, Ohio:

and the BEST bratwurst in the nation.

Best, NC