Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Grace-Filled End to Our Potluck Paradise Tour

We could not have picked a more perfect ending for our Potluck Paradise Tour of Southwestern Minnesota in June of 2010. The Friends of the Graceville Public Library put on a potluck before our presentation. We gathered in the community center a block from the library. The building had been the school connected with Holy Rosary Church. For our visit the tables and chairs were lined up between the basketball hoops and the kitchen was filled with the fabulous aroma of warming hot dishes.

It was like stepping through a magic portal or a time machine. The linoleum-tiled halls were lined with wooden doors opening into the classrooms of the past. We could almost hear the voices of generations of school children echoing off the concrete block walls. The building was filled with the spirits of joyful community. And tangible evidence of a great many potlucks.

As it had at all of the stops on this tour, our formal presentation ended by evolving into conversation. The distance between audience and presenter evaporated in exclamations of shared memories of recipes, food, family life, and the power of women's community.

Our thanks and deepest appreciation go to those of you who invited us and worked so hard to make each stop such a success, We send our best wishes to the wonderful people who came to the seven libraries or town meeting rooms. You took us into your community if only for an hour or so and we are the better for the experience.

This is Potluck Paradise and we could not have wished for more.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Stopping Traffic in Maynard.

Two city signs in a row! We pulled onto the main street of Maynard, Minnesota last night to speak at the brand new city meeting room. What a lovely, modern facility with wireless sound system and set up for top-quality projection. But the most charming moment was when we spotted the classic "sandwichboard" style sign in the middle of Cynthia Street, announcing our event.

We had a fascinating time engaging with the memories of the ladies of Maynard during and after our presentation. Shared recollections of the role of wooden spoons raised a chuckle and consideration of the best ways to make sure our children and grandchildren can share the foods made by our mothers and grandmothers reminded us all of the power of food as a carrier of culture.

Today our last stop. Noon Potluck in Graceville. Hope you can join us!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Potluck Paradise -- the Talk of the Town

I don't think either one of us has ever been on "the Town Sign" before -- But there we were up on the main street in Lake Lillian, our second stop on Thursday. The audience in the charming City Center meeting room was worthy of being up on a sign, too. We had a wonderful time speaking to a lively group.

The day started off with a stop in the park just off Dawson's main street. There we had to prep the strawberries for the two Thursday talks. So we opened up the back of the car and sliced the berries into small plastic bags for sugaring down. It was a bit of an adventure in the pre-storm 30 mile per hour winds.

We spoke at 2 pm in the mezzanine of the Dawson public library. It is worth a trip to see this beautiful adaptive reuse of the old Armory into a stunning library with surrounding apartments. The mezzanine was the perfect setting for an interesting and delightful interaction with an audience that included young children and teenagers.

We met even more cooking-interested teens and tweens in Lake Lillian. We had a lot of fun sharing memories of the 1950s with those, like us, who actually remembered it, too! Here are just a few of the wonderful ladies of Lake Lillian. You can tell we are having a really good time.

Our two-ingredient strawberry jam demonstration went well and sharing the finished product spooned onto crackers brought both presentations to a tasty conclusion.

Two more stops -- Maynard tonight and the potluck at the Graceville Public Library tomorrow at noon.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Wonderful Time in Friendly Tyler

We were jamming last night in the very scenic and friendly town of Tyler, Minnesota.

We started the program at the Tyler Senior Center by playing a series of songs from the 1950s. From Good Night, Irene, sung by The Weavers, to Elvis' Heartbreak Hotel, the five songs demonstrated the exciting changes through the decade. There were quite a few toes tapping to those memories. Then we really started cooking. Rae finished the last step in cooking up Quick Strawberry Preserves, using the season's best fresh berries from Schumacher's Berry farm. Look for the recipe (coming soon) on our Potluck Paradise Blog.

Then Deb demonstrated How to Conquer Cabbage while Rae read the directions for this handy (and kitchen-safety promoting) cooking tip.

Today we head out for a 2 pm presentation at Dawson and then tonight in Lake Lillian.

This Potluck Paradise Tour of Southwestern Minnesota is fabulous fun. Thanks to all who have worked so hard to make this such a joy.

Hope to see you at our next stops!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

On the Great Southwest Minnesota Book Tour

Deb and I had two wonderful events on Tuesday. First stop -- the Heron Lake public library. There Deb "conquered cabbage" and I made a quick cucumber pickle. In the evening we took the show on the road to Slayton. We had hoped to show our Powerpoint, but for the first time in 5 days the sun was shining. The glorious setting sun lit up the lovely meeting room so brightly the images were practically invisible! None of us complained and we had a wonderful time talking, discussing, and demonstrating.

On Wednesday and Thursday we're hoping to make strawberry jam from the fresh berries Garrett picked for us at Schumacher's Nursery and Berry Farm just across the road from downtown Heron Lake.

Friday, we're not sure what we'll be demonstrating and Saturday there is an actual Potluck in Graceville before we talk. Check the schedule in the column on the right and join us!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Potluck Paradise in the Press and on the Road

St. Paul's Pioneer Press columnist Lynda Kochevar used Potluck Paradise to answer a reader's request for an oven-baked spare rib recipe.

This quickly and easily made cucumber and onion relish also from Potluck Paradise is the perfect accompaniment. It keeps for days in the refrigerator - perfect to go on top of a sandwich made from the rib leftovers.

Cucumber Salad
(serves 7 to 8)

1 large cucumber (or use 2 cucumbers and leave out onions)
2 medium onions
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Select a cucumber that has not been coated with wax and scrub it well. Slice cucumber and onion as thinly as possible and put into a heatproof bowl. Combine the sugar and vinegar in a small saucepan. Stir to dissolve sugar as you bring it to a boil over medium heat. Pour the boiling mixture over the cucumber and onions. Add salt if desired. Let stand until room temperature, stirring from time to time. Cover and put in refrigerator. Keeps for several days.

If you live in southwestern Minnesota Deb and I will be on the Great Potluck Paradise Book Tour in the middle of June. See dates at column on left. Details to come.

Happy Summer!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Luncheon at Waseca Historical Society-- May 27

Make your reservations for luncheon and program on how Minnesotans acted with "can do" ingenuity and "must do" drive to solve the problems of feeding our soldiers and allies during World War I.

I will be speaking about and reading from Food Will Win the War: Minnesota Crops, Cooks, and Conservation during World War I, my newest book from Minnesota Historical Society Press.

Event will be held at the Historical Society
315 2nd Avenue Northeast
Waseca, MN 56093

Admission is $11 for Waseca County Historical Society members and $16 from non-members.
Reservations must be made by Tuesday, May 25, 2010 and includes the cost of lunch.
Call (507) 835-7700 for more information or to make reservations.