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Archive for November, 2009

A Chill in the Air?

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Bring Warm ClothesA lovely warm November is ending, and it looks like we’re going to have winter after all. Got warm clothes? Peg Meier’s best-selling Minnesota scrapbook Bring Warm Clothes shows how others dealt with the cold and helped shape who Minnesotans are today. A few of the hundreds of stories she tells are showcased in the popular Twin Cities Public Television program inspired by the book. According to the show’s production journal,shooting the story about the grasshopper plagues was especially challenging: “These grasshoppers are expensive little bugs . . . 4 live ones and one that died on us for $50 . . . The thing with bugs of course is when it’s cold, they sort of slow way down . . . like waaaaaay down . . . So the starring monsters of terror were motionless as they hit the cold window sill of the cold historic house.”

An “artful collection of stories”

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

A Travel Guide for Reckless Hearts book coverThe New York Times Book Review praised N. M. Kelby’s  A Travel Guide for Reckless Hearts yesterday as “an artful collection of stories.” To find out when and why N. M. is moving back to the Twin Cities, see her interview with Amy Goetzman in MinnPost.

Go, Gophers!

Friday, November 20th, 2009

Floyd of RosedaleThe Minnesota Gophers football team wraps up the regular season with a trip to Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa, on Saturday. The Gophers (6–5) will face off against the Iowa Hawkeyes (9–2)  in the schools’ annual battle for Floyd of Rosedale. Kickoff is slated for 11:02 a.m.

If you’re a college football fan, you know this border battle is one of many traditions for the Golden Gophers. In the MHS Press book Minnesota Sports Almanac: 125 Glorious Years by Joel A. Rippel (with foreword by Patrick Reusse), you’ll find all kinds of stats and stories of the Gophers football program (dating back to their first game in 1882), including other infamous Big Ten trophy showdowns (the fight for Paul Bunyan’s Axe against Wisconsin, for the Little Brown Jug against Michigan, and for the Victory Bell against Penn State). And in Rippel’s profiles of Minnesota’s national title teams in the 1930s, ’40s, and 1960, under the leadership of highly respected coaches Bernie Bierman and Murray Warmath, you’ll learn the real history behind the recent commentary in the Wall Street Journal that Minnesota, Tulane, Southern Methodist, and the University of Chicago are all former college football powers that at one time “had it all — and lost it.”

Fishhouse Parade

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Layne Kennedy from A Hard-Water WorldGet your augers and rods ready! Aitkin’s annual World Famous Fishhouse Parade on Friday, November 27, celebrates the coming ice fishing season. The event features wacky and wonderful ice houses displayed on trailers and paraded through downtown Aitkin as thousands gather to watch the yearly ritual procession.

For a glimpse into the quirky world of ice fishing, check out A Hard-Water World: Ice Fishing and Why We Do It, with photographs by Layne Kennedy and text by Greg Breining.

Out in the Woods

Monday, November 16th, 2009

Ojibwe snowshoeIt’s deer-hunting season, and Minnesota’s hunters are doing what people have done around here for millennia. This Ojibwe hunter chased his deer on snowshoes in about 1870. Samuel Pond, a missionary to the Dakota who wrote Dakota Life in the Upper Midwest, went hunting with a Dakota band in 1834 and was deeply impressed. “Few were willing to be left behind, the deer-hunt with all its hardships had strong attractions for young and old, and all were wanted . . . After the hunters went out in the morning, the children in the camp watched for their return with game. When a deer was brought in, they all shouted Oo-koo-hoo! Oo-koo-hoo! making the camp ring.”

And what have this region’s families been doing, once they’ve got their deer? The earliest recorded accounts of Ojibwe people tell of the cook fire where a single large birch-bark container held stew of some kind. This recipe for venison stew, recorded in 1985, is from The Minnesota Ethnic Food Book by Anne R. Kaplan, Marjorie A. Hoover, and Willard B. Moore.

Venison Stew

2 tablespoons lard

1 1/2 pounds venison, cut in 1-inch pieces

1/4 cup flour

1 can beef bouillon

1 can water

1 1/2 cups onion pieces

1 cup carrot pieces

1/3 cup uncooked wild rice

2 medium potatoes, cut in 2-inch chunks

2 stalks celery, cut in 2-inch pieces

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1. Melt lard in Dutch oven or heavy 4- to 5-quart pan. Pat venison pieces with absorbent paper to dry. Dust meat with flour and brown in hot lard. Do not crowd pan. For best browning, do meat pieces in 2 batches.

2. Add bouillon and water. Cover pan. Simmer for 1 hour, 15 minutes. Add onions, carrots, wild rice, and more water, if necessary. Cover and simmer for additional 1/2 hour.

3. Add potatoes, celery, salt, and pepper. Cover and simmer until potatoes and celery are tender. Test meat for tenderness. May need to cook an additional 15 minutes.

4. Gravy is usually of right consistency for serving. Can thicken if desired.

VARIATIONS: Vegetables can vary as to amounts and kinds. Also, some cooks use more wild rice, while others use more liquid and call the combination soup.

Kevin Kling at the Central Library Thursday Night

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

Kevin Kling\'s Holiday Inn book coverRenowned Minnesota playwright and storyteller Kevin Kling will be reading from and discussing his new book Kevin Kling’s Holiday Inn at the Minneapolis Central Library on 11/12. The doors open at 6:15, and the show starts at 7:00. And it’s free! Seating is first come, first served.

For a taste of what you’ll hear on Thursday, take a look at the book’s hilarious prologue.

The Hungry Planet: What the World Eats

Monday, November 9th, 2009

phplg2fI1November marks the season of winter baking and holiday meal planning–food is on our minds these short days. Mark your calendar now for the “Hungry Planet Exhibit: What the World Eats,” opening this Wednesday, November 11, and running through May 2010, at the University of Minnesota’s Bell Museum of Natural History.

The grocery lists and dining tables of people around the globe are the subject of this provocative exhibit based on the national, best-selling book by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio. “Hungry Planet” combines mesmerizing photos with hands-on displays that explore issues of food in the 21st century–what people eat and where it comes from, as well as how different cultures approach the growing and processing of food.

The Affair

Friday, November 6th, 2009

The Affair“Tis the season of holiday entertaining and cooking. If you’re looking for ideas on how to make your parties and food spectacular this year, check out The Affair, a culinary extravaganza at the Minneapolis Convention Center this weekend.  The event features experts on food, wine, cheeses, chocolates, table settings, and more. Meet the Star Tribune’s Taste editor and author of Come One, Come All: Easy Entertaining with Seasonal Menus, Lee Svitak Dean, at 11:45 both days as she shares her entertaining tips. Kim Ode, also of the Star Tribune and author of Baking with the St. Paul Bread Club, will lead a demo on holiday cookies at 12:45 on Saturday and Sunday. Bon appétit!

Minnesota and Civic Engagement

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

Citizen Solution coverThe Center for Democracy and Citizenship at Augsburg College has just released a study that finds Minnesotans are leaders in voting and volunteering in the United States. The study, which you can download, was cowritten by codirecter of the center Harry Boyte, who is also the author of The Citizen Solution: How You Can Make a Difference, a hands-on guide to community activism using examples from Minnesota.

Iric Nathanson on Dueling Lawn Signs

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

phpTKEMELGuest blogger Iric Nathanson is the author of the new book Minneapolis in the Twentieth Centry: The Growth of an American City.

In my South Minneapolis neighborhood, the lawn signs are dueling during these final days of the city election campaign.  The red ones are urging a “no” vote on Amendment 168 on November 3, while the blue ones are calling for a “yes” vote on the same measure.  The controversial amendment to the Minneapolis charter abolishes an obscure city agency known as the Board of Estimate and Taxation, which sets the property tax levy for the city of Minneapolis and its  Park and Recreation Board.

Across the river in St. Paul, there are no “yes” and “no” signs because that city does not have a Board of Estimate and Taxation.  There, the city council and the mayor set the tax levy.  Unlike Minneapolis, where the voters elect the members of an independent Park Board, the St. Paul park system functions as just another department of city government.

While they may be known as “twins,” our two central cities are quite different when it comes to their governmental structures. In St. Paul, municipal government is relatively straightforward, with a mayor who oversees the day-to-day operations of city government and a seven-member council that functions mainly in a legislative capacity.

In Minneapolis, the organizational chart in city hall is considerably more complicated.  Here, the mayor and our thirteen-member council have worked out a delicate power-sharing arrangement, while independent agencies like the Board of Estimate and the Park Board function as mini power centers.
The current brouhaha over the Board of Estimate and Taxation is the legacy of more than a century of battles over charter reform in Minneapolis. Year after year,  the “no” votes have prevailed at municipal elections as  reformers have tried but failed to overhaul the city’s convoluted structure.

If history is any guide, the “no” votes are likely to prevail again when it comes to Amendment 168 on the Minneapolis election ballot.