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Archive for September, 2010

SOW-nuh, not sah-nuh!

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

The Opposite of ColdA new book from the University of Minnesota Press, The Opposite of Cold: The Northwoods Finnish Sauna Tradition, is a full-color history and celebration of Finnish saunas in the western Great Lakes.

Michael Nordskog and Aaron Hautala, author and photographer of The Opposite of Cold, will present a slide show about the book at the American Swedish Institute tomorrow, September 30, at 7:00 p.m. Architect David Salmela, who wrote the book’s foreword,will be giving the introduction at this event. While you’re there, check out the exhibit My Paradise: Finnish and Finnish-American Summer Architecture,  at the ASI until October 10.

For more details, click through to The Opposite of Cold book trailers.

Ojibwe in Minnesota Wins “Best Read in Minnesota 2010” from the Library of Congress Center for the Book

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Ojibwe in MinnesotaOjibwe in Minnesota by Anton Treuer was named “Best Read in Minnesota 2010″ by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.  The book was featured at the National Book Festival in Washington, DC, on Saturday, September 25.  Treuer is also the author of The Assassination of Hole in the Day, which will be available beginning in October.

Each year at the  festival, the Center for the Book, in cooperation with state affiliates, salutes the literary traditions of the fifty states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories. The Minnesota Center for the Book at the Minnesota Humanities Center selected Ojibwe in Minnesota and Night Driving by John Coy for this year’s list.

Ojibwe in Minnesota was featured in a “Discover Great Places Through Reading” brochure available at the festival, and the 52 Great Reads are listed on the festival website.

While most historians concentrate on relationships with whites to explain Ojibwe history, Treuer in both Ojibwe in Minnesota and The Assassination of Hole in the Day tells that history from a tribal point of view—focusing on Ojibwe interactions with other groups, the role of Ojibwe culture and tradition, and interviews with tribal elders.

Ojibwe in Minnesota also does not shy away from today’s controversial topics, covering them frankly and with sensitivity—issues of sovereignty as they influence the running of casinos and land management; the need for reform in modern tribal government; poverty, unemployment, and drug abuse; and constitutional and educational reform. He also tackles the complicated issue of identity and details recent efforts and successes in cultural preservation and language revitalization.

Anton Treuer, professor of Ojibwe at Bemidji State University, is the author of Ojibwe in Minnesota, The Assassination of Hole in the Day  and several books on the Ojibwe language. He is also the editor of Oshkaabewis Native Journal, the only academic journal of the Ojibwe language.

Serenely Full, of Pie

Friday, September 17th, 2010


Rhubarb meringue pieFall signals the end of freshly picked summer fruits, rhubarb and blueberries, and the like. But if you’re like guest blogger Bruce White, historian and MHS Press author, you’ll pull out your preserves–frozen or canned for the season–to prolong the tastes of summer.

My grandmother’s cooking never quite lived up to her own standards. The humidity or ambient temperature was never quite right. The stove ran a little too hot or too cold. She’d apologize when the food was served. But the truth was there was never any reason to apologize. Her pie crust was delectably flaky, achieved through the right combination of flour, salt, lard or shortening, and a sprinkling of cold water—water measured out in eight or nine tablespoonfuls, a spoonful at a time from a coffee cup of ice water.

There might of course be people who did not like apple pie, or gooseberry pie, or even “rhubarb pie deluxe,” made with a meringue top. Gooseberries were an acquired taste, and some people insisted on wrecking a good rhubarb pie with strawberries. My grandfather had a sweet tooth, so my grandmother made a lot of pies, jams, and jellies. She grew raspberries in the side yard of their home on the edge of Zimmerman, a small town, now a Twin Cities suburb, in Sherburne County. And after my grandfather, a retired Methodist minister, would return from one of his jaunts off to visit former parishioners in Wisconsin, Minnesota, or Iowa, crates of other fruits would appear, demanding to be preserved for the winter ahead.

My grandfather even sprinkled sugar on top of fresh tomato slices, so sweet tomato preserves (jam, really) made sense. They too were an acquired taste and not one a young boy would usually like. But tomatoes are fruit aren’t they? I remember liking tomato preserves on toast with a breakfast of bacon and eggs. The eggs were fried briefly in some of the bacon fat, then covered and steamed gently with a little water until the yolks had just become hard, the way I liked them. As I recall it was important to grind some fresh pepper on the egg before covering it to steam.

Most of my grandmother’s foods, as simple as they were, contained a great deal more than the mere ingredients. And this too was a reflection of her personality. She made a good mincemeat pie, but she did not mince words. She spoke in pungent phrases and sentences, gleaned from a lifetime of reading, that seemed to summarize a great deal in a few words, delivered with a sly smile. Did “the boys” (my brother and I) want to have ice cream on top of the rhubarb pie deluxe, or was that “gilding the lily”? (Yes, we did, and no, it was not.) Some visiting cousin might not eat the food that was put in front of him because, after all, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” If a boy or girl fought over the chair where someone else wanted to sit at the table, just to prevent that someone else from sitting there, she would caution against being “a dog in the manger.” And if “the boys” got a bit too pompous for their young ages, you might hear her say, “Oh I am Sir Oracle and when I ope my lips let no dog bark” (from “The Merchant of Venice,” act 1, scene 1), which at least made us pause.

At the end of a special meal, especially if she herself was a guest and not the cook, she would quote, with a smile and a sideways wave of her right thumb, from something she had read long ago,“Serenely full the epicure may say, fate cannot harm me for I have dined today.” It wasn’t until much later that I ran across the “serenely full” line in Marge Kreidberg’s MHS Press book, Food on the Frontier (page 234), in a quotation from the English writer Sidney Smith’s nineteenth-century rhymed recipe for potato salad. My grandmother had an eye for a good line. Even now I am full, serenely, of the memories of her food and the words that went with it.

Elizabeth McCann’s Rhubarb Pie Deluxe

2 cups 1/2-inch pieces unpeeled rhubarb (if frozen, let thaw first)


1 1/4 cups sugar, divided

2 eggs, divided

1 tablespoon flour

Prebaked pastry shell (preferably made from scratch)

6 tablespoons sugar for meringue

1/4 teaspoon vanilla


Wash rhubarb and dry carefully. Melt butter in saucepan, adding 1 cup sugar and rhubarb. Cook until rhubarb is softened and sugar is melted, stirring carefully.

Add egg yolks slightly beaten to remaining 1/4 cup sugar mixed with flour. Stir gradually into hot mixture and cook a few minutes, until jelly-like. Remove and cool. Pour into shell and top with meringue made with egg whites beaten with sugar and vanilla. Brown in slow oven 10 to 15 minutes at 325 degrees.

Hmongtown Marketplace

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Peoples History of the HmongA piece by Jim Ragsdale published in last week’s Pioneer Press titled “The Hmong in St. Paul” profiles Paul Hillmer, author of A People’s History of the Hmong. Ragsdale writes, “the Hmong story is the American immigrant story on fast-forward, happening in our backyard, and likely to happen again.”

While Hillmer’s book is a look at the political and cultural history of the Hmong, for a literal taste of Hmong culture, head on over to Hmongtown in St. Paul. Located at Como Avenue and Marion Street, the indoor-outdoor venue features a farmers market, “food court,” Hmong arts and crafts, videos, health and beauty items, jewelry, clothing, and over two hundred vendors.

Dance Boots

Friday, September 10th, 2010

The Dance BootsLinda LeGarde Grover’s new book of short stories, The Dance Boots, is the winner of the prestigious Flannery O’Connor Award for short fiction, awarded by the University of Georgia Press in its annual competition. The stories focus on an important Minnesota story: the painful legacy of boarding schools in an Ojibwe family.

Grover, a poet and member of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa who teaches in American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, uses aspects of her own family’s story to tell a larger truth. In an interview in today’s Pioneer Press, she told Mary Ann Grossman, “I have a lot of poetry about education. That doesn’t sound like a subject from which poetry flows, but education is where it all begins for me.” An early review of the book on Minnesota Reads notes, “Grover’s powerful descriptive writing is the book’s greatest asset.”

The book’s official publication date is September 15, and its coming-out party is at 7 pm next Friday at Birchbark Books, 2115 West 21st Street, Minneapolis.

A Long Tradition of Honoring the American Worker

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

“Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers ” (U.S. DOL website). The first Labor Day holiday was on September 5, 1882, in New York City, following the plans of the Central Labor Union. In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday; the idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated throughout the country.

The MHS Press/Borealis Books has a long tradition of honoring American workers, from millers to meatpackers, fishers to farmers. The following are some of our best offerings to help you understand the vital, daily labor that built our region and continues to keep us strong.

Parker, By These Hands  By These Hands: Portraits from the Factory Floor, photographs by David L. Parker

Hoffbeck, HaymakersThe Haymakers: A Chronicle of Five Farm Families, by Steven R. Hoffbeck

Pennefeather, Mill CityMill City: A Visual History of the Minneapolis Mill District, ed. by Shannon M. Pennefeather

Register, Packinghouse DaughterPackinghouse Daughter: A Memoir, by Cheri Register

Jensen, Calling This Place Home  Calling This Place Home: Women on the Wisconsin Frontier, 1850-1925, by Joan M. Jensen

Millikan, Union Against UnionsA Union against Unions: The Minneapolis Citizens Alliance and Its Fight Against Organized Labor, 1903-1947, by William Millikan



Behind the Scenes with Deborah Morse-Kahn

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

phpygMc8LDeborah Morse-Kahn, author of The Historic St. Croix Valley: A Guide, recently sat down with us to answer some questions we had about her experience in writing her new book.

How did this travel guide book come to be written?

I had written a similar guide for MHS Press, Lake Superior’s Historic North Shore, two years ago. I had seen great change come to that beautiful area, and much of the change was causing the disappearance of buildings and sites that represented life on the North Shore of a century and more ago. I knew that each village along Superior had its own story, but few people seemed aware of those stories. I wanted to highlight the creation of Minnesota’s state parks, which dominate the North Shore and provide a favorite destination for travelers from around the world, with their spectacular geologic formations, waterfalls and heavy foresting. Like Lake Superior, the St. Croix Riverway has very rich history evident in wonderful architecture and dramatic archaeology, a great variety of landscape, a long timeline of settlement and the same richness of public land preservation.

More Q&A with Deborah Morse-Kahn