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Archive for November, 2013

Original Local by Heid E. Erdrich

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Original LocalHeid E. Erdrich, photo by FRESH Photography & Media Spirit Plate by Aza Erdrich

Local foods have garnered much attention in recent years, but the concept is hardly new: indigenous peoples have always made the most of nature’s gifts. Their menus were truly the “original local,” celebrated here in 135 home-tested recipes paired with stories from tribal activists, food researchers, families, and chefs.

Heid E. Erdrich shares family and community recipes in her new cookbook, Original Local: Indigenous Foods, Stories, and Recipes from the Upper Midwest.

Join us tomorrow, Friday, November 22, at 7 pm at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (1917 Logan Avenue South) in Minneapolis at the book launch hosted by Birchbark Books to sample recipes from the book prepared by Chef Jason Champagne.

Click here for more info, recipes, and interviews with Heid!

The Klondike Fizz

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

Rae Katherine Eighmey Soda Shop Salvation

When Prohibition shuttered saloons, thirsty law-abiding citizens turned to soda fountains for sustenance and entertainment. To discover more about the Eighteenth Amendment, suffragists and flappers, bootleggers and G-men, check out  Soda Shop Salvation: Recipes and Stories from the Sweeter Side of Prohibition by Rae Katherine Eighmey. Her book gives readers a taste of life during Prohibition, the era featured in a new exhibit at the Minnesota History Center, American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition.

Watch Rae mix a Klondike Fizz for M. A. Rosko on Fox 9 Morning News, or visit Lynden’s Soda Shop in St. Paul for a sip. They are offering the drink for a limited time!

Klondike Fizz by the drink

¼ ounce orange syrup

¼ ounce lemon syrup

1 ounce strawberry syrup

¼ cup crushed ice

carbonated water, 6 ounces, approximately

Put the syrups in a 10-ounce glass. Add a scoop of crushed ice.  Fill with carbonated water and stir.

Klondike Fizz by the pitcher

½  cup lemon syrup

½ cup orange syrup

¾ cup strawberry syrup

¾ cup simple syrup (see below)

Combine syrups to make enough to flavor 3 liters of club soda: ¾ cup for each liter. Serve over crushed ice.

About flavored syrups. You can find coffee-flavoring syrups in many supermarkets or order them online. Or you can combine one tablespoon of concentrated frozen fruit juice with ¼ cup simple syrup and make your own.  For party quantities of strawberry syrup, you can purchase the strawberry syrup frequently found near the maple syrup and dilute it one-to-one with simple syrup.

Simple Syrup

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup  water

Put the sugar into a small saucepan, pour the water into the sugar, and stir over low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Store in the refrigerator for up to a month.

Great Partnerships: MNHS and tpt!

Friday, November 15th, 2013

Starting at 7 pm this Sunday,  November 19th on tpt’s Minnesota Channel,
a night of great programming featuring MNHS co-productions with tpt!

tpt logo MNHS

7:00 pm Broadcast premiere of Minnesota in the ’70s

7:30 pm Special rebroadcast of Emmy-winning film, Asian Flavors

8:00 pm Broadcast premier of Minnesota & the Civil War Showcase

Where to Watch tpt MN:
Over the Air-Channel 2-2
Comcast-Channel 202 (Mpls)/Channel 243 (St. Paul)
Mediacom- Channel 102
Midcontinent Comm- Channel 15
DirectTV-Channel 17-2

Memoir for Grown-ups: An essay

Friday, November 15th, 2013

Kevin FentonToday’s post is by Kevin Fenton, author of Leaving Rollingstone.

Patricia Hampl calls Leaving Rollingstone “the most important memoir to come out of the Midwest (or anywhere) in years, an indispensable work of American autobiography.”

*****

When people learned that I was publishing a memoir, some of them asked me: Are you old enough to write a memoir?  My first impulse was to tell them that a) I am fifty-four and that b) when cardiologists see me, they often weep with despair. So, yes, I’m old enough. Then I realized that “Are you old enough to write a memoir?” is a polite way of asking their real question, “Are you famous enough to write a memoir?” To them, the word “memoir” triggers a very particular set of associations. Memoirs are written by those of us who’ve waged wars, negotiated peace, cured diseases, transformed societies, or, at the very least, married a Kardashian. Regular people do not write memoirs. I might as well have told them, “I’m thinking of having a statue made of myself. Know any good parks where I can put it?”

But I’d argue that what’s been called the literary memoir — in other words, a memoir by someone who is unexceptional except for their ability to write about their experience — is essential and valuable. The advent of the literary memoir is an extension of some big trends in literature and the humanities. We have moved from writing about God in the bible to writing about kings in Shakespeare to writing about regular people in the novels of George Eliot and Charles Dickens. In fact, we read novels precisely because we believe that a human life which might otherwise be unnoticed by history is worthy of attention. It’s not that big of a jump to care about real people.

The word “memoir” itself doesn’t do me any favors. It does, after all, start off with me, which tends to reinforce the perception of narcissism that surrounds the genre. But good literary memoirs aren’t just about their author. They are about that portion of history which the author has witnessed. They are about the estuary where larger historical trends mingle with the individual human life. No other genre can give us the particular insights that come from that intersection.

If Leaving Rollingstone were just about me, it would be a very different book. In the book, there are four lines about the most traumatic romantic relationship of my life — a relationship which left debris strewn over an entire decade — and there are about twenty lines about Spirographs. There’s a single brief flashback acknowledging four happy years at Beloit College — and an essay-length meditation on a book I read in 1995 and didn’t much care for. (It illuminated the book’s themes.) Leaving Rollingstone is about me but it’s also about family farms, small towns, and Catholic schools and their surprising legacies.

It’s useful to replace “literary memoir” with “personal history.” “Literary memoir” has always bothered me because it over-emphasizes the aesthetic. In its sometimes impressionistic way, my memoir was history. It spoke to the closing of schools, the loss of farms, the distinctiveness of a culture, and the influence of a zeitgeist. It spoke for a particular place and time and, most importantly, for particular people. If a president talks smack in his memoir about his secretary of state, the secretary probably has some recourse. But my record of my parents and friends and neighbors in Rollingstone is probably the only extensive record that will be left of their lives.

So while I wrote with the fallibility of personal witness, and the urge to create a shapely story, I evolved some rules for myself. First, you don’t have to be a neurologist to know that memory is tricky. I tried to write in a way that reflected that understanding without belaboring it. With the exceptions of some particularly vivid memories, I tried to report routines rather than events and ongoing impressions rather than momentary experiences; I tried to make it clear when I was passing on anecdotes which might have been rubbed smooth by retelling. I included very little dialogue and flagged the dialogue I did include as conjecture. When I presumed to record what my mom and dad might have been thinking on a particular morning, I used language that made it clear I was making an educated guess.

And you don’t have to be a French theorist to know that, even if memory is a perfect record of the past, human speech is twisted by our relentless agendas and alibis and limited by what Frank Bidart called our “proximate and partial” relation to truth. Given this, I tried to understand the perspective of others and to perforate my own self-justification. I tried to get the main historical facts right. Another way of saying all this is that I tried to act like a grown-up. And that brings me back to the question I started with. Am I old enough to write a memoir? The answer is yes, but just barely.

Why is there so much concern about mascots?

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask

In light of  today’s protest to eliminate the use of Native mascots in Minneapolis before the Minnesota vs. Washington football game, here is an excerpt from Anton Treuer’s book, Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask.

Listen to Treuer talk about the issue last year on NPR’s Tell Me More.

*****

Why is there so much concern about mascots?

Not all Indians find the use of Indians or Indian imagery by sports teams offensive, but many do. They view nonnative people dressed as Indians, doing a “tomahawk chop,” or singing fake Indian songs as a mockery of their culture and history. Those opposed to the use of Indians as mascots usually point out that most people would not tolerate white sports fans dressed up in fake Afros singing mock African songs for a sports team using a stereotype of black people as a mascot. The protest against using nonnative racial groups as mascots has been so overwhelming that the practice was universally abandoned. In Red Wing (Minnesota), in 2008 and 2009, sixty to seventy white students dressed in low-slung pants and sports jerseys and flashed gang signs in a caricature of black culture the students called “Wigger Day.” A lawsuit was filed that resulted in school officials actively discouraging and suppressing the custom, with some resistance from students. But similar caricatures of Indians in other places have often been widely defended by school officials and community members, even officially celebrated as part of the sports culture at the schools.

The two biggest defenses of Indian mascots are pretty weak. The first is the claim that “we are honoring Native Americans.” If all Native Americans felt honored, then that argument would bear some weight, but most do not feel honored. And even if a home team truly believes it is honoring Indians through its mascot, opposing teams caricature and abuse each other’s mascots in the name of team spirit. Thus, other teams in the same conference with a team that has a native mascot will most definitely not be honoring them.

Nonnative people also justify the practice by pointing to Indians who use Indian mascots for teams, such as the Red Lake Warriors. The difference is that the Indians at Red Lake are the descendants of warriors, so their use of that image or name is not a mockery. However, I never miss a chance to encourage Red Lake and other native schools to change their mascots to something more benign so that it does not confuse others about appropriate mascots. The bottom line is that if any mascot is truly offensive to a large percentage of the population, then that mascot should go. Stick to lions, tigers, and bears. Human beings will never feel dishonored by that.

“History’s Shadows” An Excerpt from Secret Partners: Big Tom Brown and the Barker Gang

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

Tom Brown, in a photo retouched for use in the Pioneer Press, about 1934 from Secret Partners by Tim Mahoney Secret PartnersExcerpt from Secret Partners: Big Tom Brown and the Barker Gang by Tim Mahoney

Click on the link above for more info and upcoming events with Tim Mahoney.

*****

Among the most dangerous criminals of the public enemies era was a man who has long hidden in history’s shadows: Big Tom Brown. In the early 1930s, while police chief of St. Paul, Minnesota, Brown became a secret partner of the infamous Ma Barker gang. He helped plan the gang’s kidnappings and profited from their bank robberies, even as they gunned down cops and citizens in his hometown. He teamed up with a corrupt prosecutor to railroad men to prison, he beat confessions out of prisoners, and he was suspected by some of engineering two execution slayings.

Yet justice never caught up to Tom Brown. An overwhelming volume of evidence points to Brown’s involvement in illegal activities throughout his tenure as a policeman. But because of decisions made in St. Paul and Washington, Brown was never prosecuted for his crimes and the evidence was tested only at a civil service hearing, and not in court. The investigation of Brown never reached whatever allies he had among the city’s elite.

The Barker gang’s stalwarts, Fred Barker and Alvin Karpis, led a bumbling band of hillbilly burglars until they moved to St. Paul during Brown’s tenure as police chief. In the Ozarks, “My life in crime was minor league stuff,” admitted Karpis. But under the protection of Tom Brown, and the tutelage of St. Paul’s master criminals, his gang evolved into notorious and feared public enemies. Soon Karpis was pulling his “first genuine major league stickup,” at a Minneapolis bank.

Barker gangster Volney Davis confessed to the FBI that without the protection of Tom Brown, the gang “would have all been caught in St. Paul.” Edna Murray, the “Kissing Bandit,” told the FBI that if not for Tom Brown and James Crumley of the St. Paul police, the gang’s most infamous crime “could not have been successfully accomplished and certain members of this [Barker] mob would have been in jail a long time ago.”

Had the Barker gang never come under Brown’s protection, Ma Barker might have died lonesome in the Ozarks, an impoverished, obscure widow. Her son Fred and his pal Karpis would likely have been executed in Missouri before the nation knew who they were. The vicious killer Doc Barker would have remained in prison until he was an old man. At least seven murders and two grievous woundings might never have happened.

But Brown’s dark influence spread beyond the Barker gang. If not for the corrupt police force that crystallized during Brown’s tenure, the legend of John Dillinger might have ended on an Easter weekend in a snowy St. Paul parking lot. The Lady in Red would have been just another immigrant with visa troubles. No trap would have been set for Dillinger outside the Biograph theater. Newsreel hero Melvin Purvis might have retired as just another FBI functionary. Little Bohemia would be just another rustic Wisconsin resort, and not the site of a legendary FBI fiasco.

Many of Tom Brown’s fellow gangsters were shot dead, while others were locked up in Leavenworth or Alcatraz. But Brown proved to be the Houdini of gangster-cops. He outsmarted J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI, retiring to collect his police pension and run a tavern in the north country. Despite all the blood on his conscience, all the families whose lives he devastated, and all the dark money he collected, he never spent a night behind bars.