Thursday, October 14, 2021

Nature and Culture Intertwined

Prairies, ideally, are expansive places, where the land spreads out unobstructed on all sides except by miles upon miles of sunlit wildflowers and grasses. When you’re out on the prairie, the only aspect greater than the land is the unfathomable sky above.

So to me it makes perfect sense that the Missouri Prairie Foundation has been encouraging us to look at prairies not just as places full of grasses, flowers, bugs, and birds, but as places significant to human culture—to our history, our settlement patterns, our agriculture, our artworks, our spirituality.

At the same time, the Missouri Humanities Council has been turning its attention to the “outdoors,” also known as the natural world. Like their 2020 Water Symposium and “Growing Up with the River” video series. To me, this makes sense, since you can’t have human history without nature, without our environment.

Maybe I need to backtrack for a second: it is remarkable that the MPF has been featuring programs beyond the biological and ecological, and that MHC has been featuring programs beyond the strictly humanistic, given the standard myopia of twenty-first-century public outreach. It’s generally considered best practice to stick to a single subject and reiterate a few chosen angles to that subject. “We need to stay in our lane.” That’s the general strategy for today’s media.

Don’t get me wrong: I love nature. When I think of prairies, I think of a lot of my favorite native plants and animals. And you know that I appreciate Missouri’s humanities, too, such as the German-immigrant history and culture, and our Missouri musicians and musical organizations.

So it’s a nice surprise that these two organizations are daring to connect, because I don’t much care for the standard myopic mores of our sophomoric century. I’m attracted to what the people of Phi Beta Kappa call “breadth and depth.” Notice how the Missouri Humanities Council has been using lovely, rich photos of Missouri landscapes instead of the “collages depicting a variety of Missourians” that you might otherwise expect, for an organization with “human” in its title. Something’s going on here beyond just eye candy—there’s a crossover shift between culture and nature, and I’m liking it.

So last night I helped my Dad with his first-ever Zoom presentation. Since he was one of three co-presenters, and the representatives of the Missouri Prairie Foundation and Missouri Humanities Council took charge of organizing the presentation, Dad (and I) didn’t have a steep learning curve. My job as helper was mainly to sit beside dad (off camera) and provide a sense of technological security, which he really didn’t need.

The presentation (whose recorded version you can watch on YouTube here) was about the intersection of Missouri prairies with Missouri’s human history and culture. Though I admit to being biased, I think it was really good. I think you’ll like it, too.

But wait, there’s more: MPF will be having another expansive webinar this next week! This time, the topic is “Contemporary Art and the Prairie,” “an exciting panel discussion that brings together the communities of MPF and the Kansas City Art Institute in a shared passion for the landscapes within which we reside. This conversation, moderated by MPF Executive Director, Carol Davit, features three Midwest artists, Julie Farstad (Kansas City, MO), Erin Weirsma (Manhattan, KS), and Keli Mashburn (Fairfax, OK), whose creative practices focus upon the rich and nuanced significance the prairie has in our understanding of time, self, and place.”

“Keli Mashburn is a photographer and filmmaker living and working at the edge of the Tallgrass Prairie on the Osage Reservation of northeastern Oklahoma. Julie Farstad is an artist, Professor and Co-chair of the Painting Department at the Kansas City Art Institute, who explores the role of plants and the idea of cultivation in mixed media studio artwork and community based painting projects. Erin Weisma Wiersma is an artist and professor at Kansas State University. Wiersma’s new and ongoing works draw from the Konza Prairie, becoming both the medium and subject matter.”

I’ll bet you’ll enjoy it. It’ll be live on Wednesday, October 20, at 4 p.m., and it’ll be recorded so you can see it later. Here’s where you go for more information and to sign up.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

ElderBlossom View Orchard and Winery

Here’s a new place we’ve discovered, and I know you’re going to love it, too: ElderBlossom View Orchard and Winery. It’s not your standard winery; it’s not your standard anything. And we really like that: it’s different! It’s smart. It’s unique.

First, your typical winery uses grapes, while ElderBlossom View (EBV) focuses on elderberries. They grow them right there. Second, while your typical winery makes wines, and sometimes also juices, EBV has a dual mission: they make both high-quality wines and juices, including some juice blends suitable for a wide range of uses. For example, their Elderberry Relief juice with ginger, sweetened with organic honey and cinnamon, clove, and elderflower extracts, can be used as a tonic, to relieve a sore throat, but it can also be used in imaginative cocktails or nonalcoholic beverages. Same goes for their pure elderberry juice, which is full of antioxidants.

They also make a product called Elderflower Nectar that combines fresh lemon juice, cane sugar, and their own hand-harvested elderberry flowers. You can add this to hot tea on a cold winter’s night, or you can add it to club soda to make something much more interesting than a Pepsi, or you can mix it in cocktails, or even in a glass of sparkling wine.

I like the juice just dashed into a glass of club soda. And they're happy to serve it to you that way at ElderBlossom View.

See where they’re going with this? Although your first thought might be “oh, all they offer is elderberry wine, and I can’t picture my whole gang sitting around drinking just elderberry wine,” instead, realize that they have a truly wide variety of tasty and refreshing (many quite healthy) beverage choices. Including non-elderberry drinks. The special beverage menu changes seasonally. This summer, they offered an elderberry mojito and an elderberry mule, among other intriguing choices. They had a fresh, locally sourced watermelon-elderberry cooler, perfect for a hot summer evening. The watermelon is from a grower right across the highway in Hartsburg! So many options. Ooh-la-la!

Now that the weather’s cooled, you can have an Autumn Blossom Martini, made with elderflower vodka and blossom sauce, apple butter, half and half; a Sassy Cider, served hot, made with a house blend apple cider, elderberry juice, infused with smoked sassafras wood; an Eldershine peach moonshine cocktail with bourbon-barrel-aged syrup, and the house Elderberry Relief spiced juice blend; and a Persimmon Old Fashioned, made with whisky, a dash of elderberry wine vinegar and a splash of pure elderberry juice.

And the wines are good! When you do a tasting, you will certainly find one you like; they have a range of styles, from sweet to dry. Dry is my personal favorite; you may find it rather tart, but I like it that way. They even have a sparkling elderflower mead called “Elder Bee,” which can go into some fun cocktails (such as this summer’s mango-pineapple “Meadosa”).

You can purchase snacks at the winery, but you are also quite welcome to bring your own picnic basket. We brought sandwiches (jack-and-cooked-kale on multigrain bread), which paired well with our refreshing elderberry beverages in terms of flavor and in healthfulness. Bring whatever food you like—just remember, though, that they want to sell beverages to you, so you’re not allowed to bring outside beverages in.

While we’re on the subject of house rules, here are a few more: don’t let your kids roam around unsupervised; don’t get in the lake (no matter how inviting it may look); and don’t bring your dogs. (Their dogs, Tulip and Aster, already live there, and they’re kind animals, so you won’t miss your own poochies.)

Background

Their story is on their website, but when you hear it, you’ll probably be jealous. John and Heather Uhlig, upon retiring from whatever it was they did, decided to transform stale pasture land into acres and acres of elderberries. Elderberries.

Common elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) is a native shrub that you often see growing in thickets along roadsides and edges of fields. In May, June, and July, elderberry lifts up great, round, dense, fragrant clusters of tiny white or cream-colored flowers. In August, September, and October, these mature into big, flat-topped clusters of BB-sized, purple or black, berrylike fruits on the finely branching reddish stalks. The leaves, stems, and twigs are toxic and should not be eaten, but the berries and flowers are edible, given the proper preparation.

The preparation is painstaking. Each tiny berry must be liberated from the stem, and not all the berries mature at the same time. If elderberry anything seems kind of pricey, then it reflects the effort it takes to harvest and process the fruit.

If you’ve ever popped ripe elderberries into your mouth, you might have been disappointed; first, there are a lot of seeds (four) for such a small fruit. Second, the fruits are bittersweet or tart, so if you’re going to cook with them, you need to keep that in mind and sweeten accordingly.

If you use proven recipes, you’re in for a treat: elderberry jam and jelly, elderberry pie, elderberry muffins and pancakes, and elderberry wine are old-fashioned favorites. The flowers are also used in a variety of ways—for example, rubbed from the flowerheads and mixed into pancake or muffin batter, or made into an herbal tea.

So, for the next chapter of their lives, the Uhligs determined to grow elderberries and sell elderberry products. The name, ElderBlossom View, is a reminder of their retirement project: the blooming of something, well, old—them; the land; and the growing and culture of elderberries. Elderberry has an ancient history as a healthful food, and modern science is supporting it as a “superfood.”

The Uhligs grow several varieties (cultivars or strains) on their land, each with its own properties, flavor profile, harvest time, and so on. Their products, including the wines, are blends of what amount to different elderberry varietals. In addition to the artistry of blending the juices and turning these into tasty wines and other products, a lot of effort has to go into simply extracting the juice: remember, four seeds per berry.

The Place

EBV is much more than their products: it’s an event space. A big event space! Like everything else about EBV, it’s unique. Pleasant meandering walkways lead to lots of different benches, chairs, and picnic tables, accommodating different sized groups.

Throughout, there are lots of native wildflower plantings, which attract a variety of native pollinators and birds, even a little creek and pond system, where—the first time we were there—we saw a bunch of toad tadpoles swimming around.

The interest in native plants, birds, and pollinators is refreshing. The Uhligs get it! Everywhere you look, there are native shrubs and wildflowers, from milkweeds that give life to monarch butterflies, to the sumacs that turn brilliant scarlet in September, to the bluebird boxes that provide a home to our beautiful state bird, which no doubt feasts on the insects attracted by all the blooming native plants.

Tired old ideas still prejudice many fruit growers against frugivorous birds. Instead, EBV welcomes the fruit-eating birds, knowing that a certain percentage of the crop will be eaten by mockingbirds catbirds, robins, and others. They are enlightened enough to know that birds are an important part of nature. Likewise, plenty of insects make their living from elderberry plants, too, including the pollinators as well as those that feed on the leaves, stems, and sap. Insects are bird food, too, especially during nesting season. Again, these are the cycles of nature. Sustainable agriculture: How refreshing!

The theme of making old things new again is reflected in the big repurposed farm silo that, as of this year, forms the roof of the shelter that’s a focal point of the winery’s grounds. Sitting under its pleasant shade, you have a gorgeous view of their big lake. It’s spectacular at sunsets.

What are you waiting for? Oh, yeah, the weekend, when they’re open!

Where Is This Place?

The website says “New Bloomfield,” but for people in Columbia and Jefferson City, it’s probably better to think of it as east of Hartsburg. It’s about halfway between Hartsburg and New Bloomfield, as the crow flies. Most people will get to it from US 63. If you’re from Columbia, go south on US 63 about 15 miles. If you’re from Jefferson City, go north on US 63 about 12 miles.

From US 63, turn east on Zumwalt Road (it’ll be gravel for most of the rest of the way); it will soon veer right (south) and then wind around a bit, but continue on it about 3.7 miles. In the process, you’ll cross the bridge over Cedar Creek. (Who else remembers the longtime KOPN bluegrass music show called Cedar Crick Pickaway?) At that point, Zumwalt Road becomes County Road 398. Not too long after crossing Cedar Creek, you come to a T: the county road turns sharply left (east), while the drive to ElderBlossom View is the turn to the right. They have a sign; it’s not huge, but it’s there. Follow that drive through the woods and elderberry plantings to the winery.

The hours (starting in mid-October 2021) are Fridays and Saturdays, 4–9 pm, and Sundays, 2–6 pm.

The address is 208 County Road 398, New Bloomfield, MO 65063. Be advised that the road near ElderBlossom View can be flooded and impassable during times of high water, so if you’re unsure, call ahead: 573-268-8597.

They also sell their products at the Columbia Farmers Market.

Keep Your Eye On The View!

They’ve got lots of events planned. You should especially note their upcoming Samhain Festival, 11–4 on Saturday, October 23: a Celtic harvest celebration with merriment, elderberry refreshments, food, music, and art booths.

Follow EBV on Facebook or Instagram, and watch their website: EBV has been hosting live music, including some pretty good rhythm and blues and bluegrass bands. They’re proud of their good sound system, which enables them to amplify the music without blasting it from overly loud speakers.

As the weather gets nicer this fall, ElderBlossom View will be the place to be. It’ll compete with places like Cooper’s Landing, Les Bourgeois, Logboat Brewing, and Rose Music Hall. It’s where all the cool kids will be. I hope to see you there!

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Dad's Travels in Europe, Christmas 1954

I recently talked to Dad about his memories of the time he went to the Munich Hofbräuhaus. I took notes, and here, I will write what he told me. I hope I’ve got all the facts and names straight.

This provides context and insight into the 1954 Hofbräuhaus am Platzl menu I posted pictures of earlier. I showed it to Dad (he’d given it to me a few years ago), and asked him to tell me about it. Apparently he’d been there around Christmas, since the menu was marked “Weihnachten 1954.”

And Dad said, “Yeah! We were there on Christmas Day! We had our evening dinner there (or maybe late afternoon).” He then told me all about this trip that he and about seven or eight other American students took over the Christmas break.

They were all studying at the University of Paris as part of the famous Sweet Briar Junior Year in France program. (Sweet Briar College is a historic women’s college in Virginia. The program is open to more than Sweet Briar College students, which is how Dad, a male University of Missouri student, could participate.) Most of the Sweet Briar students were from well-to-do families, while Dad, as you probably know if you read my blog, is the son of a barber and was born and raised in the same house as his German immigrant grandparents; he grew up in Jefferson City’s Germantown neighborhood among people who didn’t own cars, who scrimped and saved, made do with what they had, and who made their own sauerkraut.

So the reminiscences flowed. Dad said none in their group spoke German (though clearly, they got by okay; this was a group of American college students who had proven their ability to speak French). Most of them were “girls” (yeah, girls: this is Dad’s terminology; it would be weird for me to call them young women while relaying his story to you). So, one of the girls—Kay Ingersoll—had an older sister who had done the Junior Year in France thing a few years earlier, so she had made suggestions, and Kay and her friends had gotten the whole mini-trip lined up—the itinerary, the train tickets, the lodging, etc. All Dad and the other students had to do was bring their passports, be prepared to secure visas at the borders, and have spending money for meals and such.

Off They Went!

So, from Paris, they took the train to Strasbourg, and then crossed the border into Germany. They spent their first night in Heidelberg, where Dad remembered the weather was “dreary.” They then traveled through Stuttgart, which was dreary in a different way, since as a major manufacturing town, it had been demolished in World War II (remember, Dad was there in December 1954, less than a decade after the war ended). “We didn’t stop in Stuttgart.”

Munich

Then it was on to Munich! They arrived on Christmas Eve. They spent two nights and did a lot of sightseeing. Some of them, including my Dad, a Protestant, attended Christmas Eve Mass at the big, most famous cathedral in the heart of Munich—I guess this is the Frauenkirche, which dates clear back to 1468. Dad remembers it was crowded, and that everyone in there was wearing black. (Dad has always had an aversion to wearing black; it’s so dreary!) Dad and his friends were seated in the back of the cathedral.

One detail about that evening sticks out in his memory—the interior walls of the cathedral had just been painted, and they were glistening white. The place smelled like paint! Germany was busy repairing things after the war.

On Christmas Day, they walked around, seeing all they could see. Dad remembers visiting one of the big squares where Hitler had massed his troops. To Dad, who had grown up during World War II watching news reels and memorizing details of German and Japanese planes, this must have been impressive. Also, as the son of German immigrants, he must have always felt an odd conflict about the wars with Germany. He’s always explained that he and his family, as patriotic American citizens, never felt they were at war with the German people; they were fighting the Kaiser in World War I; they were fighting the Nazis in World War II. So to him, Germany represented a homeland that wasn’t particularly his (it was his grandparents’), while also the homeland of America’s recent enemies.

I was imagining Dad so far away from home on Christmas Day, and I asked Dad if he had ever made a pricey transcontinental phone call to his parents while he was in Europe. “Oh, no! Never once! I sent home plenty of postcards and letters.” He recalled one or two of the Sweet Briar girls phoning home once, but it was basically for emergency use.

The Hofbräuhaus Meal

Dad and his chums had their evening Christmas meal there. At THE Hofbräuhaus am Platzl. The HB mothership. He remembers it was crowded and noisy, but he’s not sure if the other people were mostly tourists, or locals, or both. In general on the trip, they didn’t see many tourists—whether European or from elsewhere—in Germany or the other countries they visited, either. Europeans didn’t have any money for traveling in 1954!

In the great German beer hall, the eight or nine American college students were all seated together on one long table—close together, in the time-honored beer hall fashion.

“What did you get?”

“We all had beer!” Dad couldn’t remember what food they’d ordered. He said none of them could read the menu. I asked if they might have had goose. But goose might’ve been kind of expensive for their student pocketbooks, so maybe it was something else. Dad thinks they probably all ordered the same thing.

Another thing that stuck in Dad’s mind: one of the fellows in his group, Steve Schneider, got a charley horse in his leg! He abruptly jumped up and hollered in pain. Dad had never heard of a charley horse before (really Dad, really?), but he learned about it then. The sudden commotion made an impression on him. Steve had almost upset the dishes on the table as he sprang up in his agony!

Continuing the Trip

The day after Christmas, they hopped on the train and traveled to Salzburg, where the weather was still dreary. Dad remembers taking the tour of Mozart’s house and marveling at how little and narrow it seemed; “how’d they get a piano in there?” Dad also saw several of the places that would later be made famous in the movie The Sound of Music.

After Salzburg, they continued on the train to cross the first range of the Alps and spent two nights in Innsbruck.

Dad remembers taking the funicular (short cable railway) up the north side of the mountain; there were (and still are) two stages to get to the top. Dad described it as a tourist place; there were twenty or thirty people up there, walking around in the snow fields. Dad said he wasn’t prepared for it. He was wearing cheap black leather shoes he’d bought in Paris. The final trail to the top was less than 500 feet, and there was a wire cable to hold.

At the Kitzbühel, another summit in the Tyrol, Dad remembered the spectacular view on that sunny day: Standing in Austria, he could see Germany to the north and Italy to the south.

The Trip Continues

Dad remembered that the meals were always good. “They served us lots of bread! Good French loaves, or whatever. We put it in our pockets, the girls put it in their purses . . . and the waiters kept bringing it!”

He also remembered traveling west through the panhandle of Austria (the Tirol) and through Lichtenstein (they didn’t get off the train there) and to Switzerland. Dad said the customs agents at the border into Switzerland were really persnickety, taking their time to read everyone’s passports and visas.

The next stops were at Lucerne and Interlaken, in the Swiss Alps, where they did more sightseeing. In Lucerne, they saw the famous Kapellbrücke covered bridge with numerous paintings inside it, and the Löwendenkmal, or dying lion sculpture.

They took the special cog train that climbed the steep slope of the Grindelwald, where they went on real, bona fide horse-drawn sleigh rides, with jingle bells and everything, about four people at a time, through the mountain village.

Back at Interlaken, it was New Year’s Eve, and Dad and the other students, looking off a porch at their hotel, looked and listened for signs of celebrations, but there were none. Finally, at midnight, a waiter or the manager brought them each a glass of champagne.

Bern and Return

The group split up. Some of the richer students continued their tour by visiting friends or family in Europe, while Dad and the rest ended with one night in Bern. There was not much to do, since they left that night from the Bahnhof train station and took and all-night train to Paris. Around midnight, at the last stop in Switzerland/at customs at the French border, the travelers tried to ditch their Swiss francs so they wouldn’t have to exchange it for a fee in France.

There were hawkers on the platform who took advantage of the opportunity of travelers wanting to use up their Swiss money. They walked under the train windows and sold oranges to the travelers. Yes, even in the middle of the night. So Dad and his friends bought all these oranges, the train pulled out of the station, and they continued “rumbling around” through the night. “We must’ve gone through Dijon.”

At some point on the journey home, they finally opened the oranges and discovered they were red inside! They’d never seen such a thing. They didn’t want to arrive back in Paris and be sick, so . . . they threw the perfectly good, beautiful blood oranges out the windows, aiming for trees and what-not. “What fools we were!” Ah, hindsight.

Monday, October 4, 2021

Retro Menu: Hofbräuhaus am Platzl

Another retro menu! This one is not from a flea market—it’s from my dad! As you might know, my dad spent his junior year in college studying at the University of Paris, and naturally he did a lot of sight-seeing. One of the places he went was the famous Hofbräuhaus in Munich. I’ll tell you the story in my next post, but for now, I wanted to feature the menu.

Hofbrauhaus am Platzl Munich 1954 Menu

A very similar (almost identical!) menu is scanned and available online at the website of the New York Public Library. It’s from the same month as Dad’s (Christmas 1954), so I wonder if it had belonged to one of Dad’s fellow travelers, mostly students from Virginia’s Sweet Briar College. Hmm.

A few interesting things about this. First, although the beer hall was originally built in 1589 and remodeled extensively in 1897, it was almost completely destroyed in the bombings of World War II; only the historic beer hall itself survived. History indeed, even just in the twentieth century: It was here that Adolf Hitler had announced the goals of the Nazis at a huge gathering of a few thousand people in 1920, and the next year he was elected Führer of the Nazi Party. Yeah, right at this very beer hall. It took years to restore the building after WWII, and they didn’t get finished until 1958. So my dad was there when they were still repairing the place.

The artwork on the menu is remarkably good. Its artist, August Roeseler (1866–1934), was an accomplished character illustrator, especially when it came to depicting ordinary, middle-class folks, and dogs (he was nicknamed the “dachshund painter”), and his abilities were put to good use on this beer hall menu. The theme is obviously Gemütlichkeit!

The front cover shows all kinds of people cheerfully gathering at the HB bar for a stein of beer. It is as if the viewer is part of the crowd heading toward the bar. You can see the backs of the people ahead of you. The bartender is happily dispensing drinks. The people who are facing the viewer are super cheerful, because they’ve already secured a full stein and food for themselves! They’re heading off to their tables.

The man at the front left has a look of private, smug expectation, with his HB stein and its overflowing foam in one hand and a plate of food (a Grillhendl, or roast chicken?) in the other. He’s a heavy man, and he’s not young anymore, but he wears his hat at a rakish angle, and his eyes are crinkling as he grins beneath his big white mustache.

In the front right is a woman and man who look as if life is finally getting back the way it ought to be. The woman’s stein is as big as her head. Roeseler apparently did a lot of works with people in this pose, looking straight into the camera and smiling.

In 1954, Germans were looking for reasons to smile.

In the front middle, a boy—a child—drinks from a big stein, too. He looks something like Peter Pan with his green cap and its long, curling white feather. He’s dapper in his lederhosen, crisp shirt, and tie. When he finishes that big beer, he probably won’t look so crisp. It’s a good reminder that prohibitions against children drinking alcohol are a relatively modern concept.

In case you’re wondering, the current German drinking age varies with the situation and the type of alcohol. Beer and wine can be consumed in public places by fourteen-year-olds, if they’re accompanied by a “custodial person” such as a parent. At sixteen, beer and wine can be purchased and consumed on one’s own. But you can’t have distilled spirits (whiskey, etc.) in public until you turn eighteen. Note that German alcohol law pertains to public places. At home, childrens’ welfare, including what and how much they eat and drink, is the responsibility of their parents or guardians, who are held liable if something goes wrong.

Back to the menu. A couple of details that might be easily overlooked are in the top corners. In the upper right, the white and sky-blue ribbons (traditional colors of Bavaria) are tied decoratively around some good ol’ pretzels. On the left, black and orange ribbons suspend—well, what are they? They’re big white radishes! Munich’s traditional colors are yellow and black, so I’m not sure what the orange and black symbolize. The radishes are easier to learn about.

Radishes have long been considered part of the traditional Oktoberfest menu, along with weisswurst and other sausages, senf (mustard), pretzels, liver dumpling soup, pork shanks/pork knuckles, and so on. Thinly sliced, now often spiral-cut white radishes, Bierradi, or bier-rettich, sprinkled with salt and/or pepper is a traditional garnish/relish. Red radishes or white Asian daikon will also be fine, if you’re thinking of putting together your own Oktoberfest menu.

The back of the menu continues the theme of “people from all walks of life.” They’re parading toward the viewer, encircling the logo and name of the business, forming a colorful wreath of the German population. I wish I knew more about historic uniforms, costumes, and fashion, but clearly there are businessmen, a hikers, a few dandies, a burgermeister or two, and I’m pretty sure that’s a birdwatcher, with his binocular case around his neck, at the left. Males outnumber the females nineteen to five, and three out of the five women appear to be servers (so, sexism, duh).

At the bottom, at the front of the two lines, are two boys; one is apparently a baker’s delivery boy, with his basket of bread hooked around one arm while he holds his enormous stein up to his face with both hands. The other boy, who looks incredibly young, wears a robe and holds his stein up: prosit! Iwonder if the style of robe has some meaning, with its big golden cross on the front, formed by the robe’s lining and sash. Maybe someone who reads this will shed some light on it.

Finally, at the very bottom, is a whimsical dachshund—the artist’s signature touch—carrying several links of sausage. All together now: “Awwwwwww!”

As for the rest of the menu, I’ll just provide the images. I’m loading them as large files, so you can click on them and see them better.

There’s not much I can say about them, as my German’s nothing to write home (or anywhere else) about.

Do note, however, that the top of the first column on the second page, there’s a box under the heading “Spezialitäten von Heute”: Weihnachten 1954. That dates this menu at Christmas 1954. Also, at the bottom of the first column on the first page, there’s a box that reads: “Für die Feiertage und Sylvester: Die prima Weißwurst, jede Menge auch außer Haus erhältlich!”—an advertisement for the holiday season, including New Year’s Eve, that they have plenty of white sausage (weisswurst) that (I believe they are saying) is available for carryout, as well.

So much food, and so much food for thought. I hope you enjoy looking at, and pondring, this old menu as much as I have.

Friday, October 1, 2021

Retro Menu: The Italian Room, Partenkirchner Hof Hotel

Look, another retro menu that I bought at a flea market, er, antique mall! I got it for a dollar, and what a find it is!

It’s for a restaurant called The Italian Room, at the Partenkirchner Hof Hotel, in the town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Bavaria, Germany. It’s a resort town offering skiing in Germany’s highest alpine peak, the Zugspitze. The town was famous as the home of the 1936 Winter Olympics, where Alpine skiing made its first appearance as an Olympic sport. . . . Then the Nazis took over the hotel . . . and then the American Army monopolized after the war.

The Italian Room, which dates to the American Army’s use of the hotel, is long gone. I think this menu dates to about 1950. The Partenkirchner hotel was a “leave and rest center” for the US Army. The last line of the front of the menu reads “USAREUR Leave and Rest Center”; USAREUR means “US Army in Europe.” (Now, it’s the USAREUR-AF, since the US Army Africa was combined with it in 2020.)

The hotel is still there, having gone back into private ownership in 1959. It’s now called Reindls Partenkirchner Hof. It looks like an amazing place. You can read about its history here.

While you’re online looking at stuff, here’s another hotel in the area that has a similar history; its website has a more thorough description of postwar American presence in the area. Indeed, the different hotels in the Garmisch area served different cuisines; one offered a “Chuck Wagon Steak House,” another had a “Pagoda Room,” another had a “Hawaiian Room.” These and other cuisines moved around among different hotels.

And here’s a big long, scrolly-scrolly page of memorabilia about the US Army in Garmisch.

Anyway, I’m just sharing this menu. Remember that you can click on my blog pictures to make them bigger.

I think it’s interesting that they were offering Italian food at the literal peak of the Bavarian Alps. Perhaps this was supposed to offer American soldiers a break from the wursts, schnitzels, kartoffel, spätzle, and kraut.

I’m also amused by the artwork on the front, depicting stereotypical scenes of sunny Italia—all those lusty, rustic, romantic Italians playing guitars, dancing with tambourines, and drinking wine from a wineskin. Mamma mia!

The inside of the menu is preprinted with a color field guide to pasta shapes, so you don’t have to embarrass yourself by not knowing your mezzanelli from your bucatini, or your ragitone from your denti-delegante. You had the choice of pasta, then you could decide to have it with tomato sauce, meat sauce, meat balls, or fresh sausage. Saturdays and Sundays, the specials were lasagne and ravioli. They also served pizza, which you could customize with toppings.

I often think about how American soldiers, returning from Europe, brought back with them a love of Eye-talian and other then-exotic cuisines. Back in America, they were likely to say, Yeah, let’s go out for a pizza pie!

The “Chef’s Specials” were typed (using carbon papers; this was before photocopiers, of course) and stapled to the more permanent menu.

I’ll let you read the rest of the menu via pictures. It’s a really interesting mix of what apparently was truly fine food prepared by people who knew what they were doing, and dishes like “Cheeseburger,” “Fried Chicken,” “T-bone Steak,” and “Bacon Lettuce Tomato” sandwich—stuff familiar at any American diner.

Whenever I find something like this at a flea market, er, antique mall, I pretty much figure that it was left over from someone’s military mementos. Someone had served in Europe, as part of the USAREUS, then probably passed away, and his (yeah, probably a “his”) family or survivors jettisoned the stuff. I find it fascinating. I hope you do, too.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Jefferson City’s Das Stein Haus: Retro Menu

With a chill in the air and time Oktoberfests starting up, we turn our thoughts to the Holy Trinity of Bratwurst, Sauerkraut, and German Potato Salad (GPS). And beer. And other Germanic things. And look what I found at a local flea market recently: an old menu from Jefferson City’s longtime German restaurant, Das Stein Haus.

I’m old enough to remember when it first opened in 1981. It was a big deal, because it was very near to where my Grandma Renner lived (her house is gone now; Southwest Animal Hospital is where her house used to be, so you can see how close it was to Das Stein Haus).

Grandma Renner, who was already pretty housebound at that point, especially being practically deaf, was really tickled when the dashing young restaurateurs—native Germans, no less!—stopped by her house to introduce themselves with their German accents! Later, they even brought her some food. Helmut und Dieter!

It was so thrilling to have such a nice, fancy restaurant so near! And German!

. . . Yet we rarely went there. I wonder why not? Perhaps because it was too fancy . . . or pricey. Or perhaps because Grandma had trouble getting around and couldn’t hear well in crowds. Perhaps Grandma Renner—despite growing up knowing some German and having learned her “Vater unser im Himmel, geheiligt werde dein Name” in German—was not quite a German cook. She was more of a Midwestern American cook, more familiar with fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and country ham.

Or, perhaps the family just wasn’t in the habit of going out to fine restaurants very much. Frugal Midwesterners. We all mostly ate at home. And with its tablecloths, cloth napkins, and use of charger plates, Das Stein Haus certainly seemed high falutin’, for the early 1980s.

Anyway, a lot of years have gone by. I have no idea what happened to Dieter, but Helmut’s still there running the place. Reviews of the restaurant vary widely. Some people say it’s the Greatest Ever, Five Stars; others say it’s abysmal, dark and dusty, with overpriced “meh” food and pathetic service. Apparently some of the problems people have with Das Stein Haus is that Jefferson Citians are not accustomed to making advance reservations; we rarely need them in Missouri restaurants, so if you show up and no table is available, it seems outrageous.

The last time I went there was a night I needed a little cheering up. The neon lights appealed to me, and I thought it might be fun to go there, where nobody knows me, to sit at a bar, and have a drink. Maybe to strike up an interesting conversation. . . . And hey, I’m Germanic, sort of. . . . The bar was awful. First, it was smoky (this was before JC’s non-smoking ordinance went into effect, but I’ll bet it still has that stale stench). No one in there seemed happy, or perky, or even very awake. It was the kind of bar where, if you sit there too long, looking around, you’ll decide to stop drinking forever, because you don’t want to end up like this crowd. . . . And then I overheard some loud, homophobic conversation nearby, so I decided I truly didn’t belong there at all. So I haven’t been back. It’s not my scene.

Could be, the dining room is much better. But then, the last time we ate in the dining room (nearly twenty years ago), I realized my cooking is just as good, plus I would have better bread and better salads (at the time, I recall it being a standard iceberg lettuce salad and mass-produced soft sandwich bread, very underwhelming).

Anyway, I’m not here to review Das Stein Haus; it’s been a long time since we’ve been there, so who knows. The place is a true Jeff City treasure that has withstood the test of time, and at least the exterior of the building, as it’s aged a little, has actually gained in charm.

And—not counting frankfurters and hamburgers—where else in town can you get an array of German food?

So, here you go—a blast from the past—an old menu from Jefferson City’s Das Stein Haus. I’ll bet it’s from their first decade in business, ca. 1981–1991. If you know more, please leave me a comment below.

It’s interesting how the menu hasn’t changed much at all, except for the prices doubling or more. (See their current website, where the menu is under “services”.) There’s a good chance that the recipes might have changed somewhat over the years, even though the name of the dish is the same, but who knows.

Also, I’m pretty sure the display type on this menu was originally hand drawn line art. “Jerry Sanford” is the artist’s signature at the bottom of the second page. You don’t see much hand-lettered type anymore; it’s all digital today.

Das Stein Haus has been around a long time—forty years!—and it’s been a lot of things to a lot of people. So what do you think? What are your memories of Das Stein Haus?

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Frosted Orange-Apricot Jell-O Salad, Retro Recipe

It’s been a while since we’ve celebrated a retro Jell-O recipe here at the Op Op. I do not remember members of my family making this particular formulation, but I certainly remember it from miscellaneous childhood potlucks: church, Camp Fire, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, PTA, you name it, there were always Jell-O salads. And this is one.

It is most memorable, I think, because of the sprinkles of yellow cheese garnished on the top of the sweet “frosting” layer. What-the-whaaaat??? Yeah, mild cheddar, or American cheese, shredded up and sprinkled over the top of this otherwise sweet Jell-O salad. The only thing that seems to link the cheese with the rest of the dish is the color orange.

In fact, this dish is so orange, it could be a fine addition to your Halloween spread, especially if you sprinkled the cheese in, say, a Jack-o-lantern shape. (Now, there’s a thought, eh? . . . “Follow me for more cooking tips!”)

Searching my memories, I searched for this dessert all over the Internet. I settled on a formulation from a blog called “Pocket Change Gourmet.” . . . And then I discovered that it appears in a variety of church lady cookbooks, under a variety of names. (This is why pictures are worth a thousand words—I knew it when I saw it!)

The same basic recipe (albeit with plenty of variation) appears in my beloved Faith Lutheran Ladies Guild cookbook from 1975 under the names “Apricot Salad” (twice) “Frosted Apricot Salad,” and “Apricot Cheese Delight.” Apricots are actually the least notable of the ingredients, so no wonder it’s hard to find. Instead, what you notice most is the ORANGE JELL-O.

Here it is in a nutshell. It’s a two-layered Jell-O salad. Use a 9 x 13 inch dish. The bottom part is two small boxes of orange Jell-O with canned crushed pineapple and canned apricots, using the juice from the fruits as part of the cold water. Bonus points for letting the Jell-O set slightly before adding the fruit, so the fruit doesn’t all sink to the bottom. Then you add mini marshmallows on top, and you let it set completely (overnight).

The second layer is a little trickier. You make a pudding out of sugar, flour, egg, and orange juice; you heat it until it thickens; then you stir in some butter; then you let it cool a bit. Then you whip cream (or, some recipes call for Cool Whip, or whatever), then fold the pudding mixture into the whipped cream. You spread this over the gelled first layer. . . . And then you sprinkle on the shredded cheddar. Yep, wacky, wacky cheddar on the Jell-O salad.

Some of the variations involve whether or not to chop the canned apricots; whether to used pineapple chunks or crushed pineapple; whether to include canned mandarin orange slices; and, for the pudding layer, whether to use the juices from the canned fruit instead of the orange juice my version of the recipe calls for. You could omit the marshmallows, too—but why would anyone do that? And considering you’re using whipping cream, I’m not sure what the butter adds, either, except for more richness and calories.

Truly, the shredded cheese doesn’t taste particularly weird; it kinda tastes just tangy. In the 1970s, moms probably thought, “this cheese will give my family more protein and calcium in their diet! It’ll help them have strong teeth and bones!” (This is sounding like Halloween again, isn’t it.)

According to my memories, this was a very common Jell-O salad from the 1970s. At first, it may seem strange to have shredded cheese atop what would otherwise resemble a dessert. I guess it helps you pass it off as a “salad.” It also gives a visual interest to what would otherwise be a vast expanse of yellowish-white color across the 9 x 13 pan. Once again, the cheese tastes fine in this preparation. So don’t laugh. This is a doggone tasty Jell-O salad.

A few tips for preparing the topping/second layer: to prevent scorching, it’s best if you use a heavy saucepan when making the “pudding.” Keep in mind that the pudding will thicken more as it cools. Then, when it’s time to fold the cooled pudding into the whipped cream, fold it in properly. Review or learn the technique for folding, as in preparing a mousse or soufflé, if you’re not completely hip to this technique, so you can combine the two without losing the fluffiness of the whipped cream.

Jell-O salads have kind of gone out of style, but that’s too bad. Look, every time we make a good Jell-O salad, everyone loves it! We recently made this particular formulation for my dad’s birthday, and Mom really loved it. Dad just wrote to tell me so. So, give it a try. Have it for a side dish or as a dessert. You’ll love it, too.

A classic from the 1970s. A classic from my childhood.

Enjoy!

1970s Frosted Orange-Apricot Jell-O Salad with Cheese Sprinkles

Adapted from Pocket Change Gourmet, which states it’s an original family recipe from Lois Kimmel

Use a 13 x 9 inch glass pan; build in time (overnight) for the two layers to gel.

Ingredients, Layer 1

  • 2 reg. boxes (or 1 large) orange Jell-O
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 15 oz. can apricots, cut in small pieces, drained, reserving juice
  • 20 oz. can crushed pineapple, drained, reserving juice
  • 2 cups mini marshmallows (enough to mostly cover top of the Jell-O, or whatever you wish)

Ingredients, Layer 2

  • ½ cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp. flour
  • 1 egg, beaten lightly
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 cup whipping cream (heavy cream)
  • approx. ½ cup grated or shredded cheese (use mild or medium cheddar, or American cheese)

Prepare Layer 1

In a large bowl, mix the Jell-O and 2 cups boiling water, stirring to dissolve. Add 1 cup of the reserved juices, stir, and place the bowl in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes, or until the Jell-O is thickened slightly (consistency of egg whites). Fold in the fruit and pour into a 13 x 9 inch glass (Pyrex) pan. Add the marshmallows on top. Put into the fridge until the gelatin is set (I recommend overnight).

Prepare Layer 2 and “Frost” the Jell-O Salad

In a small saucepan over medium heat, add combined sugar and flour, beaten egg, and orange juice. Whisk constantly, until it thickens. (Once it starts to thicken, it will thicken even more rather quickly and continue to thicken as it cools.) Add butter and stir until it’s melted. Remove from heat and let it cool, about 30 minutes. Beat the heavy cream until stiff peaks form; fold in the pudding mixture. Spread it onto Layer 1 of the Jell-O. Sprinkle the grated cheese on top. Return to refrigerator until serving time.