Monday, October 29, 2012

'Tis the Season

You may think it is the week of Halloween, Dia de los Muertos, All Saints and All Souls Day, but you are wrong.  Those days will happen next week, but more than a daily celebration is at hand.

 It is the beginning of the holiday baking season.  Doesn’t matter which holiday you pick, anyone who has walked through a grocery store recently knows the signs…bags of flour and sugar are in every aisle, canned pumpkin appears where you least expect it, both fresh and canned cranberries are easily found.  And you thought product placement only happened in movies? The comfy cozy family aura with an aroma of home baked goodies has been firmly planted in your mind. 

I believe some people are immune to this season, but many are lured into it without realizing it. I am unabashedly lured. Like a dog sniffing a fresh new bone, I am entranced.  

Food, family and holidays are one and the same to me. This was the focus of my presentation “Grebel & GemΓΌtlichkeit” at the AHSGR Convention in Portland.  The local Arizona Sun Chapter has invited me to present this workshop again on December 1, right between the two peaks of the holiday baking season, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

For most people, the memories of food and family are what make the holiday come alive.  My senses must have been in tune with the season long before the stores displayed their baking merchandise based on my recent book choice.

Last week I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver with Steven L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver. Kingsolver and company take the “buy local” food mantra to a level I've  never experienced.  And, my grandparents were farmers!

Many recognize Kingsolver as the best-selling author of The Bean Trees and The Poisonwood Bible.  She called Arizona her home for decades until she married Steven L. Hopp and spent her summers at his farm in Virginia.
As she returned to her farming roots, her concern for our petroleum spending, fast food nation obsession grew.  After they decided to make their home in Virginia year round, the family agreed to accept the challenge of only eating food they grew or was grown within an hour’s drive of their home.

An ambitious goal for many, Kingsolver’s determination would be impossible for me. I know my limits. This culinary lifestyle goes well beyond commitment.  I will spare you the details of harvesting turkey and chicken.  Those things you can read for yourself.  And, I strongly recommend that you do.

After the toils of spring, summer and autumn, Kingsolver experiences the joy of the holiday baking season.   She writes:

“Kitchen-based family gatherings are process-oriented, cooperative, and in the best of worlds, nourishing and soulful. A lot of calories get used up before anyone sits down to consume. But more importantly, a lot of talk happens first, news exchanged, secrets revealed across generations, paths cleared with a touch on the arm. I have given and received some of my life’s most important hugs with those big oven-mitt potholders on both hands.” pg. 288.

When she further discusses her experience with the Day of the Dead, she explains how she is drawn to this celebration.

“When I cultivate my garden I’m spending time with my grandfather, sometimes recalling deeply buried memories of him, decades after his death.  While shaking beans from an envelope I have been overwhelmed by a vision of my Pappaw’s speckled beans and flat corn seeds in peanut butter jars in his garage, lined up in rows, curated as carefully as a museum collection. That’s Xantolo, a memory space opened before my eyes, which has no name in my language.” pg. 290.
Kingsolver said Xantolo is found in many places, such as fields of marigold and farmer’s markets. While I cannot live a year of food as she did, I will consciously shop and choose the best local products I can find during this holiday baking season.  I have a lot of investigation to do but in the meantime...Chandler Farmer’s MarketQueen Creek Olive Mill and Kokopelli Winery, here I come.  

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Hometown: Sights and Memories--Now and Then on Superior Avenue

As I mentioned in my last update, visits to your hometown turn everyday sights into photo opportunities.  My stop at Superior Avenue is no exception.  Trying to compare my new images to old ones has left me with a challenge.

As a young child, I often walked along this street.  When I was in kindergarten at Jefferson School,  I walked the long way to school over the Superior Avenue viaduct.  Kuehlmann Sheet Metal and Heating Company was in the brick building on the southwest corner.   

Only later, as a teenager, did I learn that my mother grew up near this viaduct at 1711 Superior Avenue. We talked about many things in her life but we never talked enough about what it was like to grow up on Superior Ave. The best way I can tie back to her time there is through photos of now and then. 

The picture below on the left is my mother and her best friend, Lydia Schneider. I always thought this picture was taken in the 1940s next to the former Kuehlmann building, before Kuehlmann occupied the site. I captured the picture on the right during my recent visit to Sheboygan on August 18, 2012.

The ivy over the building now covers the bricks and the facade underneath it. Yet when I google the address, the view of the building without ivy does not match the brick facade on the picture from the 1940s.  Check out the link below and click on the arrows until you see the white brick building with just a trace of ivy.  

Also, the sidewalk in the 1940s picture is much wider than the sidewalk in the picture I took last August. Could the sidewalk now be narrower due to changes made when the viaduct was under re- construction?  I believe the viaduct was rebuilt in the 1990s.  It is possible the sidewalk changed but the narrow sidewalk appears older than the 1990s. Could these be the same sidewalks on which my mother roller skated as a young girl? And, the grassy patch between the sidewalk and brick building also contradicts my understanding of where the picture was taken. 

Ivy covers former Kuehlmann Building August 2012
So where were my Mom and her friend Lydia when this picture was taken?  There are many brick buildings in Sheboygan, from Central High School to many downtown stores.  I would greatly appreciate input from anyone who is familiar with the brick buildings in Sheboygan during the 1940s.  Any idea on the what building may match the one in the background?

I have a few clues about my Mom's early life in this house from experiences she shared with me.  I know her grandfather lived with her family. I know her mother was a great cook. Her father raised rabbits in the backyard.  My Mom considered them her pets, even though rabbit occasionally was the main course on Sunday. 

Another picture clearly shows my Mom at her home as it includes a view of the old Superior Avenue viaduct with the iron railings.  Below, Lydia and my Mom look south from her home and appear to stand between the house and an add on to the brick corner building.  While google shots of the house now show sidewalk on the other side of the building, it appears that the girls are between the house and an add on to the brick building.  

The photograph below shows the current view between the house and the brick building looking south from the viaduct.  You can see most of  the sidewalk is no longer there.  

This picture below clearly shows one piece of the original sidewalk which is the only piece which remains of the walk next to which my mom and Lydia stood.

Again, I am open to ideas to better pinpoint the location but I think it is reasonable to conclude the location of the photograph with the viaduct in the background.  

And, here is my daughter Ashley taking a photograph of the house at 1711 Superior Ave in August, 2012.

I am also curious about Irwin Koepke's business that occupied the brick building before Kuehlmann's opened on June 9,  1959. Koepke's business would have been in place when my mother lived here. (Source:

When I return to Sheboygan, I will be certain to more picture of this house, perhaps one from the alley so I can try to match up the setting with my photograph from the 1940s.  If you have any ideas on the site of the first picture, or ave  more information about the house at 1711 Superior Avenue, I would be happy to hear from you. 

Close-up of the Ivy on the former Kuehlmann building
The west side of 1711 Superior next to 1713 Superior Ave.

The new Jefferson School at the same site of the old school where I attended kindergarten