Northern Odds and Ends

Just a few side notes to the Minnesota trip. While we were there, we spent some time with Jean and Jaime of Reflection Farm. Jaime’s dog, Matilda, a very faithful Rat Terrier, was the first to greet us, and cavorted around as we toured the horses in the barn.

One of the highlights was seeing Rambo, the homozygous Pinto stallion, whose fame is well known in the Upper Midwest Pinto loving group. The old boy is 30 years old and looking dang good. He and I had done some important interesting work 2 decades ago with draft mares. And apparently, when you have sired that many quality horses, and done that well in showing, certain benefits are bestowed, as gratitudeRambo for a job well done. One of those bennies was having his favorite beverage for breakfast. As we were talking to Jean, she wandered over to the pop machine and said “time for Rambo’s breakfast” and pulled out a Mountain Dew. She opens the stall door and Rambo is eagerly waiting. I whipped out my phone, embarrassedly, because I hate phone people, but like a doofus I am, forgot my camera in the car. I snapped a few photos of Rambo slurping his ‘Dew. We had a great time chatting with Jean and Jaime and got caught up with all the news from the last 17 years. Well, most of the news. Some things never change.

The Mrs got to halter and turn out one horse, and thereby claimed she had done all the chores. Inside joke, very inside. I got to hang out with the Pinto Saddlebred stallion, Bring It On. He likes to have his neck scratched, and lifted his head as I opened his stall. If you have ever been close to a giraffe before, you get the idea. It was a great visit. Very sadly, we found out after we got home, that Matilda the dog had passed away. It is very hard to lose a loyal companion like that, especially one that has been with you for that long. We grieve with you, Jaime.

Rhubarb-CrispCarol, my mother in law and Matriarch of the Nelson clan, had made rhubarb crisp, because that is what Matriarchs do when the clan gathers. I was pretty sure she had made it just for me, like the lasagna, but she tried to let me down gently, saying it was for everybody. Which was a lot of baloney, cause only so many people can fit in her small apartment, and since I was the first to taste it, after the cook, mind you, I had certain ownership rights. With a large family, you got to get your dibs in early. Rhubarb is not happy with the soil or temperature in Kansas, so we hoard it when we can.

One of our idle days, we found our selves in Litchfield, my wife’s home town. There were several new things in town that had not been there 17 years ago, but the place looked pretty much the same. Around 6700 people, mostly Scandahovian, with a few Germans thrown in for local color, this is the right sized place for me. I have lived in big cities, St. Paul, MN, Phoenix, AZ. You can have the rat race of idiot sheep, I like the individualism of small town America.

The people in small towns are generally friendly, and that really helps when you come to town for a Walley-sandwichwalleye sandwich. There was a new restaurant downtown, well new to us at least, and they had walleye on the menu. So we breezed into town and set ourselves down in the old Janusheks diner (not sure if that is the right spelling), now the Parkview Grille. The perky waitress promptly appears and immediately tries to sell us on a Philly sandwich, todays special. We respond with an equally perky “No thank you, we would like the walleye sandwich please.” The Mrs had found their menu online and mentioned the walleye thing and I had said we had to go there, end of story. And it just about was the end of the story, cause the waitress said “Sorry, that was yesterdays special, we don’t have any right now.”

Now, I don’t normally cause a scene, however this was serious. I started in with “We just drove 654 miles to eat walleye in this very restaurant, and you are telling me we are a day late?” You always lead with the guilt thing up here. She was starting to look uncomfortable, so I thought it was working. I continued with “I have not had walleye for 20 years, surely there is something that can be done, we can start with a $20 under the table and work our way up if necessary.” She was not biting, though, and told us to talk to the owner/chef. It was a small restaurant and he was working about 10 feet away, in the kitchen. As I am digging in my wallet for some cash money, my wife gets up and gets the owner/chef’s ear and pleads our case. This can be quite dicey as things can get unpredictable when a Scandi’s ire is raised. The boss cook temporizes, raising his hands to ward off ired vibes from my wife, and says they have a long buttermilk soaking process and couldn’t possibly do what needs to be done for us in the time allowed. The Mrs gives him one more hard glance and comes back to tells me the bad news.

The waitress has wandered off and we are starting to think we are not having walleye today. Except, the sous chef, who’s overheard our conversation, nudges the chef and says hey, remember the 2 walleye fillets that did not sell yesterday and… The chef suddenly announces that all is cool, he can do the fish. And I did not even have to bribe anybody. It was fabulous. We got a couple extra soups to try out, since we were obviously such in the know and important foodies. One of them was an excellent beer cheese soup. During the early ‘80s, I toured the upper Midwest, as a gum-ball mechanic and pursued the best beer cheese soup in all restaurants and diners I encountered. It brought back fond memories. Everything the Parkview Grille served us was great. When we move back home, it will be a place we go to often.

Back to the rhubarb. While we were loading up food from Carol’s apartment, to go to the dining room for the family party, it was asked if the crisp should make the trip also. I kept silent and let the conversation take its course without me stacking the deck. I often go by the old rule of, if you ain’t cheatn’ you ain’t tryin’, but then “all things go to those who wait” seemed to be the winning hand right now. The decision was made to bring it, with Carol giving me a glance to see if I was cool with it. I nonchalantly picked it up and carried it out the door. The dining room kitchen was starting to fill up with food, so I put the crisp on the counter, back by the refrigerator. I am not sure how, but a large piece of tin foil ended up on top of the crisp container, obscuring the identity of what it was nicely. So, we get to eating, and it is quite an array of food. Strangely, the crisp did not get placed in the dessert area, it was still hanging timidly back by the fridge with its foil safety blanket. Oh well.

HaddieEverybody finished eating and started sitting back and telling stories and messing with the babies. As I struck up a conversation with Haddie, I noticed Ronda, the Mrs’ sister and grandmother to half of the children in this room, was hanging suspiciously around the back of the fridge area. I pick up Haddie and we go investigate. Ronda was munching on my the rhubarb. She looked up between mouthfuls, and mumbled something about why the rhubarb was back here with foil on it. I shrugged my shoulders and asked Haddie if she knew anything about it. Nope. I reached over and grabbed a piece of it before whatsherface ate the whole thing. Ronda mentioned she just loves Carol’s strawberry rhubarb crisp. I said “What, strawberry rhubarb??” No way, I was certain it was a pure rhubarb crisp, Carol wouldn’t pull a dirty trick like that. Carol had snuck in behind us and piped up with, “Yes, it is strawberry rhubarb.” Well, in that case, Ronda can have the whole thing. I gave Haddie a taste of it, she made a face and agreed with me. Strawberries just ruin everything.