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Country Cousin

Back Then...



Summer is finally here...or at least it was here. Considering the temperatures of the last few days, it may be gone already. It’s that darn global warming, you know!

Anyway, despite the recent chill, asparagus and rhubarb are making welcome appearances in the garden, at the market and on family tables.

Clans gather when they can in the balmy outdoors - weather, wood ticks and mosquitoes permitting. This is the season for weddings, showers, graduation parties, family reunions and fund raisers and festivals for just about any reason anyone can come up with.

A world-famed travel writer who visited Marinette County in a summer not so long ago marveled at the number of special events offered for public enjoyment here in the North Woods.

“Summer is so precious up there,” he wrote, “That they start throwing parties on Memorial Day and don’t stop until deer season!”

He was right, of course. We’re used to all the celebrating, so we’re not surprised. But living somewhere else could get to be downright dull for those of us accustomed to having a full calendar of events to choose from.

Many thanks to all the promoters and sponsors who volunteer their time to make things happen, from Memorial Day services to Hog Wrestling, benefit runs, Porterfield Country Fest, bang-up Fourth of July celebrations, Logging Days and Historical Day, to name just a few.

BACK IN THE DAY



Back in pioneer days folks didn’t go to stores to buy things. First, there weren’t many stores handy, and second, most earlier settlers didn’t have much money handy either. So they made things from what they had on hand. Soda - the drink we called “pop” - was a rare, if ever, treat. Our parents and grandparents did sometimes have homemade root beer. Also homemade alcoholic wines and beer. Refreshing summer beverages included Ginger Water and Rhubarb Punch, among other things. (See recipes below) Remember, there also were no ice cubes, so chilling probably meant putting the jug of liquid refreshment in the well pit, submerging it in a bucket of icy water from the well, or simply drinking it at room temperature.

That sort of “deprivation” ended pretty recently for some folks. A friend from Texas, daughter of a sharecropper family, says in her youth they drank a lot of tea. As a special treat, on Sundays they each got an ice chunk for their glass of tea.

Even paper wasn’t plentiful for northwoods pioneers. School children in earlier years used portable chalk boards for much of their work, and actual notebooks were used and reused. We have saved “cookbooks” in which clipped recipes were pasted over homework in bound paper notebooks.

Among my grandparents’ memorabilia we found a piece of slightly curled white birch bark, on which was penciled an invitation to a house warming party at a new dwelling in the Town of Lake. That precious piece of bark has somehow disappeared from our possessions, but the memory remains. Just another bit of proof that when folks don’t have what they want, they often find a way to provide what they need.

FLAG DAY IS FRIDAY, JUNE 14



The first Flag Day in America was celebrated in 1877, to mark the centennial of our national banner. Although it’s still not an official holiday, Flag Day, by an Act of Congress, was made a permanent observance in America in 1949. We all should take time to honor Old Glory, and give a bit of thought to what it means.

The colors red, white and blue were chosen, probably by General George Washington, because to the original members of the Continental Congress, red stood for hardiness and courage, white for purity and innocence, and blue for vigilance and justice.

The original 13 stars and stripes represented the 13 original American colonies which rallied around the new flag in their fight against the British.

Today, the 13 stripes still commemorate the original 13 colonies, but the number of stars has grown to 50, one for each state in the Union.

Despite our nation’s flaws, Old Glory deserves to be honored as a symbol of freedom, a beacon of hope, for oppressed peoples around the world.

Long may she wave!

Hopefully, she will continue to proudly proclaim the ideals that have always characterized America, and not be used to cover the shame of the generation that allowed the American dream to die!

ON THE SOAP BOX

ENERGY CZAR KEPT PROMISE!




Back in 2009, shortly after our current president was first seated in the Oval Office he appointed a Nobel Peace Prize winner Steven Chu to serve as his Energy Secretary.

That was a clue to some of us that things were going to get as bad as we were afraid they would, and they have!

But never mind today’s $4.19 per gallon price at the pump. Chu is apparently a man of his word, and things will probably get worse. Chu’s word was given to the “Greenies” who want us to quit using gasoline.

In September of 2008, before being appointed by President Barack Obama to help destroy this nation, Chu had talked to The Wall Street Journal about the benefits of having gasoline prices rise over 15 years to encourage energy efficiency. He said they should raise to European levels, which were about $8 to $10 per gallon. Well, he’s halfway there now. He delivered half of what he promised.

So cheer up folks. Things will likely only get worse, just as Chu intended. Since Obama knew Chu’s goals and put him in a position to achieve them, it’s fair to assume that’s what Obama wanted too!

In other interviews Chu was quoted as aiming to have American gasoline reach $4 a gallon. This week he achieved that goal and passed it by.

He does have one thing to be proud of. He’s actually a politician who kept his word.

That’s unlike his boss, the incumbent president who promised last fall that he would open the American oil fields to drilling and take other steps to bring our gas prices down. A foolish nation believed his promises and re-elected him. See how well he’s kept that promise!

Of the two, seems like Chu is more trustworthy, if totally misguided.

Incredibly, although Chu and his supporters never denied his remarks about favoring $5 and $9 a gallon gasoline, liberal news writers managed to chastise Republicans for repeating those words and for blaming Chu and Obama “for promoting an outrageously anti-American energy policy aimed at increasing the price at the pump.”

Maybe those reporters should look at the facts. They ought to be proud! Their hero accomplished exactly what he set out to do.

MEXICAN ARREST



Much has been in the news lately about the unfortunate Phoenix-area resident, Yanira Maldonado, who was arrested while visiting Mexico after police there found 12 pounds of marijuana attached to the under side of her bus seat.

She spent what must have been a terrifying week before being released from the mexican jail after a court found the accusations against her were unfounded.

But the whole incident raises the question, “What should a tourist do if arrested in Mexico - or any other foreign land - and accused of carrying drugs?”

Authorities say you should notify your consulate as soon as possible. Most of us wouldn’t think of it, but anyone traveling abroad should carry the consulate’s phone number. The consulate, America’s representatives abroad, can reach family and friends and provide a list of attorneys.

The U.S. State Department has a free online service to register travel plans and get help in an emergency. Registration is at https://step.state.gov .

Next, hopefully with advice from the consulate, hire a Mexican attorney if you’re in Mexico. Their legal system is far different from ours, presuming guilt instead of innocence.

Serious advisors say good attorneys also know how to handle demands for money, “distinguishing shakedowns from legitimate expenses for legal requirements.”

The final bit of advice is to do as Maladonado’s family did, and appeal to the news media. Focusing public attention on a situation helps greatly toward getting it resolved fairly.

On the other hand, given the drug situation at the Mexican/American border, plus the record of violence against Americans in Mexico, the smartest thing would probably be not to go there in the first place. That’s a shame, but it’s the way things really are.

COOKIN’ TIME



Rhubarb and asparagus are coming into their own this week, and strawberries probably won’t be far behind. Farm and garden markets are now open for the season, at least in Crivitz and Marinette, and roadside stands are starting to open here and there.

GRILLED FISH PACKETS

Grilling reaches new levels with these luscious packets aimed at getting full enjoyment from the day’s catch. If there was no catch, go ahead and buy the fish. They’ll still taste good.

2 lemons, each cut into 10 slices, ends discarded

8 small fish fillets, about one pound total

1/2 cup (1/2 of an 8-ounce tub) Chive & Onion Cream Cheese Spread

1 green onion, thinly sliced, divided

12 fresh asparagus spears, trimmed, cut diagonally into 2-inch lengths

1/2 cup chopped sweet red peppers

Heat grill to medium heat. Arrange three lemon slices, slightly overlapping, on half of each of 4 large sheets of heavy-duty foil sprayed with cooking spray. Place fish, skinned-sides up, on work surface. Spread each with 1 tablespoon cream cheese spread; top each with 2 teaspoons onions. Roll up, starting at thin end of each fillet. Place two roll-ups, seam-sides down, on lemon slices on each foil sheet; top with asparagus and peppers. Fold each foil sheet to make packet. Grill 6 to 8 minutes or until fish flakes easily with fork. Carefully open foil packets; top fish with remaining onions and lemon slices. Substitute grape tomatoes for the asparagus if you prefer, or add them too. If you have larger fillets, just cook them longer. Good served with hot cooked brown rice or couscous.

SPRINGTIME MINESTRONE

Whip up a batch of this light and luscious soup to put springtime vegetables to good use. Takes only about 35 minutes, start to finish, to prepare enough soup for 12 servings. Great for a soup and sandwich meal on the deck (or, this being Wisconsin, in front of the fireplace).

1/4 cup olive oil

2 large leeks (light parts only), chopped

1 cup chopped carrots

1 cup chopped celery

2 quarts (8 cups) chicken stock

1 tablespoon dried Parsley Flakes

2 teaspoons dried Basil Leaves

2 teaspoons dried Thyme Leaves

2 cups shelled fresh fava beans (or package frozen baby lima beans)

1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed and cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces

1 can (16 ounces) chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed

1 cup fresh or frozen peas

1/2 cup green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces

Salt, pepper and freshly grated Parmesan cheese to taste.

Heat oil in 5-quart Dutch oven or saucepot on medium-high heat. Add leeks, carrots and celery; cook and stir 5 to 6 minutes or until vegetables soften. Add stock, parsley, basil and thyme. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes. Stir in fava or lima beans, asparagus, chickpeas, peas and green beans. Cook 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender-crisp. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if desired. Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and additional parsley, if desired.

MRS. WILMARTH’S GINGER WATER

This old, old recipe comes from Carol, a friend, co-worker and marvelous cook who shares a fascination with recipes. It dates back to the days when folks made wo with what they had, and did it very well, too. The person who contributed the recipe origin ally said Mrs. Willmarth used to mix up the beverage and give it to them to drink when it was so hot while haying. She described the flavor as “like ginger ale without the fizz.” Ginger incidentally is good for the digestion, so there could be other benefits to this drink.

1/4 cup sugar

3 tablespoons vinegar

Pinch cream of tartar

Powdered ginger to taste

1 quart water

Mix together the sugar, ginger and cream of tartar. Add vinegar, and then stir in the quart of water.

RHUBARB TREATS

Rhubarb makes many wonderful treats. There are only a few simple rules. First, never, ever peel rhubarb, just wash to get rid of sand and other foreign materials and cut away any discolored or damaged portions. Get rid of all the leaves. Rhubarb leaves are poisonous, and can even be used to concoct bug repellents, but that’s for another column on another day. The stalks are delicious and make refreshing beverages, jams, desserts and sauces.

RHUBARB JAM

Makes four half pint jars. Each pound of rhubarb should equal about three cups of chopped rhubarb. Taste this before you finish. The needed sugar depends a bit on the tartness of the rhubarb.

2 1/2 pounds fresh chopped rhubarb (about 7 cups)

2 cups white sugar

2 teaspoons grated orange zest

1/3 cup orange juice

1/2 cup water

In a saucepan, combine the rhubarb, sugar, orange zest, orange juice and water. Bring to a boil, then cook over medium-low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until thick. It will thicken more as it cools. Ladle into hot sterile jars, and seal with lids and rings. Store in the refrigerator.

APPLE RHUBARB JAM

Flavor is slightly reminiscent of apple butter. Think some day I’ll try it with some allspice and nutmeg added in addition to the cinnamon.

3 cups diced rhubarb

3 cups diced peeled apples

2 cups white sugar

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 (2 ounce) package dry pectin

In a large saucepan mix together the rhubarb, apples, sugar, water and cinnamon. Bring to a boil, then cook over medium heat for 20 minutes or until the fruit is soft. Stir in the pectin and boil for 5 minutes. Ladle into sterile jars, wipe rims with a clean cloth or paper towel, and seal with new lids. Process in a bath of simmering water for at least 10 minutes. Store unopened jars in a cool dark place. Refrigerate jam after opening.

GINGER RHUBARB PUNCH

This is another old, old beverage for a hot summer day. In the original the Ginger Water from the recipe above would have been used instead of the carbonated ginger ale, but we’re spoiled today.

1 1/2 pounds rhubarb

1 quart water

2 cups artificial sweetner (or equivalent real sugar) lemon juice 1/4 cup (16 tablespoons)

Pinch of salt

Ice cubes- as required

30 ounce bottle low-calorie ginger ale

Cut the rhubarb, into small cubes. Put rhubarb and water in a non-reactive saucepan and cook until tender. Pass the mixture through a fine strainer or cheesecloth. Mix in the sweetner, lemon juice and salt. Refrigerate the mixture until chilled. At serving time add the ginger ale.

Thought for the Week:

Many young people this month are stepping out into the real world after completing their formal educations. Hope they resolve to keep learning, keep growing, even though their school days are done. Don’t know who Jiddu Krishnamurti was, but he was right when he advised: “There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.”

(This column is written by Shirley Prudhomme of Crivitz. Views expressed are her own and are in no way intended to be an official statement of the opinions of Peshtigo Times editors and publishers. She may be contacted by phone at 715-927-5034 or by e-mail at shirleyprudhommechickadee@yahoo.com.)

The Country Cousin


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