I must be getting old. It seems only a short while ago, I could get through an airplane flight and a full day of sightseeing and still manage to post a 1000 word essay every night (with pictures!) We just got back from a whirlwind trip to Minneapolis to stand as Godparents and it’s taken me days to put up a post about it. (I’m going to blame technology since the old laptop is moving slow these days and is still trying to upload pictures to Flickr.)
My lack of posting doesn’t mean the trip wasn’t noteworthy. Because it was on so many levels. First that whole Godparent thing. We, of course, are standing Godparents to The World’s Most Beautiful Baby who you will remember from this post, and this one and this one. Now everything I know about this whole Godparent thing comes from The Godfather. I distinctly remember that you have to renounce Satan loudly in a cathedral while someone swings incense over you and you are having your enemy rubbed out in an intercut scene. I’m sorry to report that there is no renouncing and incense in Methodist Churches, especially not in the Midwest. But I couldn’t think of anyone I wanted rubbed out, so that alone kind of had the scenario crumbling.
The World’s Most Beautiful Baby wore a christening gown that had seen service for 4 generations of the mother’s family starting in 1918. The gown is now the texture and delicacy of gossamer butterfly wings. Which was appropriate for a child who seems permanently sprinkled in Fairy Dust.
After the ceremony, Amelia May was changed into the christening gown worn by her father back in Sixties England, so she really covered the style gamut in Christening Attire. The venue was the Hennepin Avenue Methodist Church in Minneapolis, site of many family baptisms and weddings. In fact, there is a stained glass window dedicated to the memory of one of Amelia May’s relatives.
It’s been awhile since I’ve been in the Midwest proper (I took the Southern route mostly for our cross-country road trip two years ago.) But from what little I saw on this whirlwind tour, I’m glad to say, that the great thing about the Midwest is that the cliches are all true. We drove through neighborhood after neighborhood of neat little houses, with well-manicured lawns, picket fences and streets where kids rode bicycles under shady mature trees. I felt like I was in a Norman Rockwell painting. Andy remarked that it looked as if the American Dream was a lot easier to achieve in the Midwest.
Another thing was the trash — or lack thereof. We decided if you played Highway Bingo on Minneapolis’s streets and highways, you couldn’t include discard items of any kind. There were none. I mean none. I told Andy, if we saw a piece of trash we’d have to pull over so I could photograph it, as it would be the only piece of trash existent on Minneapolis highways. It’s not that California highways are littered. They are actually pretty clean.
But you usually see the Sheriff’s Work Program crews out there in their orange jumpsuits. Or you see the orange plastic bags full of trash neatly stacked and waiting for pick up. In Minneapolis, there was no evidence whatsoever to indicate that there had EVER been any trash. This leads to only these conclusions:
1. All trash is magically picked up at night by invisible crews of Keebler Elves and hobbits.
2. There is no packaging in Minnesota, therefore no trash.
3. There is a force-field in Minnesota that automatically locks car windows in the closed position so they can’t be opened to dispose of trash.
Whatever the reason, Minneapolis has to be the cleanest city in the world.
Yet, despite their tidiness, there were hints that you can’t dismiss Midwesterners as not having an edge.
Apparently, Minnesota has a “conceal carry law” which means any law-abiding adult can be issued a concealed weapons permit. So the local churches have to post “No Guns Allowed” signs to keep worshipers from being accidentally shot during the first hymn.
Later after the baptism, when we went to a lakeside park that sported a Jazz band performing in the bandshell and crowds of kids, dogs, swing dancers and picnickers. We ran into this fellow.
What kind of mind thinks, “Gee, I’m going to the park where people are picnicking with their kids and elderly people are swing dancing. Better bring a gun and at least two ammo clips.” I’m not even going to dwell on it.
But I did notice that instead of trash, Minnesota’s highways are crowded with little bunnies. Bunnies everywhere. Bunnies that apparently eat everyone’s gardens and are real pests. Obviously Minnesota doesn’t have our coyotes and Bob Cats and Mountain Lions to keep those bunnies in check. Is there a bunnie season that could be instituted so all those gun toters don’t have to take their guns to churches and swing dancing venues?
Leaving that burning question aside, we also had a bit of a gourmet introduction to Midwest food. Of course, Andy insisted that we go to a sports bar and have a burger and beer, but that’s not the highlight. Minneapolis is home to two former San Francisco residents who are very serious food bloggers. Kathy (see her site here) is committed to shopping locally and making those Midwest in-season ingredients into incredible creations. (When I say serious, I mean serious. They belong to Internet cooking challenge groups with names like Daring Bakers, Cookie Commandos and Delta Force Diners. Actually, just kidding about the last two, but these are not your casual food bloggers.)
Fig and Pig ice-cream anyone? That’s homemade ice cream with Midwest bacon and figs in it. Pretty much covers all the important food groups: sugar, cream and BACON.
But the piece de la resistance was an authentic Bakewell Tart which she had the moxie to serve to two Englishmen. I should warn those of you who are not constantly around Englishmen of a certain age that they are like Mikey on the old Life Cereal commercial. They don’t like anything! Or they have this highly developed sense of nostalgia that says nothing made on American soil is going to be as good as they remember it being back in England.
Things were looking dangerous as Kat brought out the tart and Rob said, “Well, does it have jam in it” sure that an American would overlook this important ingredient.
“Yes, it has jam”, Kat replied with only a hint of a smirk, “Home-made strawberry balsamic jam from local organic strawberries.”
Needless to say, her Bakewell Tart has set a new standard to which all future Bakewell Tarts must aspire. Andy and Rob pronounced it an “Excellent Pudding”, pudding being what English people call any “made” dessert regardless of whether it’s a cake, a tart or an actual pudding as we would know it.
So thanks Midwest. It was great to see you again. It’s okay to live up to the cliches when they are all good ones. We’ll be back.