—In previous generations, time was measured in hours, days, weeks, months, quarters, and years. It was done this way because most tasks took that amount of time to complete or assess. In an 8 hour work day (or 10, 12, 14, depending on job type, age, decade, etc), you knew what you could accomplish, and what you couldn’t. In any given week, a small business could measure its performance via earnings and expenditures statements. One month was a good measure of how many products were made, as compared to previous months. Quarters offered reliable and predictable benchmarks for fiscal analysis, year over year. And a year, a year was the agricultural standard for determining how one fared in life. It was a “good year” or it was a “tough year”. We measured outcomes and success in this manner, and it was good, or fine, or something, but it worked. Somewhere between “there” and “here”, we’ve rearranged the way we measure output; we’ve moved onto minutes. And what happens in any number of minutes has a disproportionate affect on how we think about the larger time frames – and policy measures.
Minutes now consume our days. We don’t necessarily speak in minutes, all the time, but we think in minutes. Sociologists measure screen-time in minutes; educators measure class routines in minutes; police measure active shooting events in minutes; workout machines measure calories and “effort” and other nonsensical stuff, in minutes; commute times are measured in minutes; we are, in effect, a society that is controlled by the number of minutes any particular chore, or job function, or social engagement, or event/catastrophe, will take-up. We are 525,600 bits of life, in any given year. And this is neither good nor bad, as far as I’m concerned, it just is.
Considering the past months, and considering the time we spend doing any one thing in particular, in present-day America, I wonder, how long — how many minutes that is, it will take to fix what’s been destroyed, those things that have endured a year’s worth of shit-fuckery, for lack of a better term. Or will they ever be fixed? Maybe not. Maybe we will have to start fresh on certain ideas, like the democratic process and how that works and doesn’t work, depending on the various “working parts” involved in an election cycle.
In the short-term, the next 345,600 minutes, give or take, what will you do to move the needle on that which you are passionate about – the policies and proposals that will alter future landscapes. Will you advocate for changes via marches and phone calls and emails to your elected officials? Will you actively participate in a campaign, on behalf of a candidate who espouses the values and ideals that you believe to be most important? Will you engage with friends and neighbors and family members and talk about the state of our State and our Union, and consider what changes need to take place in order to move us forward? Whatever you choose to do, do it with passion. Do it whole-heartedly. Do it as if the future depends upon it…because it does.
Greetings Outsiders – and Welcome to L’Étoile du Nord (Star of the North for the non-French-Canadian folk). We are really excited to have you visit (please don’t stay past the 5th, that’s the day after the Super Bowl). We take a great deal of pride in our part of the larger Continental U.S. (which is bigger than Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, combined [New York not included, because Yankees fans], just pointing that out) and would like to share some, not all, of our treasures (hands off the Jalapeño Spam). But before I get into the list of items that you are encouraged to try, buy, and tell your friends back East about, we need to address a few policies/rules that make this place what it is, which is pretty gosh darn good. As an aside, there might be one or two things in this post that prove to be less than 100% accurate, this should in no way dampen your enthusiasm nor make you nervous as you seek out the iconic places and delicious eats. Enjoy your stay!
First and foremost, everything you’ve heard about “Minnesota Nice” is, more than likely, wrong. Which is not to say we’re not nice—on the contrary, we’re extremely nice, we just have a different way of showing it. When we visit far away lands, like Wisconsin, or North Dakota, we make sure to buy a round of drinks for everyone, in whichever bar we happen to be sitting in, that’s how we show our Minnesota Nice (that’s really all there is to it, if you buy drinks for the whole bar, everyone will be really nice to you, it’s kind of a reactional type of niceness). When guests visit us here, we expect the same from them; and seeing as how you’re our guests this week, we expect to get a lot of free rounds… if you want the full experience of Minnesota Nice.
Second, we have a lot of bikers here (not Harleys) and they ride in all seasons (because we’re quite a bit tougher than the average American). If you choose to drive, keep your eyes peeled for them, and for the other cars that don’t see them until the last second and swerve into your lane. Your best bet is to hop on a Metro Transit bus or the light-rail, or hire a Sled (like Uber & Lyft & rickshaws but with sled dogs and a musher).
Third, the Vikings (not the ones that play football) are real and many of their descendants live in this area. As luck would have it, many of those descendants are fans of the football team. As DNA would have it, Vikings are rather large, on average, and menacing, sometimes, and don’t scare easy. This is a perfect opportunity for you to practice the art of Minnesota Nice.
And last, and maybe most importantly, we don’t have accents, you have accents. This is meant as a clarifying comment so you don’t accidentally make any snide remarks about the way we say “baaaygel“, or anything with an “ag” in it.
So, to review: 1) Minnesota Nice = buying drinks for your new friends in Minnesota. 2) Watch for bikers and/or download the Sled app (available on HP Palm only). 3) Vikings are large and strong and pretty nice, most of the time. 4) Accents are yours.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk Minnesota Treasures. Unlike New England, we’re not known for just one thing (but I’ll admit, Legal Seafoods Clam Chowder is delicious); and unlike Philadelphia, there’s more to do than eat cheesesteaks while looking around Independence Hall. We’ve got a lot of unique places to visit (many include food) and products to sample. So get out your phone and take some notes.
Grain Belt: This company has been making belts, out of grain, for more than 150 years. Nearly all of the Minnesota regiments and batteries that fought in the Civil War used these belts for their uniforms (the exception being the artillery batteries, the belts kept catching fire). They have 3 belts in year round production (Weaved Wheat, Casual Corn, & Tri-Grain Mock Leather [rye, barley & buckwheat] for more formal occasions). They only have one storefront and it’s located across the Hennepin Avenue Bridge (you’ll see the huge neon sign) just keep heading up Hennepin a couple blocks and it’s right by Kramarczuk’s Sausage Company (which makes the best sausages this side of Warsaw).
1st Avenue: I’m sure you’ve all heard of the iconic First Ave and have read about its storied history, but did you know that its actually on 7th Street? Yep, no lie. Its always been on the corner of 7th, across from the Target Center where the 4 time Champion Minnesota Lynx play their home games (between the Lynx and the Univ. of MN Gophers Women’s Hockey [6 NCAA Championships], we do pretty well in the team-sports world). Anyway, First Ave is legendary as a place that has witnessed the likes of Prince, U2, BB King, Björk, The Replacements, Pearl Jam, The Violent Femmes, A Tribe Called Quest, Emmylou Harris, Fishbone, and many many more. Also, it’s only 7 blocks to Eli’s Food & Cocktails, a seriously good local eating establishment.
Pearson’s Salted Nut Roll: It’s nougat surrounded by caramel and rolled in peanuts (Virginia type they say). And, Kemps (another local icon) makes an ice cream that celebrates the goodness of this delectable treat. Buy a few boxes and treat your friends and family when you get home.
Cardigan Donuts: As a donut connoisseur (actually, a connoisseur of all food and drink), and having traveled far and wide to taste all manner of cuisine, sweet and otherwise, I can attest to the fact that Cardigan Donuts is one of the premier donutteries in America. We are spoiled, here in the City of Flour & Sawdust, with a plethora of amazing bakeries/patisseries: A Baker’s Wife, Salty Tart, Bread & Chocolate, Granny’s Donuts, Patisserie 46 & Rose Street, Angel Food Bakery, and more than a dozen others of the highest quality.
Dangerous Man Brewing: Craft beers are another thing we have no shortage of around the State. Nor do we have any trouble keeping them in business. Trying to name “the best” would be like trying to pick the best cheesesteak in Philly, so many different styles and people like what they like. That said, Dangerous Man Brewing is certainly amongst the crème, particularly in the colder months (which would be most of them in this neck of the woods). A few others that I would be remiss not to share: Fair State, Indeed, Tin Whiskers, Fulton, Lakes & Legends, Boom Island, Steel Toe, Town Hall, Flat Earth, & BlackStack. If you get through those, it means you’ve probably stayed past the 5th and it’s unlikely you’re ever going to leave… Welcome to the North.
Nye’s Polonaise: Maybe the coolest place to listen to polka— in the universe. It closed more than a year ago, but according to those who know, reopened a few weeks ago. It’s a gem.
Matt’s Bar: If you love bar food and have never tried a Jucy-Lucy, get ready for Heaven. Pro-tip: it’s cash only; and if the line is long, don’t allow the door to be held open. And you can get a beer from the bar and get back in line, as long as you’re not standing outside. And play the jukebox.
Food Trucks: The Minneapolis/St Paul Food Truck scene is wild and wooly and filled with great food. If you are only going to try one, go to Mid-NordEmpanadas, they’ll be stationed at 10th & Nicollet-NorthEast corner. These empanadas are so authentic you’ll swear you’re in Quito and wonder why it’s so damn cold. If you’re trying more than one, enjoy, our food trucks rock.
A few other tips and insights: we’re passive aggressive, sometimes, not always, whatever, it doesn’t matter, just don’t do anything stupid; you might hear someone say “What the Heck!”, they’re not necessarily religious, or a prude, it’s just Minnesotan for What the Fuck; Uff-da is not the sound made when sneezing, it’s Viking for “holy shit”; If a complete stranger (a Minnesotan stranger) offers you a bite of something, they’re not trying to poison you, we’re just good at sharing and we want others to try this new found dynamite dish; lutefisk & lefse are scandinavian staples, skip the lutefisk unless you fancy yourself an Andrew Zimmern type (he’s Minnesotan, he’ll eat anything).
And a few more locales and eateries to check out, some of them are off the beaten path but well worth a taxi ride (don’t use Sled for these places, too far, dogs will get tired). The Walker Art Center; Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA, not M.I.A.); Mill City Museum; & The Testify Exhibit at the Minneapolis Central Library.
Tilia; 112 Eatery; Pat’s Tap; Alma; George & The Dragon; Parlour Bar; Troubadour Wine Bar; Gyst; Quang; Gandhi Mahal; Gorkha Palace; Manny’s; Bar la Grassa; Hola Arepa; Dominguez Restaurant; Bull Horn Burger Bar; Town Hall Tap; Pizzeria Lola; Wise Acre; The Pig Ate My Pizza; Spoon & Stable; Freehouse; Kadai (in the Skyway); Dogwood Coffee; Key’s Cafe; Italian Eatery; Sonny’s; Sebastian Joes; Revival; The Corner Table; Cecil’s Deli; Crescent Moon (pizza); Broders Cucina Italiana; Sen Yai Sen Lek; Holy Land; The Anchor; & The Sample Room.
I’ve certainly missed a few places that deserve to be mentioned but that’s ok, you’ll be back, and when you visit next time, hit me up for new suggestions.
Congrats on making it here and as they say in NOLA, this time of year – Laissez le Bon Temps Rouler… & Skol!
It’s lefse making time all across the Nordic and near-Nordic scapes. From Hamar, Norway, to Portland, Oregon, to Ladysmith, Wisconsin, and beyond, the aroma of griddled potato flatbread fills the air. The annual tradition signals the beginning of winter, the coming of the holidays (Christmas to Easter), and the realization that one’s weekly exercise routine may need to be doubled, or even tripled, if there is any hope of keeping the svelte figure that was chiseled summer last.
Lefse can be made year-round, if the humidity levels are low enough (or if you’re willing to add additional flour); but it is often affiliated with the winter months as a companion to dinners of lutefisk, and/or some type of Northern European meatballs, and/or rakfisk, smoked trout or salmon. The history of potato lefse dates back two-and-a-half centuries and flour lefse might go back before the age of the Vikings (not Bud Grant’s Purple People Eaters). If you’ve never tried this Scandinavian staple, and you’d be willing to dedicate parts of two days to crafting this treat, then the recipe below will guide you through the process.
First, gather the ingredients for making the lefse:
(1) 5 lb. bag of Burbank Russett potatoes (if you can’t find burbank, see what your grocer offers that is the driest potato—less moisture = better outcomes); this should yield 8-9 cups of riced potatoes, adjust following ingredients by pinches or smidgens if you end up with more or less; recipe will make approximately 2 dozen pieces
(2) sticks of unsalted butter – room temperature; do not substitute margarine and if you want to use lard, that’s fine, just go 80% lard, 20% oil, equivalent to 2 sticks butter (1 cup) (having never tried this, I’m going with what others have said)
(1) Tbsp, or thereabouts, salt (I use kosher—no iodine, and larger surface area means increased contact (with less salt) resulting in greater absorption of moisture, think geometry and chemical reactions); additionally, add at least (2) tsp of kosher salt in the water when cooking potatoes
≈ (1)Tbsp white sugar
(3) cups white flour (again, keep humidity in mind)
This recipe does not use cream or ½ & ½, as many othersdo, which does create a different, though not necessarily less authentic, version; it’s just our particular take (it’s more about the Love you bring into the kitchen). As an aside, The Sons of Norway don’t use cream either.
Second, gather the necessary implements
(1) pot for cooking 5 lbs of potatoes
(1) potato ricer or masher and forks if no ricer is available
(1) mixing spoon
(1) 1-cup measuring cup
(1) Large mixing bowl
(1) flour sifter if you want, not entirely necessary
Day 1 – peel potatoes, quarter potatoes, and cook as for mashed (until a fork easily pierces the flesh)
drain potatoes and then rice the entire batch (in the same pot); if you don’t have a ricer, use a masher, and then two forks to ensure you’ve removed all the lumps
once riced, transfer to larger mixing bowl (you may want to transfer by packing the measuring cup and counting so you know how many total cups you’re working with, or not)
add both sticks of butter (or lard & oil), salt, & sugar while the potatoes are still warm, and mix until well married
cool uncovered for 1½ -2 hours then cover with paper towel and then over the paper towel place a clean cotton dish towel and let potatoes rest over night, on a counter, not refrigerated (don’t tuck the towel in)
Day 2 – Prepare for lefse making by staging the following items: (here they are)
set up the lefse griddle/flat top grill (make sure your chosen surface heats to a minimum of 450°, 500° is optimal)
lay out towels for steaming: 3-5 towels should be laid down for the lefse to rest upon, depending on thickness and ability to retain moisture (at least two towels should be akin to a flour sack dish towel-100% soft cotton, these are the towels that will contact the lefse, top & bottom) and another 2-3 towels should be placed on top to cover the lefse as it comes off the griddle, this is done for the steaming process
(1) wood pastry board, round is preferable but if you have another shape and it’s large enough to roll out the lefse (at least 20″ x 20″) you can use that, the lefse should roll out to a circular-type shape approximately 12″-14″ in diameter
(1-2) pastry cloth(s) that can be secured in a taut fashion over the wood board (having a backup is handy; if you begin to experience excessive gumminess or it is generally being disagreeable, change your cloth)
(1) good basic rolling pin with 2-4 covers → (“lefse cloth”/pastry cloth material)
(1) corrugated rolling pin (this is for finishing/design purposes)
You may use the corrugated rolling pin for everything, just make sure it is sheathed in the pastry cloth for the primary dough rolling
(1 or 2) lefse sticks; if you are employing multiple helpers, it’s nice to have an extra stick but don’t allow for any light-saber battles, they are rather delicate
(1) vessel of white flour (at least (2) cups) for dusting the board and the rolling pin
(1) small clean cloth stationed next to the griddle for wiping off excess flour in-between each flatbread
(1) ¼-cup measuring cup
(1) designated location to place your beverage(s)
Day 2 – Procedures
divide bowl into half, be as exact as possible but don’t buy a scale just for this, do your best
set aside one bowl with half of the potatoes, cover again with new towel
add half of the flour to the first batch and mix by hand, this is very important as you are kneading the flour into the potatoes until smooth, because you’re making bread, not potatoes (this will be repeated with the other ½ , post completion of 1st ½—hence, beverage preparation)
fill a ¼ cup measuring device (packed but not smushed) and then form the dough into a spherical-like shape and place it onto a plate or board (has to be able to fit in the fridge) allowing it to rest in fridge for at least 30 minutes
Commence with the lefse making
preheat griddle to 500° and reduce to 475°ish a few minutes prior to first round hitting the grill (continue to monitor/adjust heat as needed, older grills can be finicky)
work 2-3 Tbsp of flour into the pastry cloth (by hand) where the dough flattening will occur (this must be done to sufficiently minimize adherence of dough to cloth)
prior to every precious nugget of dough being placed on the board (including the first), lightly dust the rolling area with flour (approximately a Tbsp that is slightly heaping should be enough but adjust as necessary)
place dough onto board and give a pat, then turn over and push down slightly, this gives both surfaces an initial coat of flour to help keep the dough from sticking to the rolling pin or board
start rolling out the dough in short quick strokes of the pin (make sure the cover is on the pin), do not use too much force, just enough to get the dough spreading evenly; here (at the 5:30 mark) is a good example; and pick up the pin as you reach the edge or the fringe will be thinner than the rest of the “disc” making for an overly crisp outer ring
keep rolling into a roundish shape until quite thin, a millimeter at most (a dime is 1.35 mm, so thinner than a dime is the goal); if during the rolling, you find the dough sticking to the pastry cloth covered rolling pin, scrape the cloth clean and rub a little flour on the soiled spot, then determine if you need a little more flour on the dough/board or if you’re using too much force (easy, Arnold; repetitive bouts of scraping and flouring means you should replace your rolling pin cover); also, if you find that you’ve completely mangled the now defunct dough ball, just roll it back up, throw it in the fridge and come back to it, just try not to do that more than once to the same lump as the addition of too much flour will give you something that tastes more like a flour cake—no eggs, no butter, no vanilla, no bueno
This is a good time to point out that the most difficult part of the lefse-making process is preventing the dough from sticking to the board, or pin, or both.
once the proper thickness has been achieved, give a quick 2-3 wisp-like rolls with the corrugated rolling pin (with or without a cover, for decorative purposes) very carefully slide one lefse stick under the flattened dough, pretending that you are following a diameter line (maximize surface area for even weight distribution) and gently lift the lefse and transport to the grill
gradually unfurl the lefse onto the grill by twisting the stick, don’t try to rush this, it’s not going to help if you’re picking at it to get it flat after tossing it on in a heap
allow lefse to cook for as long as it takes, you’ll know it’s ready to flip when you see smallish bubbles forming and the edges browning nicely; if this is taking more than 1 & ½ minutes, or less than 45 seconds, the heat needs to be adjusted to a warmer/cooler setting (485°/460°)
using lefse stick, again gently slide your saber under the mid-section of the half-done bread and using the same technique (twisting motion) place uncooked side down and wait another minute +/-, check it by peeking at underside, before taking it off
when lefse is done, remove with lefse stick and lay (still folded in half) on the bottom cotton towel and cover with top towels (& don’t forget to dust off any flour left on the griddle)
Continue to layer each lefse on top of the last, with about one inch showing on the top of the previous piece
When you are close to reaching the end of the towels, about 12-15 pieces, move up the first 10-12 so that they are almost entirely on top of each other, about 1/4 inch overlap, and then continue with the layering, moving up more as necessary; and don’t forget to keep the lefse covered, it needs to steam in the towels to retain moisture
Once you’ve finished the batch, allow them to steam for another 20 minutes before putting away (if it hasn’t already disappeared); Lefse keeps best in a sealed bag in the refrigerator. It’s good for a few weeks but we don’t usually wait to see how long it will last.
How to eat your culinary delight:
My preference is a modest spread of butter, rolled up, that’s it. However, many folk prefer a little sugar, brown or white, along with the butter. It’s also perfectly delicious solo, smeared with fruit butter, nibbled with cheese, or filled with meatballs, smoked salmon or gravlax. There is really no wrong way to eat lefse. It tastes delicious any-which-way you nosh it.
Additional information/tips for the artisans attempting this feat:
The import of dry arctic-like air from the region around Oslo, Norway (or Ladysmith, if their bottling line is up and running) can help artificially create conditions that are favorable for a successful lefse making venture (similar to what some bourbon drinkers do (importinglimestone filtered water to supposedly enhance the experience). However, you run the risk of getting a package that was not properly sealed and has no return address, and then you are left with nothing to attenuate the humidity in the cooking area.
Ladysmith (and Rusk County more generally) is lucky, when it comes to lefse-making; with the semi-aridFlambeau River enveloping the village, and the dehumidifying plant that is situated neatly on the river’s edge removing even more moisture from the big drink in the Heart-O-The-North, much of the remaining pine forest dampness is removed and the resulting steam is sent off in the general direction of Syracuse, New York (so now you know why Western New York gets so much winter precipitation). This all adds up to create a near-perfect micro-climate for the lefse experience (much like Santa Barbara’s wine regions).
And for all those kitchen craftswo/men attempting this feat in-between Palm Beach County, Florida (from Belle Glade to Boca Raton) and St. Martin Parish, Louisiana (either region), you may need to seal off your workspace, install some dehumidifiers, and crank up the heat, in addition to importing the more arid form of atmosphere. Moreover, if you don’t have the World Champion lefse-maker (a.k.a. my Mom) helping you out (because she’s busy crafting lefse and other heavenly confectionery, in Fall Creek (which has it’s own semi-arid micro-climate, if less intense), Lefse Time and many many other useful sites/videos have you covered.
Let it be known that all manner of Holiday celebration and/or promotion, both official (sanctioned) and unofficial (unsanctioned, and not encouraged by MTMT) to include parties, gatherings, get-togethers, happy-hours, luncheons, cocktail soirees, black-tie formals, cookie exchanges, neighborhood shindigs, affairs, bashes, wingdings, raves, and after-parties, and not excluding religious assemblies, meetings, conventions, rallies, turnouts, convocations, or any other reason for crowds, audiences, or throngs, to gather and engage in the gaiety of the holiday spirit as it relates to Hanukkah/Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, New Years Eve & Day, St. Lucia Day, Fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe, St, Nicks Day, and any other reason you may find for celebrating (promotions, raises, marriages, engagements, birthdays, births, anniversaries, bonuses (be they monetary, edible, or just good advice), Vikings above .500, Packers & Bears lose on the same day, et al.) shall be planned and carried out according to the Holiday Celebration & Promotion code book (2014)(hereafter referred to as HCPCB), chapter (3), paragraphs 1-74, to include all sub-sections, amendments, addendums, riders, attachments, and all other additions approved by M²T².
General Holiday Festival Guide
The HCPCB was produced to ensure we remain vigilant in our efforts to ensure maximum profitability and fiscal responsibility for our most important stakeholders (Board Members and Shareholders (as opposed to steak-holders)) so that they may continue to move our economy forward. The past year is proof that these job creators (Board members and Shareholders) are having a substantial impact on our broader economic indicators (sales of: Yachts; Ferraris; Rolexes; 10+ carat rings with matching earrings, necklaces, & tennis bracelets; Lobsters (in Minnesota); and six week vacations to Las Vegas (please don’t judge them, these stakeholders are extremely important to a very small segment of our economy) have all increased between 0.05 and 2,500 percent) and the 10’s of 10’s of American jobs that have been created because of these sales increases are worth our pandering to their not truly substantial efforts.
Furthermore, the HCPCB covers appropriate apparel for both sanctioned and unsanctioned festivities. This is done in the best interest of employees as we do not wish to have coworkers attempting to show-off too much individuality as that can lead to further creative ideas and free-thinking which tends to lead employees down the road of anarchist tendencies (not to mention it goes against everything that standardized testing has prepared you for); and we all know what happened to that free-thinker, Sid Vicious.
One modification that will be inserted into next year’s printing and has been authorized for the 2016 Holiday season is the addition of green and gold patterns on sweaters (because that team kind of sucks right now). After much debate and reasoning with the CEO, CFO, COO, and CAO (Chief Apparel Officer), it has been decided that as long as the green and gold garb does not display any signifiers that would give the appearance of being supportive of the football team from Eastern Wisconsin, it will be allowed. As of this time, we are still not allowing anything that could be mistaken for supporting the following: Chicago Bears, Blackhawks, White Sox, Bulls, (Cubs are still OK, it took 108 years) NHL teams from Dallas, Pittsburgh, and NewYork or NFL teams from Kansas City, Miami, Pittsburgh(we really don’t care for Pittsburgh athletics), and Oakland.
Additionally, in our commitment to providing Minnesota’s workforce with the Happ, Happ, HappiestHoliday season, we are pleased to announce the creation of a frequent flyer card (not to be used at any airline—anywhere—ever). Every time you go to any of the aforementioned Holiday functions, both sanctioned and unsanctioned, you can earn points by using your MN-HO-PA card (which stands for Minnesota Holiday Party Animal, not “Michael Nouri, Home Office-Panama“).
Points are accrued in multiple ways and we have come up with incentives to help you spend money (great for the State, and local, economy); Therefore, you can feel good about running up a big tab for overpriced drinks. Upon entering each event, points will be awarded (multiple entrances to the same event will not result in additional points—smokers, vapers, and scammers). Black Tie events, and those reserved for upper management will be worth 10-20 points more than other events (we think this is fair as upper management gets more stressed out making decisions), unsanctioned events will be worth only 1-2 points as they are unsanctioned and probably not very fun.
Food and drink purchases will also be worth various points but you won’t know how much each item is worth until after you buy it, just because. And finally, you can earn points by not driving to the events. Those that ride public transit of any sort will get five points per ride, those choosing to take a taxi will get 10 points, and anyone who can afford a limo will receive 50 points. We thought this was fair because if it costs more it must be better and we’re all about being the best we can be.
And, we didn’t forget about our valued employees who choose to live outside of Minneapolis & St. Paul proper (to include those in St. Cloud, Rochester, Austin, Brainerd, Duluth, Moorhead, International Falls, Marshall, andWestern Wisconsin). Because public transit is less convenient for you, we have made a transit waiver available. If you want to drive to & from events and still receive transportation points on your MN-HO-PA card, just fill out the online form and complete the short survey monkey questionnaire (shouldn’t take more than 45 minutes) so we know how many points to add to your card (based on year, make, model, color, and how many passengers you carpooled to the event; Think Green).
What do the points get you? Well, that’s the coolest part—nada; zip; zero. You just get to brag to your friends about how many points you’ve accumulated by going to 13 events in 14 nights and spending nearly $1000 on $10 egg-nog bombers (mixed with equal parts Kemps Holly–Nog & Karkov vodka, & finished with a sprinkle of a nutmeg like substance that may or may not be responsible for the rash on your tongue), $2-buck Chuck that ran you $11 a glass (yep, that really happened), and Kahlúa Christmas cookie shooters for $9 that didn’t taste like Kahlúa or Christmas cookies (nobody can actually describe the putrid taste but everybody orders more).
Guide for the Holiday House Party
For those bashes taking place in the comfort of a coworkers home, we have provided guidelines on which comestibles are appropriate for Holiday snacking. Swedish meatballs, lil smokies, jello-salad shooters, tater-tot hot-dish mini-muffins, Wisconsin cheese (but say it’s from Stearns county, nobody will check), summer sausage, Old Dutch chips & dip, 1 or 2 (or more) varieties of Spam, crudités with extra ranch (and bleu cheese for “that guy“), olives (both green & black) the cracker trinity (Cheeze-Its, Ritz, & Goldfish) deviled eggs (but call them “execrable” eggs at religious gatherings and say it’s a Hebrew word for “Awesome”), beer nuts (only at events taking place in homes attached to bars, taverns, or public houses); and for our friends who like to get a little adventurous with their hors d’oeuvres, the following international treats are recommended (i.e. sanctioned): Pollo enchilada cream-cheese wontons (knock out two countries with one amazing dish), HawaiianMeatballs, Minnesota sushi (almost like the real thing, but not really… actually not even close, but if you don’t put it out until guests have 4-5 cherry-ginger whiskey sours, they won’t know the difference), Doro Wot (which can be picked up from several Ethiopian restaurants if you’re in/near the Metro), smoked salmon or trout (the Canadian variety, eh), lefse (the unofficial-official flatbread of Minnesota Holiday festivals), lumpia, and nachos. Any other international dishes must be approved by your HR (Holiday Relations) HolidaySergeant (HRHS) (Do Not Mess with The Sergeant Major).
For dessert options: Bûche de Noël (don’t try to make this yourself, you’ll cry a lot, and drink a lot, and everything will be ruined), krumkakes (let your grandmother make these for you), Kolachis, gingerbread cookies, gingerbread cake with peppermintstickice cream, gingerbread donuts, cutout cookies, chocolate covered pretzels, Holiday M&Ms, Hersheys Kisses, Mint brownies, mini pecan pie, and nutmeg B-52s for anyone not driving (clove cigarettes may be offered to pair with this drink).
Approved beverages consist of: Non-alcoholic: water, sparkling water, Coke (must be Mexican Coke if you are serving any of the approved international foods), Diet Pepsi, Squirt, Tab, Mello Yello, orange, cranberry, & cherry juices, egg-nog, hot cocoa, coffee, and Clamato. Alcoholic: Tom & Jerry’s, Grasshoppers, Holidaypunch, Red, White, & Rosé wines (no Cold Duck or Boone’s Farm), Michelob Golden Light, Miller 64, Moosehead, and Coors Banquet (Minnesota brewed beers will be allowed, however, if any pictures of or references to said beers are placed on social media, we will revoke all future holiday party privileges from the host as our major sponsors, ABInBev, Molson Coors, & Moosehead have spent more than $300 million combined to monopolize market their brews to Minnesota’s Holiday Party industry, for the next 30 years) and brandy or rum, not both, for mixing with egg-nog or cocoa (not coffee).
You may make slight alterations to any of the approved recipes, however, you should check with your HRHS (The Sergeant Major will keep a list of who’s bringing what, how much, recommended serving size, caloric values, sugar, fat, protein, carbs, and whether or not it qualifies as having enough nutritional value to act as a substitute for dinner; Please, Do Not Mess with The Sergeant Major) prior to adding any spice as we don’t want to have an event with eight very spicy dishes and only one non-spicy or mildly-spiced dish. That wouldn’t be very neighborly. Moreover, the idea of a Holiday party is to experience the variety of the season and eight spicy dishes isn’t very variable.
Henceforth, the HCPCB should be consulted prior to any planning of any Holiday function. If an employee is unable to find an answer that is clear and satisfactory, we will have an 800 number staffed Monday-Thursday from 8:00 – 4:00 (read: 8:40 – 3:30) and Friday from 9:00 – 3:00, or thereabouts. Also, if partygoers arrive at any gathering and are confronted with a scent that has not been approved for Holiday events (douglas fir, frankincense, patchouli (only at head-shop parties), bayberry, gingerbread, buttered rum (must be serving the drink in addition to burning the candles), cinnamon, myrrh, woodsmoke, and cranberry clove) they may call the 800 number and leave a message and the host of the party will have points deducted from their MN-HO-PA account. We will not tolerate any sort of maverick-like antics.
In conclusion, we would like every Minnesotan (and their approved guests) to have an exceptional Holiday season that is filled with chic & classy seasonal decor, sensational scents and sounds that are reminiscent of your childhood Holiday galas, and spectacular food and drink that don’t result in acid reflux, scalded tongues, or excessive vomiting.
Happy Kwanzaa, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah,Joyeux Noël, Feliz Navidad, & a Terrific 2017 to All!
Updated: June 2018 Links to State/County Fairs in all 50 States
The Minnesota State Fair is, by all accounts, one of the great Fairs worldwide. With an average attendance of nearly 2 million visitors, it ranks near the top for major expositions in North America and beyond. The spectrum of entertainment and attractions ranges from top-flight musical groups to hundreds of different varieties of flora and fauna (including the amazing renderings of crop art), food in jars, on plates, in bowls, and of course, on sticks. There are games & rides, specialty events/days that highlight various sectors of the State’s economy & heritage, and booths that provide insights on: gardening, art, installing a hot tub, brewing beer, wind power, Spam (a national treasure), and so much more. The fair has something for everyone.
Fairs are an important piece of what is known as “Americana“. Our state, regional, and county fairs, help remind us whence we came—as a society, a country, a rural-agrarian community that placed a high degree of importance on tradition; not simply for the sake of tradition, but because it provided a historical remembrance of how things were done, in the name of survival. And furthermore, it provided the learning that was needed for succeeding generations to improve on the way things had been done traditionally, giving rise to the advances that brought us hitherto.
These extravaganzas celebrate all things agricultural; and while every state has one or two products they are known for: (dairy in Wisconsin and New York, wheat in Kansas & North Dakota, swine in Iowa & North Carolina, rye in Georgia & Oklahoma, turkeys in Arkansas & Minnesota, grapes in California & Washington, beef in Texas & Nebraska, etc., etc.) it is common to see hundreds of different plant and animal varietals at the larger fairs. Agriculture is, of course, every fair’s raison d’être, but these gatherings have often attracted the ladies and gentlemen who are pedaling their wares, ideas, and technological advances that are going to “change the world“, and sometimes do. 2016 attractions include: green energy exhibits; water efficiency, sanitation/filtration, and sustainable management practices; and in Minnesota, the Eco experience.
Minnesota’s state fair is not the oldest (started in 1859), that Blue Ribbon belongs to New York’s State Fair (1841), nor does it have the largest total attendance (Texas claims that title, however, the Texas shindig runs nearly two weeks longer), but Minnesota does have the largest average daily attendance. “So [its]got that going for [it], which is nice“. Furthermore, the MN State fair has Ye Old Mill, a non-vomit inducing ride that, in 2015, celebrated 100 years of floating Young, Old, and In-between, through the Tunnel of Love.
America’s State Fairs are an iconic symbol of our country’s agrarian past, present, and future. Our agricultural landscape has changed immensely in the past 239 years. Technology has allowed for the massive scaling up of farm operations and therefore the massive decline in the number of families engaged in farming. This mechanization was also undertaken in the processing/manufacturing of food. As the size of farms increased, so too did the size of the corporations buying the farmers’ wares. It is basic economic theory in action.
Economies of scaleallow for more efficient use of manpower, physical space & machines, and capital. This production model has been the major contributor to the dwindling number of artisan producers. However, with the resurgence of restaurateurs, small grocers, and school districts, across the nation, increasingly working with local small and medium size family farms, the artisanal method of handcrafting in small batches is returning. Add to this trend, the growing numbers of millennials who are taking interest in where their food comes from and how it is made and we can see the beginnings of a movement that will in some ways bring us full circle.
The Fair is a chance to interact with the members of our larger community whom we don’t see on a regular basis. Those families who engage in the practice of animal husbandry, horticulture, and agriculture, as well as the artists, vendors, politicians, and performers, who make our lives better by perfecting their craft and rewarding us with the products of their labor.
Get out to your State Fair, wherever you live; and if you want to take a trip to the Greatest Fair on Planet Earth, the airport code is MSP and Southwest just might have a deal.
We often hear people say that “the schools are broken” or the system has failed, or some other negative comment which is usually meant to cast aspersions on those schools having the most difficult time turning out “high achieving” students. Districts with classrooms bursting at the seams, dilapidated buildings in need of an extreme makeover that would baffle Ty Pennington, and a budget that had to cut all of the arts & music programs, are examples of the most visible needs at these schools. Add to that list a full-time nurse being cut to part-time (because we all know that students only get sick or injured on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Friday mornings), and sports programs and other extracurriculars that are bare-boned and funded through private donations, athletic fees, and whatever money the district hasn’t spent on the basics. Several of the schools that fit this mold have been featured in books by Jonathan Kozol and others.
Conversely, we occasionally hear that people are very happy with the school district their child attends. Their school has a high graduation rate, most students score ‘proficient’ or above on standardized tests, and they experience no shortage of funds for the band, the football team, and the swimming & diving squad. The high schools in these districts often make Newsweek’s list of “Best High Schools” and they are just as good, if not better, than many of the private schools in their area.
The truth is, both of these scenarios are examples of some of our nation’s school districts. But many more districts fall somewhere in-between, and are not often featured in magazines or books. They serve a wide variety of students who come from a wide variety of cultures/backgrounds and fall all along the socio-economic spectrum. These districts produce world-class scientists, authors, athletes, civic and business leaders. They also see students who are unable to complete the K-12 system, some of whom become homeless and highly mobile, and other students who have difficulty functioning in society. This is what our typical school district looks like. It is not one extreme or the other, rather somewhere in between and always hopeful that with the next new program, they can alleviate some ill that is preventing their school from making the “Best” list. Our educational system is not, on the whole, broken. But neither is it in prime condition. Major systemic overhauls are needed.
Many districts are in need of fixes in one or two or seventeen areas. Those fixes, the majority of the time, require funding. This does not always imply new funding; some cases require money to be shifted from a program that isn’t working to a new program that has exhibited promise elsewhere. But more often, it does require additional expenditures. This, financing, is often the area where policy matters get hung up (whether it’s education policy or anything else).
As we’ve recently witnessed in Maryland and Minnesota, deciding which programs are funded, and how the state decides to spend its tax revenues, is highly controversial. Governor Hogan (R-MD) made the choices that he, and some of his constituents, believe to be right. While other Maryland citizens, especially those engaged in the profession of educating children, disagree. Not every district in Maryland is in dire need of additional funding, but there are districts that could benefit greatly from extra funds.
Sometimes funding is necessary to upgrade infrastructure or some other tangible feature. But more often, funds are required to provide those things that are not as easy to put a price on. Professional development is one area that schools can choose to cut back on, if they are experiencing a budget shortfall. This may seem like a fairly inconsequential cut but imagine the auto mechanic who is asked to work on new cars, using new technology, and never receiving any instruction about the new automobile features or how the technology works. Providing ongoing professional development is the best way to keep teachers up to speed with the ever-changing world, which means their students will have the opportunity to keep pace with their peers in surrounding districts.
Another area that is often overlooked, until it’s out of control, is class size. Somewhere in the history of education, a consensus was developed about how many students should constitute a typical class size . It is pretty standard for 20-25 students to be in a class, in the typical elementary classroom, and a few more in the typical middle school and high school class. This has worked fairly well for many students—not all. The problem is not the average class-size in the typical school. The problem is when budgets are cut and class-sizes explode, and teachers are told that they have to deal with it, just like any other professional would. The problem is two-fold; many teachers will do what they have to do to make it work, which means they’re putting in more hours outside of school while making the same wage. Meanwhile the students, the BIG losers here, get less attention, fewer questions answered, and more competition for the same amount of resources. And if we look at which schools have the most overcrowded classrooms, we find the majority of them to be in inner-cities.
Which brings me to the issue that many people in education circles don’t talk about. An overcrowded classroom in the inner-city of Minneapolis, or Baltimore, or Los Angeles, or any other large American city is very different from an overcrowded classroom anywhere else. Inner-city schools, on average, have more students growing up in adverse conditions, than schools in suburban and rural areas (and for clarification, urban does not always equate to inner-city but all inner-city schools are within urban locales). Children growing up in inner-cities are more likely to experience poverty and violence (Thompson, 2014) and this makes learning more difficult, especially in overcrowded classrooms.
If we want to make one major policy change that will have the greatest effect on closing the achievement gap (something that I’ll get into more in another post), reducing class sizes in inner-city schools would be that change; in my opinion, and a host of others (Chingos & Whitehurst, 2011). It’s true that reducing class sizes from 20+ to 10-12, or 35+ to 15-18, would cost a lot of money. But if we think about the amount of money we are currently spending on those former students who didn’t get a quality education (not for lack of valiant attempts by the teachers) we can’t afford to not make the investment.
Class size reduction is not necessary for every student to be successful; but if we are truly interested in providing every student with the opportunity to achieve the “American Dream” (assuming it can still be achieved by the average Joe or Jane), then we owe the students that are growing up under the most difficult circumstances access to more tools so that they might achieve results similar to those outcomes the more advantaged students are attaining.
The state of education is not all bad. Millions of great people wake up everyday and set out to change the world by inspiring young minds. They don’t do it for the money or the fame (shocking, I know), they do it because they care about their students. By providing these teachers and schools with the resources they need to perform their jobs at the highest level, we can make our economy more stable and our society more equitable. Both of which are relatively important for a nation’s long-term viability.