You Ain’t Much if You Ain’t Dutch – How Will YOU Celebrate King’s Day on Friday?

Friday, April 27 is King’s Day or Koningsdag in the Netherlands. It’s the birthday of the new King Willem-Alexander, and he is the first king celebrating the national holiday since its inception. Before his mother, Queen Beatrice, abdicated the throne to him in 2013, Queen’s Day or Konningennidag, was celebrated on April 30, which is her mother’s birthday. The tradition started in 1891 with Queen Wilhemina, whose father King Willem III, was not so popular. Wilhemina passed it in 1948 to her daughter Queen Juliana, who then passed it to her daughter, Queen Beatrice, when she ascended the throne in 1980.     As King Willem-Alexander has three daughters, the tradition will revert back to Queen’s Day when he turns over the throne to his eldest princess daughter.

 

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King Willem-Alexander and his family.

It’s a day for oranjegekte or ‘orange madness.’  Everybody dresses in orange and drinks beer and orange colored drinks and parties all day long. The reason for the color orange is that the monarchy is from the Royal House of Orange-Nassau. There is also the national vrijmarket, or flea markets and garage sales all over the Netherlands, for people to offload their junk.

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Kids celebrate by playing a game called koekhappen, where they catch spice cake ontbijtkoek, dangling from a string in their mouths. Made with rye flower and a long list of spices, ontibjtkoek, is like a deeper version of gingerbread cake. A variation of the game is appelhappen, where an apple dipped in stroop (a Dutch syrup similar to caramel) is attached to the thread. The stroop makes it difficult to take a bite of the apple without getting a faceful of delicious syrup. Stroopwaffels – two thin Dutch waffles glued together with stroop are now being served on United Airlines flights as a snack, like their Dutch counterpart, KLM.

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Dutch King’s Day Cake Pops
I will be wearing orange Friday, as my fifth great grandparents, Rainier and Grada Reinsen, immigrated from the Netherlands to New Orleans in 1849. They were the unicorns known as Dutch Catholics, from the Brabant province, which was home to artist Vincent Van Gogh, and the Dutch ancestor to goetta, balkenbrij. Maybe that’s why I love the Netherlands so much.    Amsterdam is my Paris.    I love the art museums and canals of that romantic city. I loved the ‘Legends of the Gnomes’ as a kid, created by Dutch artist, Rien Portvliet.  I am a huge fan of Dutch salty black licorice.    I’m mad about a nice Dutch pannekouken or pancake for breakfast with spicy stewed apples on top.  The best Thai savory pannekouken of my life was had on a visit to art city, Utrecht.   And, as gross as it may seem to the uninitiated, I am also a huge fan of Dutch favorite smoked herring and matjes – the variety of pickled herring from the area of Northern Europe.
So if you see someone dressed in orange, or with orange hair on Friday, wish them Happy King’s Day!

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The Cincinnati Candy that Licensed The Nation’s Most Popular Comic – the Katzenjammer Kids

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In 1897 the nation’s most popular comic strip was introduced in the Sunday supplement of William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal.  It was a series called the Katzenjammer Kids – created by German immigrants Rudolph Dirks and Harold Knerr.   It was based on the popular German stories of Max & Moritz of the 1860s, who were two mischievous boys killed after seven pranks- yes, pretty gruesome and very Grimm.     This was over decades before a little mouse was introduced in 1928 by an unknown comic artist named Walt Disney, who would produce all sorts of candy and toy licensing opportunities.   The name Katzenjammer translates from the German as “wailing of cats” – which means contrition after a failed endeavor.

The stars of this new strip were two German twins, Hans and Fritz.  Hans had dark buzzed hair, and Fritz had blonde hair with what could today be called a feau-hawk.  The two were always getting in trouble, rebelling against authority, particularly their mother, Mama Katzenjammer, and her friend der Captain, who was sort of a de facto father to the boys.   They used their bulldog, Rosie, to help them carry out a lot of their pranks on der Captain, and others  like der Inspector, a dreaded official from their school.      The characters spoke in very stereotypical German accents, and each episode usually ended by both boys getting a spanking.      American kids LOVED the strip.     Even though they got into a lot of mischief, they did get what they deserved at the end.  Between 1916 and 1918 kids could go to the theatres to see over 37 silent short films of the Katzenjammer Kids, which were produced by Hearst.   They were discontinued at the height of their popularity as a result of their German connection and the anti-German hysteria of World War I.

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In 1915, Cincinnati candy company Peter Echert, who was then part of the National Candy Company, wanted to get in on this comic strip popularity.   The year before Knerr and Dirks split ways and developed two identical and competing versions of the strip, producing lawsuits.     Echert introduced a line of marshamallow candies called Jymcrax, under their Cincinnati line of Acme Confections.  They were a box of pink, white, and yellow marshamallow candies shaped into several of the most popular characters in the Katzenjammer strip.  Oddly, Mama Katzenjammer was not included as one of the marshmallow treats.   Echert  marketed the candies across the nation through the National Candy supply chain.   A 1915 artists rendering in the International Confectioner showed how a candy store could create a display window with Hans and Fritz and the candies.

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A 1915 design of a candy store window marketing the Jymcrax candies using the Katzenhammer kids.

There were six characters molded out of marshmallow candies – all six available to the kid for one penny – Hans, Fritz, their bulldog, Rosie, their girlfriend, der Captain, and der Inspector.

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As a result of the anti-German hysteria of World War I, the candy line was discontinued, but Echert got three good years of marketing power with the nation’s most popular comic characters.  The Katzenjammer Kids are still very popular in Denmark and Norway and have inspired many other comic characters.

Fred Harvey’s Chains were the “Hooters” of the Wild West

 

 

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Judy Garland made the first chain of U.S.  restaurants famous when she starred in the 1946 MGM movie musical Harvey Girls.   She played a mail order bride heading by train to the West, when she encountered a cheery group of girls travelling to open a Fred Harvey Restaurant.     Judy fell out with her fiancé and became a Harvey Girl.

Harvey developed a standard uniform for these Harvey Girls.   It was a short, tight fitting black frock with white apron, designed to highlight the female form.    It was  pretty racy for the 1880s, with a shorter than normal skirt that hung eight inches off the floor.    He placed ads in the 1880s in East Coast and Midwestern newspapers for “white girls, 18-30, of good character, attractive and intelligent.   The women signed a one year contract, lived in a house run by a House Mother, had a strict 10 PM curfew, and were forced to quit if they married.

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Fred Harvey restaurants were the first chain of restaurants in the U.S.  They were set up at stops along the Atchinson, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad, and catered to those who travelled on the railway – mostly well to do white businessmen.   Starting in 1876 and lasting until the 1960s, the Harvey Girls supposedly helped to tame the American West.

The Harvey chain offered weary rail travelers a place to have a good, elegantly prepared meal in a refined atmosphere at affordable prices.    Unlike other restaurants of the day it didn’t offer ‘short-order’ or fried food.   Rather, they offered steaks, chops, ribs, hams and bacon served usually with home-fried,  hash-browned or boiled potatoes.

Duncan Hines, food critic, frequented the Harvey Restaurant counter as a young man in the 1890s working for Wells Fargo in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  He was impressed by the generous portions, the quality of the food, and the cleanliness of the restaurants.     He could get a meal for under 25 cents at the counter and he felt he could eat like a king.

This shaped Hines’ expectations of restaurants in years to come in his successful line of guide books Adventures in Good Eating.

An 1888 menu reveals the choices a customer had in a typical Harvey dining room:  bluepoints on the half shell, filet of whitefish with Madeira sauce, young capon, roast sirloin of beef au jus, pork with applesauce, stuffed turkey, salmi of duck, English style baked veal pie, prairie chicken with currant jelly, sugar-cured ham and pickled lamb’s tongue, all accompanied with seven vegetables and a wide variety of pies, cakes, and custards, and Harvey’s famous coffee.

Of the 86 or so Harvey restaurants that popped up along the railroad – (one every 100 miles of the AT&SF Line by 1886) –  one, the El Tovar, is still operating in the Grand Canyon.

 

“Head Held High and Drink into the Sky” – Lüttje Lage, the Hanover Cocktail that Accompanies Goetta Eating

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The dish of Hanover Kohl und Pinkel – Kale and Pinkel, a Goetta ancestor.

There is a long legacy of ancestors of our beloved goetta in the Northern Cradle of Germany from Munster/Oldenburg, Hanover, Bremen, Hamburg, and to Mecklenburg.
In the areas of Oldenburg and Ammerland, in Hanover, Pinkel is one of the closest of these grain sausages or gruetzwursts to our goetta. In fact the slab form of pinkel, pan fried, is called in low german, Goert, which has a striking resemblance to goetta.   Pinkel itself is eaten by locals slit down the center and innards ‘pushed out’ like goetta.
Made in the late fall and winter, there are groups who tour the inns and small cafes of the area on what is called a Kohlfahrt –or Kale Expedition to eat the regional dish of pinkel and green kale. Grunkohl or green kale is the preferred side dish with this Hanover grain sausage, and in season in the late Fall. All the inns have their special preparation of this dish, and the locals love celebrating this season, which involves a lot of drinking.

The Kohlfahrt is an invite only type of affair and begins early in the afternoon at about 2 PM on a Saturday.   The organizer has a bollerwagen or hand cart full with everything you need for the next few hours – some kale, snacks, and lots of alcohol – namely the Luttje Lage or other local schnapps like saurer and plum.

You start at a friends house and walk to the local gasthaus or beer keller for the kohl and pinkel dinner and basically have a drink at nearly every corner, bridge or other opportunity along the way.   Leave it  to the Hanoverians to come up with such a drunken event.

 

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The special drink that accompanies this dish is called Luttje Lage. It is a cocktail that consists of drinking the local sour wheat beer and kornschapps, simultaneously out of two separate and special glasses. It’s got the college feel of drinking an Irish Car Bomb, but looks like it takes the skill of a tightrope walker to perform. Bibs are served to first timers just in case they spill.

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You can order specialized kits with the beer, schnapps and both glasses from http://www.luttjelage.de

There are three beers brewed in Hannover that are appropriate for the cocktail – Gilde luttje lage, Herrenhauser, and Hanoversch, but originally the cocktail was drunk with a local sour top-fermenting wheat beer invented in 1526 by Cord Broyhan, that no one seems to make commercially anymore. The three mentioned are all a low alcohol class (2.2 to 4%) of beers in Germany called Schankbiers. One of the typical kornschnapps is Hardenberg Weizenkorn.
Drinking this pairing looks fun, but precarious, and I found an English pictorial description on how to drink it.

 

Instructions on how to drink Lutje Lage:

When you pour the beer into the special glass, do observe the measuring line. Do not pour too much liqued into the glasses (especially the schnapps glass, otherwise you will spill the drink
Take the beerglass into your hand and put all fingers to the glass. Leave about a fingerwidth of space to the top of the glass (this will work no matter how big or small your fingers are
Push the middle finger out (obviously designed by a smartaleck) All other fingers remain to the glass)
Put the schapps glass between your middle finger and your ring finger. (the ring finger is now between the two glasses and sits on top of the foot of the schnapps glass)
Now adjust the schnappsglass to be about 5 mm above the beer glass (Important: the two glasses must touch so that the schnapps can flow from the schnappsglass into the beerglass.
Stand straight (important: do not lean forward in fear of spilling the drink!)
Drink exactly opposting the schappsglass allowing the schnapps to flow direction into the beerglass.
Drink speedy, not hastily! Head held high and look into the sky – Important: do not tilt the glasses (like drinking beer or wine) but knock your head back!

I think this custom needs to be brought back to Cincinnati goetta eating or at least at the Hofbrauhaus or Mecklenburg Gardens to celebrate St. Martins Day in November, the day when hog slaugthering, and goetta making, started.

 

Happy 100th to Some Fantastic American Food Products

As I get older and realize it’s OK to trust people over the age of 40, and to value experience and wisdom over beauty, I am focusing on honoring longevity in all its forms. So, for any food business, surviving a decade is spectacular. For a food brand that survives 100 years is a holy miracle and should be celebrated. This year, there are several U.S. Companies who have a food brand becoming a centenarian.  Some, like Goetze are still amazingly run by their founding family.
Sweet confections Cherry Mash (St. Joseph, Missouri), the Goetze Bulls-eye (Baltimore, Maryland), and the Moon Pie (Chattanooga, Tennessee) all celebrate this year.

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The South’s favorite creamy mayonnaise, Duke’s, has been used in potato salads, ambrosia, and on sandwiches for a century. The beloved condiment was formulated by the enterprising southern female Eugenia Duke, who by 1918 was selling over 10,000 mayo-slathered sandwiches to customers in North Carolina. The mayo has the distinction of being the only sugarless mayo on the market. Its higher concentration of egg yolks, and its vinegar and paprika give it a creamier, and tangier kick than its competition.

 

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Marshmallow fluff, which also now has a new strawberry flavor has been slathered on ice cream and confections, and even “Fluffer-Nutter”  peanut butter sandwiches, since World War I.

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A soft drink invented in Cuba, by Manuel Rabanal, was brought to Miami, Florida, with his family in exile during the Castro regime. It’s described as a fruiter Dr. Pepper, and very popular with the south Florida Latin community.

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The SunSweet Prune of all products celebrates 100, keeping America’s people … um, regular. Founded in 1917 as an agricultural marketing cooperative, today they operate the worlds largest dried fruit plant in Yuba City, California.
Next year will see the 100th birthday of our two beloved home grown potato chips – Grippos and Husmans – hopefully they put together a great year-long celebration. It will also see Hostess Cupcake, and the Ohio-invented Eskimo Pie and Good Humor ice cream bars, which gave birth to the novelty ice cream bar industry, turn a century.
There are other U.S. food products over 100 years old and still going strong – like Candy Corn, Cracker Jack, Doscher’s French Chew, Dorsel’s Pinhead Oats, and many others.

My Favorite Caramel Candy – the Goetze Bulls-Eye Turns 100

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Another U.S. candy turns 100 this year – one of my personal faves – the Goetze Cream Caramel Bulls-eye. My blog earlier last month celebrated the 100th birthday this year, of another U.S. made candy, the Cherry Mash. Both candies are manufactured in the U.S. – not in Mexico, Canada, or elsewhere, where other U.S. Candy companies have moved their factories due to sugar tariffs and the flood of international imports.

But the small Baltimore, Maryland-based company – run by the fifth generation of the founding family – is fighting and passionate about keeping American jobs. The Goetze Candy Company was started in 1895 in Baltimore (near where John Hopkins Medical Center is today) by Prussian Immigrant August Goetze and son, William. William had graduated in 1884 from the Maryland Institute of Arts and became an engraver of printing plates for offset lithographic presses. He ended up doing a lot of work for the Baltimore Chewing Gum Company, and bought the company with his ‘Vati’ in 1895.

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During World War I, there was a shortage of chicle, a main ingredient of chewing gum at the time, and there was big competition from larger candy companies who were buying chicle plantations in Latin America.  A Chicle Trust had been formed of the large gum producers that put the little chewing gum manufacturers, like Goetze and our own H.D. Smith Company in Cincinnati at a huge disadvantage. As a result, the company had to innovate. So, Melvin Goetze, grandson of the founder, started making caramels, which he called ‘chuees’ in 1917, out of his home kitchen. Then in 1918, with help from his father William, he introduced the first cream caramel bulls-eye – a soft, chewy caramel wrapped around a cream fondant center – yum!

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Over the years four new flavors of cream caramels came – the Black Licorice (my favorite) in 1968, the Chocolate in 1971, Strawberry in 1980, and the Caramel Apple, which have a tart Granny Smith apple flavored cream center. I became only recently aware of the new flavors, which I have only seen at Witt’s End Candy Emporium in Bellevue, Kentucky. Unfortunately, they are closing at the end of April after 4 years, so I have to stock up and find a new supplier.

By 1959, when the company changed their name and incorporated into the Goetze Candy Company, they were already focusing on caramels. The name change was a formality.

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Three generations of Goetze management of the company.

Then in 1984 the company introduced yet another popular candy item – a long Twizzler like extruded cream caramel rope called the Cow Tail. In 1993 they came out with the caramel apple Cow Tail.

Three members of the family have been inducted into the Candy Hall of Fame of the National Confectioners’ Association (NCA) . Melvin was inducted in 1984, William in 2008, and Spaulding in 1998. Mitchell Goetze, fifth generation of the family serves on the NCA’s Manufacturing Advisory Council, and served as Chairman of the NCA.

From left to right William, Melvin, and Spaulding Goetze.

So I proclaim a loud “Zum Geburtstag, Viel Gluck!” or Happy Birthday to my favorite caramel candy, born out of World War 1 innovation.

 

A Fat Buddha Where a Fat Barbarossa Once Stood

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A young Harry Hsu, ca. 1986.

Chinese food in an historic German beer garden may seem ironic – especially in Cincinnati’s meat-and-potato West Side. But that’s what’s about to happen, again, thanks to Cincinnati’s Mogul of Chinese food – Harry Hsu. If there’s anyone who knows the history of Chinese-American food in Cincinnati, it’s Hsu. For nearly forty years, the native of Taiwan has been presenting quality Chinese food to Greater Cincinnatians on both sides of the Ohio River. He’s owned nine Chinese restaurants starting in the early 1980s. He’s currently renovating one of them, which is the site of the oldest German Beer Garden in Cincinnati – Quebec Gardens in East Fairmount.
Quebec Gardens started out in 1865 as the Charles Gries Wine Gardens, when the area was a rural grape growing community outside the reach of the city Blue Laws. It became a Sunday escape for the Germans of downtown who wanted to imbibe on the Sabbath. Leave it to a Chinese immigrant to preserve the over 160 year old building of a German immigrant.  Now a fat and happy Buddha sits in a building which originally had a painting of a fat and happy Barbarossa, the mythical patron of Bavarian brewers. The year Gries Wine Gardens sold out of the family in 1933, from the estate of John J. Gries, Mrs. Wong Yie, signed a seven year lease on a Chinese restaurant in the Mabley and Carew Building. She was the widow of famed Cantonese restauranteur, Wong Yie, who legitimized Chop Suey in Cincinnati, and took Chinese food out of the seedy alleyways and into mainstream cuisine in the 1910s.
But being a restauranteur was not Harry Hsu’s original plan. Growing up on a rural farm outside of Tamsui, Taiwan, near Tapei, he was more familiar with pigs, chickens, and oxen. His family had about an acre of land where they grew cabbage, cauliflower, snow peas and rice. But his background did expose him to fresh cooking. Call it maybe early Chinese farm-to-table.
Harry came to Cincinnati in 1975 to go to the University of Cincinnati to earn a degree in Electrical Engineering. After receiving his degree in the early 1980s, and working a year for the Zonic Corporation, he was given the opportunity to open his first restaurant, China Chef, on Colerain Avenue. The Blue Gibbon on Tennessee Avenue in St. Bernard was next, opening in 1984 with a partner, Frank Kok. Along came Peking Palace shortly thereafter in 1985, where Hsu’s master chef, Chester Yang, served Peking Duck, without having to call ahead 24 hours before, like other restaurants at the time required.
Next came the remodeled Quebec Gardens in 1985 in South Fairmount, with his four brothers. Tamsui in the former Catfish Ranch in Bromley, Kentucky, was next in 1986. He introduced now popular General Tso’s Chicken and cashew chicken to Cincinnatians at these restaurants. Now they’re his two top sellers. A Quebec Gardens, Jr. was opened in Cheviot in a former Roy Rogers restaurant in 1989, and in 1992 he opened his longest running restaurant, Casual Chinese in Newport, Kentucky, which has earned Best of Award in Cincinnati Enquirer and other local publications.
Hsu closed Quebec Gardens in about 2007 to move his family to Montgomery for better schools. While there he ran the Casual Wok and Grill, which became Bon Chinese. Now that the 10 year lease is up in Montgomery, he plans to move into his mortgage-free Quebec Gardens, where he will present Sichuan and Dim Sum, along with ribs, steaks, and seafood.
Harry gave me an explanation as to why Sichuan food is so spicy. He says in addition to being the province where the Panda bear lives, it is a big basin with very moist air and lots of rainy weather. The Sichuan people use the spicy chilis and peppercorns in their cuisine to keep their joints healthy.
Harry differentiates his Chinese cuisine from the others by its depth of flavor. Instead of making sauces that use salt, sugar, and MSG, he uses fresh garlic and ginger. He says many Chinese restaurants make their sugary sauces ahead and just pour into the stir fry to appease the American palate. Hsu’s chefs don’t premake any sauces – everything is cooked to order.
As a fan of Hsu’s Blue Gibbon, when I was a young UC Engineering graduate working in St. Bernard, I am excited to see what his revamped Quebec Gardens offers. But, I will probably be drinking a Tsingtao or Snow, rather than a Moerlein or a Mulhauser.