Last Monday of July – The OTHER Most Important Sports Day in Louisville, Kentucky


Many are familiar with the Running of the Roses in May in Louisville, Kentucky.   It’s better known as the Kentucky Derby and brings folks in from all over the country donned in their finest hats, frocks, and tails, for the quickest two minutes in sports.     The well dressed sip mint juleps and eat refined foods.


But the last Monday in July offers another fun Louisville sports day.  Its a lot less known, and is a bit less high brow than the Derby.  It’s called the World Dainty Championships, and is in its 48th year, although the game, brought by German immigrants, has been played in the area since the mid 1800s.     Onlookers gather around Hauck’s Handy Store in the Schnitzelburg Neighborhood of Louisville, drink cheap beer, fried bologna sandwiches and potato chips, cheering on the participants.


The game consists of two sticks – a long one, and a shorty, or dainty one.   The participants all must be over 45.     The long stick is used to strike the short stick, making it airborne.   The participant then has three tries to strike the small airborne stick and send it flying down the street.  The winner is the one who sends it sailing the farthest.

It was thought that the game was named after a small ice cream treat by the same name that was peddled in the neighborhood by push cart vendors.      George Hauck, now in his 90s, started the event at his Handy Store in 1971 and still reigns over with his cane.      Politicians and Catholic nuns alike get involved, while everyone around is munching on their fried bologna.     The Little Sisters of the Poor benefit from the donations given during the event.


The fried bologna has deep meaning.   When folks in the neighborhood had nothing, George would give them fried bologna sandwiches from his store to hold them over.   There is an air of childhood play and neighborhood camaraderie that puts it on my bucket list of food events to experience.



Do You Know Where Your Cacao Beans are From?


I’m getting ready to teach a course next week at UC on Cincinnati Candy History. Of course one of the candies I will be talking about is Chocolate. While most people like chocolate, very few know how it’s made, where it comes from, and what it really tastes like.   I admit, before interviewing and engaging Paul Picton, owner of Maverick Chocolates as an event speaker, I had no idea myself.    So, I’m going to take some time to talk a bit about sourcing and production, and even have my students taste two single-sourced bean-to-bar chocolates from Peru and Madagascar.
The Chocolate exhibit at the Cincinnati Museum Center right now until September is a great resource for learning about the history of cacao and chocolate, and how it’s produced commercially.

70% of the world’s chocolate that we eat comes from West Africa – Ghana, Ivory Coast and Burkino Faso. And most milk chocolate used in the candy industry uses mixed low quality beans, that are roasted way too long, mixed with beans from all over, mixed with lots of sugar, cocoa butter, and vanilla. So most of what people taste in chocolate confections made by companies like Mars is essentially vanilla and sugar, not the actual cacao bean.
Only in craft chocolate maker bars, called Bean-to-Bar chocolatiers, (about 60-80 of them in the U.S.) can you taste the subtleties in flavor of the different beans from a single source location. When beans are mixed, like in the Big chocolate companies’ candies, you can’t taste these flavors. Some beans are nutty, some are spicy, some are fruity, while others are floral.
There are three types of cacao beans – Criollo, the most sought after and considered the perfect cacao bean, Trinitario, and Forastero. Cacao beans are much like grapes used to make wine. Their flavor is a product of their terroir – the weather conditions – dry or humid, the soil type, and other environmental factors.
Our very own bean-to-bar chocolate company at Findlay Market, Maverick Chocolates, started by Paul Picton, makes a White Criollo cacao bean chocolate bar at 63% cacao that I will be offering for tasting to my students.


Paul Picton cutting Criollo cacao pods in Peru.
Paul works only with co-ops and farms in South America that are ethical and do not use forced child labor (like many do in Africa that supply the big chocolate companies), and who offer fair wages to their workers. For the White Criollo bean chocolate he makes, Paul works with the Norandino Co-op in the Morropon coastal region of northwest Peru, about 5 miles south of the equator. The rare Piura White Criollo Cacao beans are considered the best tasting and pure cacao beans in the world. They are less acidic and bitter, so they require less roasting, and have a fruity flavor. The 63% Criollo cacoa bar from Maverick has notes of raisins and ripe red fruit. Add an extra 2% cacao and the flavor notes turn to plum, shortbread, and honey.
So, if you want to taste chocolate from the most coveted cacao bean in the world, go to Findlay Market, Joseph Beth Books, or Clifton Market and get a bar of Maverick Morropon chocolate.    You might want to pair it with a Stout, Porter, or IPA; a French Brie or Talegio cheese; a meszcal, or even an oolong tea.

The Cincinnati Steam Bakery that Supplied Civil War Hard Tack


Charles H Bennett’s Bakery at 89 Court Street in Cincinnati ca. 1880.

During the Civil War hard tack, or hard flour crackers, were the most consistent ration for soldiers.   Most got 9 or 10 of these crackers a day.  They were so hard and so dense soldiers used them for plates.  They were so dry as to take any moisture from your mouth.   As a result many soldiers dunked them in their coffee to soften them up, or crumbled them into water and fried them in bacon drippings in a pan.    They were known to get moldy (being made without preservatives) and become infested with maggots or weevils, but soldiers ate them anyway.

But who made all this hard tack for the many tens of thousands of soldiers who gave their lives to fight for the Union?    Well, one major supplier was right here in Cincinnati, the Charles H. Bennett Steam Bakery, which during the Civil War was at 89 Court Street, near Vine Street, facing the old Court Street Market House.      They had incorporated in the mid 1840s, and were bought out before the Civil War by a partner, John Littleford, who operated the bakery until his retirement in 1893.   He brought in automated machinery to replace the time consuming hand molding of crackers.

Their homemade bread and crackers had been very popular to Cincinnatians before the Civil War.   They also  exported a lot of their crackers down south via the Ohio River before the war.    They were called  the Charles H. Bennett Steam Bakery because of the oven they used.   Many bakers used wood or coal fired brick ovens, which took a long time to heat and were somewhat inconsistent in heat across the cooking area.    Bennett used a system of steam pipes inside the brick oven, powered by coal fired steam that when heated to 500 F could provide more consistent and controllable heat throughout the oven which  made his bakery more efficient.


During the Civil War the public hoarded all the government issued coins for their bullion value (even the lowly cents). Merchants had to make change with postage stamps, paper script, and private tokens like the ones Bennett made for his customers.      There is even a set of Bennett bakery tokens at the British Museum!

Sausage is Not a Secret in Cincinnati


Stephan Neumann of NKY, immigrant sausage maker from Hanover.

I remember hearing about female relatives and women friends of my mother who would not share their secret recipes.     They wanted to safeguard their prowess with certain signature dishes and not allow anyone else to know their secret ingredients or maybe even how easy their wonderful sausage casserole was.    Apparently among the men in Cincinnati there was no such secret guarding of recipes – especially in the sausage industry.


In 1965 there were 40 meat processing companies in Cincinnati. More than half made sausage and/or goetta and some were just slaughterhouses who sold in bulk to other processors. As each of them slowly dropped off the map because of competition from the big national houses, their experts went on to other companies, taking their ‘secret recipes’ with them. So, the secret to how the sausage is made is really no secret in Cincinnati.
The exchange of talent is no surprise. The same thing happened in Cincinnati’s brewing industry. Master brewers jumped from beer company to beer company. It also happened in our flavor and candy industries as well. It’s how innovation continues in a free market. There’s some pretty interesting examples of this recipe sharing recently.

Wassler’s Meat Market on the West Side of Cincinnati bought Hoffman’s Goetta Recipe when they went out of business in the West End. Wassler’s now makes this beloved goetta recipe for themselves and market it as Pop’s Homemade Goetta and for Mike’s Meats in Findlay Market, who markets it as their own homemade goetta. You can taste this legacy goetta recipe at Tucker’s on Vine in Over-the-Rhine.

Albert Oehler learned how to make sausage at Oehler Sausage on Massacheusetts in Camp Washington from his uncle Fritz Oehler, after he immigrated to Cincinnati as a teenager from Lower Saxony, in the Cradle of Goetta, then went to Clifton Meat Markets to make the sausages for Paul Jaeger.   Then, when Paul Jaeger sold his business, he went to be sausage maker of Stehlin Meats on Colerain Avenue.  Albert taught his son Albert Jr. how to make sausage, and Jr. went to work for Edelmann Sausage.

Milton Schloss, the last CEO of Kahn’s taught Elmer Hensler of Queen City Sausage how to make their hot dogs.    The “Weiner the World Awaited”  is now available as a Queen City hot dog.    Elmer had worked for Eckerlin and several other meat processing businesses before starting Queen City Sausage.
Mark Balasa of Gliers when to Queen City Sausage and helped them hone their goetta formulation.

John Hammann of Hamman Meats and Catering, worked at Edelman’s where he learned their goetta recipe from their German sausage maker.

Paul Kroeger, founder of Kroeger Meats at Findlay Market, came to Cincinnati from Oldenburg, Germany, and worked at Avril & Sons in the 1960s,  before starting his own meat stand, which he passed to his sons Mark and Mike.
This type of sausage sharing is what led to the fusion that makes our Cincinnati brat and Cincinnati mett so hyper regional and different than say a Milwaukee or St. Louis brat. It also makes it difficult for us food etymologists to trace the origins of recipes!