Berliner Pretzels and Fried Pepper Chicken Fueled the Career of Our Local Songbird Doris Day


My introduction to local German-American songbird Doris Day, or Dorothea Maria Anna Kappelhoff, was through the Alfred Hitchcock thriller The Man Who Knew too Much.   This was during our childhood roundup of Alfred Hitchcock films which my parents submitted us to at the local drive in theatres for several summers in the early 80s.   Of all the dozen or so we saw from the Hitchcock cannon, this one was my favorite.   I loved the exotic setting of Morocco, and I thought Doris was a better leading lady than Grace Kelly and any of the other Hitchcock blondes.   My mother would often sing the film title song, Que Sera, Sera, belted by Doris to get her son back.  The best scene in the movie is when Jimmy Stewart and Doris eat in the Moroccan restaurant with their son’s kidnappers, having to navigate low couch seating and eating with their hands.  I’ve been known to voice both Jimmy and Doris’ banter through that scene.

Doris was born this month, April of 1922, in Evanston, near the Jewish Cemetery I pass every time I come back home from downtown off of I-71.     She was born to German -American parents Alma Welz and Friedrich Wilhelm Kappelhoff.   Like my own Grandfather, and as was customary in the Cincy German American community – her father was named after the last German Kaiser, who reunited Germany.  They belonged to the now defunct St. Mark’s Catholic Church in Evanston, where Doris’ musical teacher and philandering father was the organist.

Alma’s parents, Doris’ grandparents, Wilhelm and Anna Welz were immigrants from Berlin and came to Cincinnati decades before World War I to escape Prussian military service.   They knew there was a strong immigrant community in Cincinnati and started a pretzel bakery when they immigrated that was at 23 West Elder Street in the shadow of Findlay Market.   All of the Welz children, including Doris’ mother, worked in the pretzel factory, and Doris’ three uncles sold the pretzels on street corners all over Cincinnati. Her grandfather made enough money from the pretzels that he was able to buy a bakery with an apartment over it for his family.

Doris’ mother moved the family in with her widowed mother in College Hill and worked at the bakery after divorcing Doris’ father when Doris was 8 years old.   In 1934 Doris’s mother, Alma, was devastated when her own mother willed the family pretzel business to her brothers—with nothing for the Kappelhoffs. After that Doris’s life was never the same.   Oddly enough, Doris’ father was conductor of the local German Bakers Men’s Chorus – which met at Grammar’s Restaurant in Over-the-Rhine- even though it was his wife’s family who were bakers.   In 1937,  pretzel bakery was sold by her uncles, Doris, and her mother and younger brother moved to live over her Uncle Charles’ Welz Tavern on Warsaw Avenue in Price Hill.   Only a few years later Doris got her singing career started at the Netherland Hotel, and later the Shanghai Inn, a Chinese supper club owned by the Yee family.

One of Doris’ Welz family even owned a fried chicken restaurant on the West Side, where Doris’ mother helped out and drug Doris to as an infant.    A descendant of that family, Mick Wilz, (the spelling changed from e to I at some point) started or promoted the Indiana Fried Chicken Trail, which documents the unique heavy-peppered fried chicken served in diners and joints in Dearborn, Ripley, Franklin and Union Counties.

It was never mentioned in any of her biographies if Doris required either soft pretzels or fried pepper chicken in her green rooms, but her slim figure throughout her career tells me she probably ate neither very often.


Marillenknodel, Kaiserschmarrn, and fraises Imperator – Three Kaiser-Fave Desserts that Shaped the Germanic Empire


The sugar castle known as Café Kaiserschmarrn at the Weisn at Munich’s Oktoberfest.

Yesterday we learned from German officials that the 2020 Oktoberfest in Munich is cancelled.     The world’s biggest party will not happen, and that means millions will not be able to eat it’s favorite dessert (and perhaps also the world’s most employed hangover cure) – the Kaiserschmarrn.    It’s so popular the dessert has its own tent, called Café Kaiserschmarrn – hosted by legacy Munich confectioners (since 1883),  Gerhard and his son, Magnus Müller-Rischart – where visitors can watch the fruity, spongey pancake being made in an oversized cast iron pan.  One can also get an assortment of breakfast and sweets – scrambled eggs, honey roasted ham, fruit salad, yogurt, crossaint, and a glass of OJ or prosecco.    Although beer is not available in the Café, one can get a ‘hair of the dog’ caipirinhas or an elderflower liqueur spritz from northern Italy called the Hugo.  House band Magic Sound plays to the free distribution of a multitiered wedding cake every day in the Café at 2 PM (to celebrate the 1810 wedding of Ludwig von Bayern and Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen) and hosts the world’s largest Over-40 Party.   I’m thinking about throwing my 50th there in a few years, once this is all over.


But the Kaiser in the name doesn’t refer to the German Kaiser.  It literally means the Kaiser’s Mess – because it is a spongy crepe-like pancake with rum soaked raisins that’s torn apart, caramelized in a hot pan, sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar and served with applesauce and plum compote.   The Kaiser refers to the Emperor Franz Joseph of Austro-Hungary, for whom it was created.   And it just happens to be one of three Kaiser-fave desserts that were served at pivotal meetings which shaped the Germanic empire in 1848, 1870, and 1917.  Many origin stories of the Kaiserschmarrn exist.   One popular one is that Chef Leopold created it as a light dessert for the weight watching Empress Sisi (Elizabeth of Austria), but she didn’t like it.   Franz Joseph asked to taste it, he liked it and it was named for him.


The Berliner Palace where in 1870 Franz Joseph introduced Kaiser Wilhelm I to his fave dessert.

When Franz Joseph visited the German Kaiser, Wilhelm I, at his Berliner palace in 1870 during the Franco-Prussian War, legend says he asked the German Kaiser’s chef to bring him the dessert, which he used to show how he thought Germany  should defeat Napoleon III’s French army and gain Baden Wurtemburg, Alsace Lorraine and Bavaria, forming a unified Germany, all of which happened in 1871.  Once the Kaiser’s chef arrived with the ingredients of his favorite dessert Franz Joseph began his explanation:

“Now, Wilhelm, the pancake is the remainder of the French army. The first thing you do is, you take your big cannons made by Krupp, and use them against the French, who only have canons that can fire 2km, am I right?“ Kaiser Wilhelm I nods his head in anticipation. Then Emperor Franz Joseph, using a spoon full of rum soaked raisins,  sprinkled them dramatically over the pancakes to symbolize cannonballs. “You shoot until there is no more return of fire”, continued Franz Joseph. “After this you come with your battalion and your fast guns – da da da da!” And with another spoon he took the white sugar powder and coated the entire pancake. The Emperor took the knife and the fork and began to cut the pancake quite frantically. “The French army is finished – smashed to pieces, you see! But now, my dear King Wilhelm, what do you do next?”, questioned Franz Joseph as he took a spoon full of the plum jam and mixed it in with the pancake on the East side of the plate. He takes a bite “Mhhhhmmmm, so good”, said the Emperor, “This section represents the area of Alsace-Lorraine, which you shall take from France for good. By the way, Wilhelm, this is my favorite dessert creation, which I call  Kaiserschmarren. Please try!”   The rest is history.


German Kaiser Wilhelm I (left) and Emperor Franz-Joseph of Austria (right) – his fave dessert (center).

Sadly, the Kaiserschmarrn never became popular in Berlin.  Much more hip was the Berliner jelly filled donut, popularized by President John F. Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner”  speech there in the early 60s.

Now Franz Joseph’s predecessor in Austro-Hungary, the Emperor Franz Ferdinand married Maria Anna of Savoy, but was unable to consummate the marriage because he had epilepsy, a result of many generations of Hapsburg inbreeding – the same reason for his extended Count Chocula forehead – see the portrait below.   Because of this the Emperor’s younger brother Franz Carl was the heir apparent.

As the revolutionaries of 1848 (which brought many immigrants to Cincinnati) were marching on the palace, Franz Ferdinand is supposed to have asked his council what they were doing.   When he was told it was a revolution, Ferdinand is supposed to have said ” Ja, dürfen’s denn des? or “Are they allowed to do that?”  In a meeting with Prince Felix of Schwarzenberg (the Royal of the Germanic state of Bohemia) Ferdinand was convinced to abdicate in favor of his nephew, Franz Joseph who would occupy the Austrian throne for the next sixty-eight years.


Prince Felix of Bohemia (left) and Emperor Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary (right) and his fave dessert, Apricot dumplings (center).

Franz Ferdinand’s favorite dessert was apricot dumplings, called Marillenknodel, which was probably served at the above mentioned meeting with Prince Felix.  Ferdinand is  best remembered for his command to his cook: when told he could not have his beloved apricot dumplings, because apricots were out of season, he said, “Ich bin der Kaiser und ich will Knödel!.”  – “I am the Emperor, and I want dumplings!”


German Kaiser Wilhelm II (left) and his favorite dessert – strawberry pudding (center) and Emperor Carl of Austria-Hungary (right).

Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph’s successor was his oldest grandson,  Carl, who became Emperor of Austro-Hungary after his uncle, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo.      During that first World War, on April 3, 1917, Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II hosted newly crowned Emperor Carl for a luncheon at his Homberg vor der Hohe Palace in Hesse.    The two Kaisers sipped champagne, dined on chestnut soup, Rhine River salmon doused with Bearnaise sauce, whole roasted pheasants, and an unnamed dessert.


The April 3 1917 menu of the meeting of the Kaisers, in German Sutterlein script.

That unnamed dessert was German Kaiser Wilhelm II’s favorite dessert, a strawberry pudding called fraise Imperator, named for him by the chef of the Ritz Carlton, Auguste Escoffier, at a dinner in his honor about the newly christened Hamburg-American steamer the SS Imperator.    The Kaiser was said to have asked to see Chef Escoffier the next day to thank him for the amazing version of his favorite dessert and said to Escoffier, “I may be the Emperor of Germany, but you are the Emperor of Chefs.”

Ritz and Escoffier’s famous Conversation Haus restaurant in the southern spa town of Baden-Baden had been a favorite spot of Kaiser Wilhelm II’s father, Wilhelm I in the 1880s, and Ritz made sure everyone knew about his visits!

The meeting between the Kaisers didn’t go well.   Germany would have nothing to do with Austria’s suggestion to give Alsace-Lorraine back to the French (oye – again, another exchange of Alsace!!), and the first World War proceeded to its end about a year later.   But we can attribute the shape of the country of Germany to three sweet treats made of apricots, plums, and strawberries.

If you want a good recipe for Kaiserschmarrn, buy the 2018 Germania Society Cookbook.



The Duchess of Bedford: The Gossipy Royal Who Invented Afternoon Tea


The Duchess of Bedford, as portrayed in the new Julian Fellowes series Belgravia.

It looks like the new Julian Fellowes series Belgravia, set in 1840s London is going to be treasure trove of culinary history.   Both the opener and second episodes have great British food references.     In the first episode,  Mrs. Anne Trenchard, part of the newly successful untitled nouveau riche of London, is invited to one of the new tea parties thrown by the Duchess of Bedford, Anne Russell, who had been one of Queen Victoria’s ladies in waiting.     The Duchess had the high title then of ‘Lady of the Bedchamber’.

Mrs. Trenchard is invited, much to everyone’s surprise, as she, a non-titled, knows the dowager Lady Richmond, who threw the famous pre-Waterloo battle ball in Brussels 25 years prior, and she also knows the Countess of Brockenhorst, with whom she shares lineage of a illegitimate grandson, sire of both of their dead children.

It was in the early 1840s that the Duchess of Bedford started sneaking in a snack in the later afternoon with Darjeeling tea, to keep herself from getting ‘hangry’ before dinner.    English dinners had gotten later and later in the 18th century for the middle and upper classes, happening around 7:30 – 8 PM normally, and even later, say midnight if one was attending a party or a ball.   The new meal ‘luncheon’ had already been invented, but was very light, consisting of sandwiches or soup, and happened around noon.     Luncheon was mostly for ladies, in fact when men attended, like the Prince of Wales, eldest son of King Georg III, they would be ridiculed for their femininity.    Men, especially working men would go to Chophouses or pubs, or even bring their own food to get them from breakfast to their late dinner.    This new luncheon invented the term, “Ladies who lunch,” like the song of the same name from the Broadway Musical Company.

But luncheon was still not enough to get ladies through to the 7 PM evening meal without stabbing each other with sewing needles in hunger.     Lady Bedford loved this idea so much, she invited her friends to afternoon tea, so they could gossip in a slightly less formal setting than luncheon or dinner.     So teas were not set at a formal table .   They would be staged in a lady’s drawing room on couches so women could get up and move from group to group in the guise of sampling something from one of the strategically placed tiered food trays- usually small cookies (or biscuits as the Brits label them) or confections or small ‘finger sandwiches’.   The Louisville Kentucky Benedictine spread and pimento cheese sandwiches come out of this tradition.

Ladies loved the informality of not having to sit at a table and be forced to chat to whomever was placed beside you.     The  pick-up-and-put-down tea became popular and an iconic part of the British culture.     A whole set of tea cakes and tea confections was born.   In fact, the American snack cake industry, like our beloved Hostess snack cakes, comes out of this tradition.   Imagine English ladies fangling to eat a Hostess marshmallowy Snowball.


The Duchess of Bedford, inventor of the English Afternoon Tea.

The Duchess of Bedford had been part of a gossip scandal back in her lady-in-waiting days with Queen Victoria.   A certain Lady Flora Hastings had been complaining of abdominal pains.   Bedford and a friend, the Baroness Lehzen, didn’t like Lady Flora and started a rumor she had been knocked up by Sir John Conroy.   When Lady Flora was diagnosed with cancer and died, the gossipy ladies were publicly criticized for their spreading of the fake news.   But it taught a lesson – do not complain about abdominal pains at a Bedford tea.

Today English tea is taken at 4 PM and served in three courses of tea sandwiches and savories, followed by scones with clotted cream and jam, and ending with sweet pastries. Everything is bite-sized and eaten with fingers – no decisions of which fork or spoon to use.      High tea is a completely different affair, designed as a hearty evening meal with tea, for the lower classes, consisting of meat dishes, potatoes, baked beans and other dishes.     Many American venues incorrectly label a Afternoon Tea a High Tea.

I am excited to see what other historic food references are hidden in the next few episodes of Belgravia.

Who Was the Original Mr. Pimm?

As a super-fan of Downton Abbey, I was excited for the kickoff of Julian Fellowes’ new series Belgravia, set in 1840s London.    As a result it has much more epic sets than Downton, but just as wonderful story and characters.    And of course, there was a great historical culinary reference in the second episode, which just aired last night.

Mr. James Pimm and his delightful summer cocktail, the Pimm’s cup No. 1.

Lady Brockenhurst’s nephew and presuming heir, the philandering John Bellasis, walks into a pub in London called Mr. Pimm’s Chophouse to meet his father for luncheon.    And the reference was not lost of this food historian.  Of course Mr. Pimm, is the historical James Pimm, the man who introduced the lovely British summer cocktail known as Pimm’s cup # 1 in 1832, a gin based citrusy floral cocktail that Brits still enjoy.  The liqueur concoction is typically mixed with lemonade or ginger ale and garnished with an assortment of sliced fruits and herbs.  It’s sort of a cousin to our mint julep – a satisfying light summer cocktail that like the julep’s appearance at the Kentucky Derby, and polo matches, Pimm’s appears at the likes of Wimbleton and the Chelsea Flower Show.

But Fellowes took some liberty with the Pimm’s story.   It was actually an Oyster House, not a Chop House where James Pimm introduced his secret mix of herbs and liqueurs to patrons with their plates of bivalves.     The real Pimm’s Oyster House was near the Bank of England in London’s Financial District,  where in the Belgravia story,  James Trenchard set up Lady Brockenhurst’s illegitimate grandson and real heir in his thriving cotton business.    Fellowes’ using the Pimm’s Chophouse as the meeting place puts it in a working class industrial neighborhood, rather than the hoi polloi financial district.   Chophouses were devised in the Industrial era as a quick place for the working class factory men, who didn’t bring their own food, to have their luncheon to fuel up for their long second shift at the factories.

Pimm was born to tenant farmers in Kent – or Yeomen as they are called in the UK –  but had moved to London to seek his fortune in the restaurant biz.    He soon introduced a Pimm’s Cup 2 and 3 – Scotch and Brandy based drinks – at his London Oyster bar that are no longer available.   Pimm started commercial production of his cocktails in 1851 to keep up demand to other bars in London, and then sold the name and license rights in 1866.

The brand went through hard times in the 70s and 80s, and was sold several times.   Sincce 1997 it has been owned by Diageo, the company that also owns Guinness.   It has revived a Pimm’s Winter Cup of a brandy based cocktail, and various flavored versions of the No. 1 cup, like strawberry, and blackberry with elderflower.

I was first introduced to the Pimm’s cup in college by a group of friends studying at Exeter University in England.    It was actually in Brussels, at the house of our friend Birdy, whose father was the English ambassador to Belgium at the time.   I had been backpacking through Europe and we all met at Birdy’s parents’ house for a night of frivolity in downtown Brussels.   Before going out that night we had a civilized happy hour with Pimm’s cups, which were garnished with sliced cucumber, orange, lime and mint leaves.   I’m not really a fan of drinks with large pieces of things immersed in the drink.  I’d much rather have something speared and easily removable.   But, the drink was so good and refreshing that I fell in love with it.  I found it for sale locally and made it my goto the rest of that summer when returning stateside.    Recently I found it at the bar at Street City Pub on 6th Street in Downtown Cincy, and it brought back memories of that fantastic summer traipsing across Europe.

Schuylkill County Pennsylvania: Home of the Easter Bunny and the Boilo Cocktail


The earliest image of the Easter Bunny ca. 1810 by Johann Conrad Gilbert.

Schuylkill County in northeastern Pennsylvania is coal country.    It’s an area along the Schuylkill River containing the Pocono Mountains and a lot of anthracite coal.    But it is also known for two other prominent things – the birthplace of the American Easter Bunny, and a regional cocktail called Boilo that’s finally being commercially bottled.

The area was first settled by immigrants from the German Palatinate and by Moravian missionaries from Saxony in the 1700s.   One was a schoolmaster Johann Conrad (1734-1812)   who made at least two known images of the Oschter Haws or Easter Hare carrying a basket of eggs (that according to German lore, he laid) as rewards for his students around 1810.    That dates the Easter Bunny image about 40 years prior to that of Santa Claus, first made in the United States by another Germanic immigrant – Thomas Nast – who drew the jolly old elf in the 1850s.    One of these images of the Easter Bunny is at the Winterthur Museum in  Berks County, PA, and the other is at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.

Now after the wave of Germanic immigrants in the 1700s, there was a more recent wave of eastern European immigrants from Poland and Lithuania, most of whom found work in the coal mines.    The eastern Europeans shared an Easter tradition with the Pennsylvania Dutch, that of scratching elaborate designs in eggs dyed with natural materials like onion skins.

But unlike the teetotalling Pennsylvania Dutch, the eastern European coal miners needed an alcohol fueled cocktail to warm them through the cold winters.  So, they adapted their honey liquor called Krupnikas, to local ingredients and created what became known as Boilo.    It quickly became a holiday standard and spread outside of the Lithuanian community, also serving as a cold and flu remedy.     It is a strong liquor spiced with warm spices you might find in a gingerbread cookie, with herbal notes to temper the sweetness.   And there are hundreds of variations in the area from the many families who make it themselves.

Krebs Family Boilo from Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania.

A typical  recipe calls for orange juice, ginger ale, cinnamon sticks, oranges, lemons, honey raisins and cloves.     And the alcohol part comes typically from Four Queens whiskey, formerly made in the area, with a glup of Everclear for good measure.    Most don’t boil with the alcohol, but some do.   And others add variations like apples, peaches, blueberries, pink peppercorns,  or even schnapps.

Only in the last five or so years, with the boom of craft cocktailing and micro distilleries, have people started to commercially bottle it.     I was excited to see that one commercial bottler is the Krebs family, namely Douglas Krebs, a chiropractor, who actually is from the area but currently lives in Chicago.      I thought he might be a descendant of Otto Krebs who operated a lithography business in Pittsburgh.   Otto was brother to Cincinnati lithographer Adolph Krebs, who was a founder of the Cincinnati Turnverein in 1848.    But unfortunately for our Cincinnati connection, Douglass is an descendant of one of the first Moravian families going back to the 1700s starting with Jacob Krebs, a state senator.

Although originally a holiday drink, many families in the area have been making their own version of this hooch over the last month in quarantine and posting pics of their batches on social media.     Sounds like a good way to pass the time!



Some Germanic Meatless Food Traditions of Good Friday


Prunes and noodles, the Good Friday Dish of the Volga Germans.

In my dad’s Germanic family Good Friday fasting or meat abstinence was strictly observed with only two main meals of the day and absolutely no snacking in between.     Their big meal of the day, after walking the steps of the Immaculate Church in Mt. Adams, was potato  pancakes with homemade jams made by his maternal grandmother Franziska, and deviled or hard boiled eggs.   They even observed the hour of complete silence starting at noon, the symbolic time of Jesus’s death.

Coming from a family that owned bakeries growing up a pastry of some sort – like hot cross bun or a piece of buttered cinnamon bread –  held us over for the larger second meal of the day.   After praying the steps of Mt Adams, we would stop at Frisch’s, usually on Central Parkway, and all have our fish sandwiches on rye buns with extra tarter sauce and vegetable soup.

But many other Germanic Good Friday food traditions abound in the U.S.   And they all seem to be centered around a sweet fruit and some sort of starch – noodles, dumplings or bread.

For Volga Germans from Russia, who settled in the Dakotas there’s a common dish of homemade egg noodles topped with sweetened stewed prunes and buttered croutons made from stale bread.   Others might substitute the prunes for plums, apricots or even rhubarb jam – which is apparently a Hungarian variation.

There’s also a German tradition of eating cold, creamy, warm spiced sour cherry soup.    It was served with dense, usually sweet bread.  That tradition seems to come from the former areas of the Austro-Hungarian empire.


Schnitz or snit soup.

Another multi-fruit soup also is common amongst the Volga Germans from Russia – a cold fruit soup called snitt or schnitz, made from prunes, raisins, dried apricots, peaches and plums, served with cream and grebble donuts, a fried non-yeasted donut typically flavored with allspice or cinnamon.


Good Friday struwenn from Goetta country around Muster Germany.

In the area of northwest Goetta country, in the Catholic diocese around Munster Germany, there is a type of pancake calles Struwenn that if not eaten on Good Friday  is unimaginable. They are yeast dough pancakes satisfy that hunger in a time of Fasting without appearing too extravagant, as a Saxon German would never want to appear.  Struwen are mildly sweet,  topped with a sprinkle of sugar or cinnamon sugar, filled with raisins, and are often served with applesauce.   They are often described as a cross between a pancake and a donut. They are thicker than regular German Pancakes, and even thicker than American Pancakes.    I think my Dad’s family’s Good Friday tradition of eating jam on potato pancakes on Good Friday is similar to this tradition, which morphed into us eating a pastry on Good Friday morning.

Is the Coconut Bird’s Nest the Second Most Popular Easter Candy in Greater Cincinnati?


Fawn Candy’s Coconut Goodies – a version of the Cincinnati Bird’s Nest Easter Candy.

We all know that the Opera Cream Egg is the most popular Easter Candy in Greater Cincinnati.    Invented in 1894 by Kentuckian Robert Putman, it spread to all the candy makers and today anyone that is a player in our local Cincinnati Candy Market – Graeters, Aglamesis, Papas, Fawn, Schneiders and Sweet Tooth – have their own version.  Some, like Fawn make the unicorn of them all – the Crucifix Opera Cream.     They come in milk and dark chocolate, as well as white chocolate.     Luckily I have a few this year for the Easter day feast.   I will definitely miss going into the Oakley Aglamesis store this year to ogle at all their homemade Easter candy.

Easter is, according to the National Confectioner’s Association (founded, by the way in 1884 by the Cincinnati Candy Barons) is the biggest candy season by volume of all holidays in America.    I had always thought it was Christmas or Valentines Day.     So getting the product mix right is big business and important for our local candy makers who compete against the national brands, most of which aren’t even made anymore inside the U.S.   So this year, do our hometown a favor and buy your Easter candy from local suppliers.

But after the Opera Cream – what is the most popular Easter candy in Cincinnati?   Without a report from the National Confectioners’ Association we can really only go on date of  the other Easter candy made by the most candy makers aside from the opera cream.   Is it buttercream bunnies and chics, the same formula the Goelitz brothers used to make candy corn and release to the U.S. market right here in Cincinnati?   No.   Is it maybe the hummingbird egg – well, no, this small egg confection is no longer made locally.     Is it crunchy, pastel colored Jordan Almonds?   Nope.

It is something known as the bird’s nest – a crunchy, creamy confection of chocolate covered coconut, with ‘birds eggs’ in the center.    The birds eggs come in threes and can take the form of jelly beans, malted milk eggs, or even M & M’s or other chocolate eggs.    They’re delicious – if someone put the bird’s nest on a bed of crunchy shortbread, they’d be a lot like the Samoa girl scout cookie, which is a fave of mine.


The Graeter’s Coconut Nest.

Fawn Candy makes them in milk and white chocolate, filling the center with colorful pastel malted milk eggs.    They also make just an egg shape and they call them Coconut Goodies.     You can order them online for Easter for pickup.   The two big name ice cream brands in Cincinnati – Graeters and Aglamesis (Oakley and Montgomery) make them.


Homemade rice crispy treat versions of the Bird’s Nest.

And the Cincinnati Bird’s Nest is not limited to commercial makers.  Many make them at home, but with different crunchy elements than coconut.   I have a friend who’s mother makes them with corn flakes and melted marshmallows.   Some are made with melted marshmallow and other cereals like rice crispy cereal, fruity or cocoa pebble cereals.     Or, you can make them like my Grandmother made, with melted butterscotch chips and Chinese noodles.    My Grandmother’s version looked more like a crown of thorns than a bird’s nest, with the crunchy Chinese noodles sticking out.   I often thought putting redhots around the ring would be a fun way to make them look even more like a crown of thorns.


Other homemade varieties of Bird’s Nests.

So then there’s a whole variety of what trio of ‘eggs’ are to be used in the center of the nest, glued into the nest with the melted chocolate or the marshmallow.       While I prefer them to be small malted milk balls, jelly beans are a common egg.   Others are milk duds, jujubes, the elusive hummingbird eggs of old, and red hots.   I’ve even seen marshmallow peeps (invented by Roscoe Rodda, a former candy man of Cincinnati) as the center of a bird’s nest.

And because of our limitations this year, I’ve not had the ability to do a Cincinnati Bird’s Nest roundup or tasting, but your choice, if it’s a local one, is bound to be a tasty diversion on Easter Sunday.

One of Cincy’s Oldest Men’s Sports Stag Has Ties to the Turner Clubs



There’s a nearly 70 year old sports stag thrown every year at the clubhouse of an organization called the Southern Ohio Dog and Game Protective Organization in Butler County.   I’ve been hearing about it for over a decade and it is one of the oldest continually operating sports stags in Greater Cincinnati.   One of my good friend’s father has gone to it for over 20 years and took his son and sons-in-law. I’ve have heard some of the epic tales of the event.     Tickets are limited and you have to have a tie to one of the members, who in turn must be sponsored by two current members and pay annual dues of only $40.    Although there’s food at the stag, it’s more about playing cards and drinking beer with your buds and relatives.

One dish that has been at the event since its inception about 1950 is mock turtle soup.   In earlier days it was made by members, but now it’s  premade Worthmore Mock Turtle Soup, which is a decent sub. A menu of the 1952 stag  in the Cincinnati Enquirer read: “turtle soup, corn on the cob, spare ribs, ham, fried chicken and other solid delicacies near to the male heart, and plenty of suds to wash it down with.”   Today those suds are Miller High Life, but originally they were Bruckman and Hudepohl.

The clubhouse is on the farm acquired by the group in the Spring of 1941 from Scribe’s Picnic Grove, at East Miami River Road between Venice and New Baltimore in Butler County.    They have a fishing lake that was once stocked with Walleye and several hundred acres where game and deer roam free and where many game related sporting events are staged.    Before they bought the farm the club met and had events at the Farmer’s Union Hall in Peach Grove at Blue Rock and Springdale.

The club was incorporated in 1931, but had events starting in 1927.   Founding members of the club had ties to the Cumminsville Turners, the North Cincinnati Turners (in Clifton), and the Central Turners (in Over-the-Rhine, now in Springdale).   The Turners were a network of German sport and social clubs founded in 1848 right here in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood by Germanic immigrants.   The movement spread all across America’s Germanic immigrant settlements, but was cut at the heels by the anti-German sentiment of World War I.   Many of the Turner organizations that survived World War II became mostly Americanized bowling, softball, and volleyball clubs.  The original gymnastics and Germanic cultural aspects were almost gone.

In an effort to keep the sporting aspects and male fellowship of the Turners going, and to keep some Germanic customs alive, but in a more American or patriotic setting,  former members formed other offshoot clubs like this one.    One of the founding members was William Bruckman, who’s father was founder of Bruckman Brewery and President for many years of the Cumminsville Turners.   William had been a Cumminsville Turner in his youth and a member of an offshoot group, the Northside Fishing Club.   Another founding member was Robert Eiselein, who’s uncle Josef Eiselein had been a founding member of the Cumminsville Turners and whose father-in-law George Dorman was also a Cumminsville Turner.    Edward Brendamour, another founding member, whose family owned Brendamour Sporting Goods, was a member of the North Turners.

In 1947 the Ohio Dog and Game Protective Organization provided for stocking of the lake for a fishing program for kids at Inwood Park in Corryville, which was a popular Cincinnati Turner Club Park.   The Central Turners had dedicated a monument there to Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, who was the founder of the German Turner movement near Berlin, Germany in 1814 during the Napoleonic wars.    That monument still stands at Inwood and was vandalized during World War I at the height of anti-German sentiment.


The club’s first event was the Sporting Dog Bench Show in 1927, which was sanctioned by the American Kennel Club .   Over the years they added a Coon Dog Field Test,  a Turkey Shoot, a Fall Sportsman Show, an Archery Competition, a Boy and Girl Dog Parade, a Public Fishing Tournament, and a 6 Mile Handicap Walking Tournament.

The founding president was Cincinnati Judge Ferd Bader, Jr., who lobbied locally on many wildlife conservation issues.  One of his big wins was the release in 1953 of 800 mature cock pheasants in Hamilton county for pheasant hunting season.      Ferd Sr., his father was a long time Hamilton County Sheriff and former superintendant of the old Cincinnati Workhouse.      Cumminsville Turner Fitness instructor Robert Gulow was the Fitness Instructor for the Cincinnati Police Force and designed their fitness programs at the time when Ferd Bader Sr. was sheriff.

It remains to be seen if the current crisis will cancel this year’s stag, because it’s not at all about social distancing.