Monday, February 7, 2011

Hobo's-Hearses & Blueberry Muffins

Last night I got a Facebook message alerting me that the sweet & savory muffins at our Amish bake sale were the all time favorite of the woman who bought them. They were Maple-Bacon, and a strip of the bacon actually towered erect out of the muffins dome. They really forced a person to look.

Whenever somebody boasts that one of our products are their "All Time Fave", naturally I would like to take credit for their production...LOL, but in this case these novel items were created by Gilson, she can be very clever. The more I work with her, the more I am impressed with the range of products she can make.

Many pastry people throw their first punch at "visual". They want the item to be striking and seduce you into a dining courtship. Gilson's items are always pretty, but her main strength is in nailing complex flavors.

Tonight I was out in my back yard letting 3 of my dogs out to go pee, and it was really cold again, I'm guessing single digit temps.

As the dogs kept lifting their paws off the freezing snow as if it were a hot frying pan, I remembered the compliment that was paid to Gilson's muffins and then somewhat lamented that I didn't get to sample one.

Brother Rabbit popped out of the bushes and Romeo my Jack Russell became frightened and ran back into the house.

He's such a wuss, but you can blame Sue McGleno for that.

As P-Nut and Gracie circled snow drifts to look for clean drop sights to launch their bombs, I asked myself.....

"Danny Klecko....what was the best muffin that you ever ate?"

Now the first thing you need to know about Klecko is that he is not a fan of exotic flavors or much on ethnic flavors, and by all means....fusion is never going to cut it for him. Then as your favorite bakers breath steam got thicker in the air...he had to smile when a wonderful memory surfaced.

When I went to baking school in downtown Mpls a million years ago, I lived at several locations during my educational stint. The first place was directly behind the Basilica, but then I got a couple roommates and moved into the warehouse district about 3/4 of a mile west of the Twins new ball park.

The area was awesome because it was totally vacant, like the Charles Heston movie Omega Man.

Our building was red brick and had 12 units. I got a rent reduction because I volunteered to assist the Roach Man every 2 weeks.

During this period I also worked for Pam Sherman's hub bakery at Southtown. It was the first bakery I ever worked at. Each night I would schlep dough until 10 or 11, catch the bus to Hennepin avenue, get off at Glueks for a pint, and then I'd walk the 1 mile from there to my home.

During those years I was totally broke, and often times I had to prioritize if I would spend my last few shekels on food, cigarettes or cat foot for my kitten named Eraser.

If it were not for the charity I received from pretty girls, I'm certain I would of vanquished.

Food always was last on that list, so often times my bosses would send me home with paper bags filled with Blueberry muffins. It's funny when I look back, maybe it's because I was so poor, but dude....when I recollect, in my minds eyes those muffins seemed like they were as big as bowling balls, and the blueberries were golf ball size and squirted like June bugs when you bit into them, and on the top....Praise Polish Jesus, they were doused with sanding sugar.

As the automatic security light in my backyard shut off, me and the mutts went inside. Being a middle aged guy, I was making my way over to check ESPN, but then I figured they'd just show highlights of the Packers winning the Superbowl, and I'd rather pick dead skin off my heal than relive that travesty.

But those muffins came back into my mind, and truth be told....their flavor wasn't even the coolest part about them.

Between the tavern and my apartment I walked alone through empty streets. Both sides were flanked by rickety warehouses and auto salvage yards.

After awhile I started to hear subdued noises, and finally I realized that their was an entire indigent population living in these busted up vehicles.

If I walked that stretch now, I'd probably be apprehensive, but in Danny Klecko's prime...LOL, he actually was kinda a bad a**.

Many of the cars were smooshed, stacked on one another, or crushed like accordions, but other lots housed vans, station wagons and even a hearse.
Maybe I was a little buzzed, maybe I had a second pint, I don't remember, I'm sure I was a little buzzed, but I remember it was close to 1 a.m., I'd have to be at school in 5 1/2 hours, but leave it to Klecko....just like a cat, you can guess what got the best of him.

I walked up to the hearse and banged on the door, but it's occupant would not come out. I figured he might be afraid, being it was so early in the morning, and often times hobo's get beat up. so I placed my voice next to the passenger window and yelled "Old man, I'm not here to mess with you, I swear to God brah, I'm here cuz I got a bag full of muffins and I'm willing to share them."

A couple seconds pass. I hear some shifting, and then I notice the curtain covering the window was pulled back. I reminded the guy "Dude, for real, no harm." I rattled the muffin bag. "If I was gonna mess with you, I wouldn't have introduced myself."

The door opened and the guy who got out was old. I imagine hobos age fast so I won't try to guess his age,when dude shook off the stiffness and stood straight up, my new friend was by no means a little guy, in fact he was bigger than me.
I opened the bag and told him to dibs a first pick, and after the guy selected his pleasure. I pulled one out as well and tossed the excess on top of his hearse.

If I remember it was late fall and really cold. so the 2 of us ate muffins while sitting on the hood. He told me his name, and I wish to Caesar I remembered it, but I simply don't. However I do remember that it was a the kind of name you'd associate with a prominent hobo, it was something like Otis or Leo.

But for most of the muffin chewing we just kinda ate in silence. You could tell dude loved it, and if my judgment of character is 1/2 as astute as I think it is, I think it took every ounce of discipline for him to not just wolf the whole thing down.

When we were finished, the oldish guy said thank you, it was the only time that morning that he looked me in the eyes. I think he wanted me to know how much he appreciated my gift. Then he pulled out a crumpled soft pack of cigs and urged me to take one and smoke with him.

I had my own pack of Kools,but I got the sense that he might be hurt if I didn't give him a chance to repay kindness with kindness.

Many people seem to think that homeless people don't practice etiquette, but I would propose that it's just the platform they're lacking.

So as we smoked, I asked the guy how he came to become destitute, and he explained shamelessly that he had acquired a penchant for the booze back when he was going to medical school. He continued to tell me that he had it real bad.

But we left the drama there, and the 2 of us finished the 2nd half of our smoke in silence. After dousing the filter, I shook the old guys hand, told him I enjoyed hanging with him, but I had to be at school in a couple of hours.

The old guy smiled. Without a question, that was the best muffin I ever ate.


  1. Oh Danny - you always have been such a softy. I love you more than my mom's banana bread!!!

  2. Jennifer, I love you more, however I am sad to report that your Mom saw a post where I was talking to a girlfriend in New Zeland, and the topic was spitting on old people from the top of a ferris wheel, and she got mad LOL. I hate when I get busted by Jerry.

  3. Jeri is old - it is no longer funny to do anything disrespectful to old people. You're right though - getting busted by Jeri is a real pisser!!!