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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Baby and the Bull

If you work, or even attend the entire Minnesota State Fair, the last day is kinda surreal.

One part of you embraces your upcoming release, by this point...you've pretty much let yourself become severed from the outside world.

The energy, the voices, the raw stimulation that by this point will conquer your body, even these componants have there limits.

On the last day of the Fair, you just want to finish up and get the he** out of Dodge.

Several years ago, on the last day, I walked over towards the livestock barns because this was close to the Global Market fruit stand that was selling Colorado peaches that were the size of your head.

I bought one of them and in silence, I jawed that delight down to the pit.

I mean I had juice all over my chef coat, no napkins, no water....and I didn't even care.

It was the last day of the Fair.

So now a couple hundred yards off yonder (to a place that I can't witness because it was obstructed by trees and a Pronto Pup stand) a commotion broke out.

Some cowboy was walking his first place bull towards his trailer to take him home, when somehow this big ole bull gets away amidst the crowd.

You could hear shrieking at first, but then everything went awkward quiet.

The cowboy instructed the crowd that noise would enrage this what...one ton beast?

And this is Minnesota, people get it, they followed the instructions, and from what I'm told....

Everybody stood still while the dude tried to approach his award winner in stealth.

Just when he closed the gap however, the bull turned 180 degrees and set it's eyes on a baby carriage that was occupied by some infant that was experiencing their first State Fair.

So now the bull lowers it's head, and starts to drag its hoof as if it's digging in to take a full fledged charge.

Peoples hearts dropped.

For the splitest of split seconds, the entire Earth stood still.

Then the strangest thing happened, just at the very moment the bull was about to charge, I don't know if it was the Saints of Warsaw or what, but that big lug spun abruptly once more, centered it's eyes on a fire hydrant, lowered his head and charged.

The bull moved with the speed and ferociousness of a runaway locomotive.

Then "WHAM", the upper forehead between the horns hit the fire plug and.....

One - One Thousand
Two - One Thousand
Three.....

The bull toppled over like a bag of bricks and fell dead.

Within seconds the Troopers and medical team were there, but of course....not before the media jackels.

One reporter chick approached the cowboy (who you can imagine was still stunned from the event) and asked a question like......

"Are you upset that your blue ribbon stud-bull died, won't you lose a fortune in breeding?"

Then the cowboy just kinda looked at her.

I think he was disgusted with her, but not as much as himself.

He replied.........

"If a bull has to die to keep a baby alive, I think that's a trade off most people make. Don't you?"

They shut the camera off and Klecko returned to work.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Her Blue Ribbon

Today is kinda like Christmas for me.

The Stste Fair Tickets for my guests arrived today.

This makes it official for Klecko.....

It is State Fair season.

The thing that is a little bit unusual about my experience is......

The crescendo of my 12 day experience takes place the first hour of the Fair.

The is no fore play, no build up.......

I get my biggest jolt from the get go.

This is because I am in the "Creative Activities" building.

The place that houses all the baking entries.

I think the main gate of the Fair opens at 7, and when that happens, all the Aunt Bea's just come over to my building and camp out.

Everybody want's to know who won the Blue Ribbons.

Usually most of the bantering is friendly throughout this waiting period, but sometimes things have been known to get a little hostile LOL.

When the doors are finally open, it's as if God has given consent, and a plague full of locusts storms into the building.

While this takes place, Poor ole Klecko just sits in his demo kitchen like a goldfish in a Woolworth's fish bowl.

If you just stand still for a second, you'll hear whooping and srcreams of happiness.

On the other hand, you'll often see nice looking people harboring looks of dissapointment.

I remember one year, there was this girlio who came to check out the results of her cake.

I actually watched her approach the display case, survey the inventory.....and then this woman began, well I guess she was hyperventilating.

I went over to ask her if she was OK, but she appeared to have composed herself.

But at that moment, I had nothing else to do....so I just continued to watch her.

She cupped her hands around her eyes, and pressed her face up against the display case, and it seemed as if she were trying to push through...like a ghost, as if touching her cake might even make this experience  more magical.

Then some bystander would brush up against her and the woman would blurt out......

"That cake there, the blue ribbon cake, that's mine."

Then the passer by would smile and offer congratulations.

Each time this happened, the woman who won would puff up.

More and more, and more.

It was as if she was the balloon of victory.

However........

About 45 minutes later, the crowd thinned out and there was nobody left to brag to.

This not only befuddled the Blue Ribbon woman, but it kinda hacked her off.

She didn't want this moment to end.

I get it, I have experienced this myself.

The couple of times I have been lucky enough to coach my Little League team to victory, during the season ending tournament, it was the same way......we all just sat around the diamond, and nobody would budge because we knew......

Once we went home, once the kids placed their trophey on their dressers, the experience would be a memory and no longer a dream.

So the Blue ribbon chick thinks for a bit, and then she pulls a cell phone out of her purse.

And anytime somebody approached with 50 feet of her, she would begin imaginary conversations and say in her outside voice.......

"Oh My God, I can't believe I won the blue ribbon. I can't believe I won the blue ribbon."

Some people might think that woman was kinda whacked.......

But Klecko just sat in his fish bowl and smiled.

He was feeling her, and sometimes in life......even warped joy is better than boredom.











Friday, July 27, 2012

Skulls and Airports

Did you ever see the movie Starchamber?

I think it came out in the 80's.

This was the film where Michael Douglas plays an up and coming member of the legal system.

The ole Salt Dog judges recruit him to come to a secret meeting, and they basically talk about the dirtball criminals that slipped through the cracks of justice.

Then they take a vote and whack these dead beats.

I won't tell you the ending, but I'm guessing you can guess.

I like that whole "Princeton - Skull" meeting of secrecy stuff, don't you?

What you may not know is every industry, in every major city has their own version of skull meetings.

In the hospitality industry, it wouldn't be uncommon to get a "whisper invite" and then you'd show up to some secret location and exchange notes with other like minded people.

Some like to know about a client thats not paying, while others are looking for new projects, and then theres always a few peeps that show up to pimp "special services" to the people in the Skulls.

More often than not, such an event will happen in the wee hours of the morning in a board room that comes equipped with cheap coffee and stale Danish.

Awhile back, I went to one of these dealios, and it was actually kinda cool. Like most sit downs. Half the people were interesting, and valuble allies, while the other half were kinda Lame-O's.

So anyways, when I was coming back from that event, I must of been day dreaming, because I missed my turn off.

I ended up having to cut through the Airport terminal to get turned back around.

While I was doing this, I smiled while remembering the time I drove Mosha the Siberian through this mini airport city. I took a short cut that was against the rules, and within seconds.....

Wooooo Wooooo and cherries were flashing. A chick cop pulled me over and I looked at Mosha and chuckled....

"KGB, I'll be right back."

Then I felt bad because Mosha got all scared.

Russians don't like cops.

In Moscow, the cops just rip people off and punch them. It's the mafia that actually polices things.

Anyways, I digress.

I'm coming back from the Skulls, I take the wrong turn off.

I cut through the airport...........

But while I'm doing this, I get to the place where you pull over to drop travelers off.

I almost cruised by, but then I saw an old-old man embracing a woman that might have been his wife.

Their moment of seperation was touching.

So then I turned off my ignition, and then I just sat there and watched people seperate from one another.

The sidewalk where this takes place is like 100 yards long, and offers entrance to many different airlines.

So if you just stand in one place, you become engulfed in a crowd of people going through emotions that range from despair to elation.

I only stayed for 7 or 8 minutes, but it was enough to recharge me for a month.

People are flawed.

People are corrupt.

People are stupid.

People will disappoint.

People are just a bad thing to invest emotion and trust into, but yet....if you stand on that strip at the airport where people send those that they love away.......

It might be just enough to give you hope.

It did for me.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Going Home with Klecko

Who would have thought?

That when a guy has worked decades in a field that has required him to punch in for every crepuscular and nocturnal shift available, that the craziest part of his day may be trying to get home?

What goes THUMP-THUMP in the middle of the night?

D.J. the pastry boy trying to get to his house, but then accidently crushing a dude on the freeway, killing him.

Straight up dope guys, this really happened.

DJ lives in a small Hillbilly town 50 minutes north of the Twin Cities.

He'll swear to you that he never saw the guy he ran over, and he wasn't even sure how it happened.

The whole episode happened around 3 a.m. and the area where he was driving wasn't lighted.

Well my boy pulled off the exit ramp and into a parking lot of a Walmart and called the coppers.

Moments later a state trooper found him and said......

"I got some bad news, and some good news. The guy on the freeway is dead, but you didn't kill him. From the looks of things, that guy was hit 7 or 8 times before you ran over him."

Then there was all those years when I worked on West 7th, all the years of late night sexual predators trolling for me when all I wanted to do was smoke a final cig and crawl into bed.

The older I have gotten, the more I have come to understand why my elders used to say....

"Don't go outside after midnight, nothing good can happen. Wait until the sun comes up."

I'm not sure I agree with all of that. I've found that most pervs, addicts and thugs typically close down their shops of chaos around 3:30 a.m., and between that time and sunrise.....

These are the hours where sanity is briefly restored to our world. These are the moments when God whispers the words of encouragement that we will need to embrace, if we are going to survive the following 21 hours.

However, if you are walking towards the bakery and you cross the 35E bridge, once you get towards the bottom of the hill, from time to time you will encounter stray dogs.

Some of those mutts have been vicious.

On the bottom of the hill the neighborhood gets a little dicey, so a lot of peeps will have Rottweiler’s, Shep’s or Pit Bulls in an attempt to secure the safety of their house and family.
But not everybody on the bottom of the hill has taken the time to become responsible stewards of these well meaning canines, and often times those furry bundles would haul a** after yours truly.

Klecko has had to hop countless fences, climb trees and even jump into unlocked cars to avoid getting shredded.

Then there was that big church, not the one directly across the street from the Mildred Pierce Café, but the one farther down the block.

I remember when I pulled the 6 a.m. Sunday morning shift for a year or two, and every Sunday morning I’d walk by that church around 5:30 and there was this big retarded kid standing out in front of the chapels front doors.

This kid was every bit as big as me, and he had a kind spirit, but he kinda scared me because he always stood there alone. Every week, and then he would say……

“I want to wrestle you.”

And then he would stick his Frankenstein arms straight out and chase after me like a zombie.

We engaged in this ritual every Sabbath that took place during the warm months.

I never figured out why he just stood there alone, week after week.

And I really did want to strike up a friendship, but then the guy would drool and chase after me.

I knew getting “caught” would never become an issue but….well any ways, I think I need to switch gears here.

Maybe my most famous “Get Home” story (other than the ones where somebody actually got slugged) took place on one of the rare occasions that I drove to work.

I can’t recall why I had the family car. I almost never did, but none the less, I drove our maroon Renault to the shop.

This car was the biggest piece of crap our family every owned. It was worse than the turquoise Ford Escort with the leaking sky roof.

The Renault, well it didn’t have a parking gear, so every time you turned off the engine, this sled just stayed in neutral.

On the floor of the back seat we had to keep 2by4’s in the event we had to park on an incline.

If so, you’d have to wedge them under the tires so the car wouldn’t roll away.

As you can imagine, this was quite embarrassing, but I was young, had two kids, and my Sue McGleno was in nursing school at the time.

Well anyway….one night I got off at 2 a.m. and I hopped into the Renault, aimed it at my house, and proceeded to slowly chug down West 7th street.

At this early hour, not many vehicles were out, but I had watched enough cop shows to determine some cat had been on my tail for 6 or 7 blocks.

So now I make a quick left onto Randolph Avenue, and yep…..so does the car behind me.

1 block, 3 blocks, 5 blocks, 8 blocks and I’m crossing over the 35E bridge.

Dude is still behind me.

12 blocks, 16 blocks…..now I turn right on Snelling Avenue.

Dude is still behind me.

After this turn onto Snelling, which is a major thoroughfare, I’m gonna hang the first left, so I know there is no chance in he** that this guy is gonna follow me right?

So I’m driving kinda quickly, and I bust a quick left real sharp. My tires actually screeched.

Dude is still behind me.

My house was 1601 James, and that was one of the first houses after the turn.

Now that I know this freak is tailing me, I decided to not park in front of my house.

If the guy was a serial killer, just punch my ticket, but leave my family out of this right?

So Klecko pulls up at house 3 or 4 houses up from where he lives, pulls over and takes the keys out of the ignition.

The stalker pulls up directly, and I mean d-i-r-e-c-t-l-y in front of me and does the same.

As most of you know, if a murderer is going to murder, and you don’t like your odds for survival, the best thing you can do is deny them the satisfaction of watching you squirm.

So within a ½ second of dude turning off his car, I reached into my back seat, grabbed a 2by4,

and popped out of my car like a cork out of a champagne bottle.

The guy in the front seat was the creepiest kind a felon. He was a Roly-poly middle aged man.

Face it, the Roly - poly killer is 10 times creepier than the Buff killer.

The guy’s window was still rolled down, and remember, it’s about 2:28 a.m. now right?

So I grabbed this guy by a tuft of hair, pulled his body towards the window and yelled out in my Klecko Warrior voice while lifting my weapon into the air………

“Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!”

Then in the splittest of seconds, I saw unbridled fear encompass my stalkers face.

The pudgy nemesis squeaked out in a high pitched, shrilly voice…….

“Don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, I am your neighbor…….I am your neighbor!”

Oops, could this guy be telling the truth, or was it just some sick-twisted ploy?

“Pull out your wallet and let me see some ID” I instructed.

He did, and his license pretty much verified his claim.

Oh well….better safe than sorry, but I will admit, I did kinda blush throughout the neighborhood night out picnic the following week.

What were the odds of that huh?
  

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Funeral Cake Recipe

A few days ago, a week ago, a picture surfaced across Facebook of some guy from the Twin Cities Hospitality scene.

We were told he suffered from depression, and had left home without his wallet or cell phone.

The story doesn't have a happy ending. Dude killed himself.

Well, it turns out that my pastry chef Hennessy was friends with the guy in middle school.

So see split her shift yesterday to go to the funeral.

When she got back, I just gave her a frumpy look asking rhetorically......

"Good times huh?"

But then Hennessy smiled in that way all St Paul women do.

 A smile filled with optimisism and hope....

"It actually was nice. I saw all sorts of people I hadn't seen in years. It was kinda strange, we had all gotten so much older, but the funeral was actually really nice. It was more of a celebration of life!"

When I heard that, I kinda recoiled.

I love Hennessy, but c'mon......

When you are dead, do you really-I mean really want people to celebrate?

I don't.

I want all of you to be crushed. I want torn sack cloth, ashes rubbed on your face and wailing that will be heard across 7 counties.

Then the next day, just forget about me, it's gonna happen eventually anyways, right? LOL.

Another thing about funerals, The food really sucks doesn't it?

It's not like a wedding where people have a year to prepare.

It's not like people have an extensive budget for such things right?

They just kinda make due.

When people die, you just have a couple of days, and your bake session is gonna be filled with grief. Their is zero joy in baking for a funeral.

Some might suggest....

"But Klecko, at least you get the satisfaction of feeding souls that are filled with sorrow."

Sorry, I don't, I'm not insane about things dying. It happens everyday, but I don't have to like it, and I'm just not going to "Celebrate You" when you die.

Let me inform you right now, I will be crushed for you.

I think if you are honest...you might prefer that, but if not....feel free to let me know.

Anyways, while you are still alive, try to Google some "Funeral Cake" recipes...

O-M-G....if they are not the ishiest things one can eat. What is?

Submitted below is the kind of slop that usually gets doled out. Now I know you know I am not a snob, but really?????



Yum Yum or Funeral Cake (you can't make this up)

1 box yellow cake mix

Make as directed on box

Bake @ 350 degrees (F) for 15 minutes

  1 c. milk 8 oz. cream cheese 4 c. Cool Whip 1 lg. can crushed pineapple, drained 1 c. chopped nuts (walnuts are my preference) 1 c. coconut

Mix milk and instant pudding mix in a large mixer bowl. Add cream cheese and mix well. Stir in Cool Whip. Spread over top of cooled cake. Pour crushed pineapple over frosting. Spread nuts and coconut over cake. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

I posted this on Facebook in my Kim Ode's Baking 101 site, and you should have sen all the nasty-nasty remarks.

Anyways, I pray for the soul of the guy who lost his life. I pray for Hennessy, and all those who lost this friend to gain comfort.

But for today...you are here, and so am I, we are stuck with each other......

Stay alive kids, and all this misery will be avoided.

The Last American Baker.







Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Victory Cakes (Contains Recipe)

Klecko isn't old, but he is old enough to have friends who lived through the second world war.

I find it intresting to talk to people from different parts of the world whose countries participated in the big one.

When war is current, often times people will discuss politics.

But one thing I've noticed is when wars are in the past, people tend to focus on their families connection, and after they exhaust that topic.....often times they'll turn to food.

I remember several years back talking with a couple of old bucks at a public park in Novosibirsk / Siberia.

These guys sat in the shade and dropped lines in a small lake in hopes of catching supper.

I had to laugh when I noticed that these guys were baiting their hooks with kernels of corn, when I asked why?

They responded with.......

"Just habit, we've been doing it since the 40's. Things were so tight back then, you couldn't even find worms. You think I'm joking huh? But nobody had jobs, every resource around was depleted. For some reason corn was available. We used it, and although we've got nothing here today, I can assure you corn works well at attracting fish."

Then there was Mel, a Dutch baker, mentor and friend who told me years ago....

"During the BIG ONE, my father went over 5 years without tasting chocolate. He mentioned it often, even up until he passed."

At the State Fair I've had historians give presentations on how America created Victory Gardens. I was amazed to hear how giving Americans were, how much sacriface they embraced. Truth be told, I am not certain my country mates would fare as well if a 3rd World War took place.

Now days all of us...you, me and the Nun down the street with the pet monkey, all of us whine over the slightest inconveniences attached to food.....

"I didn't get enough ice."

"That's not gluten free"

"What is the caloric count on this Almond Joy bar?"

"Is that pear organic?"

Blah-Blah-Blah.

If you look back at what the worlds previous generations had to endure, doesn't it almost shame you?

At least a little?

Anyways, I'll get off my soap box now that I have determined that I am sensitive to global plight, and most of you are not LOL (Klecko Grins).

But seriously here's just one recipe that people used to make cake.

I hate when people say to me....

"I'd really like to challenge you to...."

And it doesn't even matter what the challenge is, it just sounds so pompus, as if the person issuing the challenge is Mr (or Ms) Pontificate.....right?

But I don't care, I'm gonna do it in 3-2-1........

Klecko challenges you to bake this recipe. It would be even better if you spent a couple hours Googling about war rations and how the world had to eat during WW2, if you did, I am certain you'd be thankful for even a Hostess Ho Ho.

Alright, enough....here is todays recipe.

Victory Cake was designed to make use of fewer eggs and less sugar and other rationed items during WWII. When it comes to the sweetener you can substitute light corn syrup for the honey. The original 1943 recipe was published by the makers of Royal Baking Powder (you can certainly substitute another brand). So bake for Victory, and let us know how you liked it.

One-Egg Cake

1/3 cup shortening
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg, well beaten
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup honey
1 cup milk
2 cups cake flour
2 ½ teaspoons Royal Baking Powder
¼ teaspoon salt

Cream shortening well; add sugar slowly, beating in well. Add beaten egg and vanilla; beat until blended. Blend honey and milk. Sift together dry ingredients and add alternately with liquid to first mixture. Bake in greased square pan (8 x 8 x 2 inches) in moderate oven at 350 degrees F about 1 hour or in 2 greased eight-inch layer cake pans at the same temperature about 30 minutes. Makes 1 eight-inch or 1 two-layer cake.

OK kids, lets love each other and coexist.

The Last American Baker.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

John Lennon - Rock Star or Bread Baker?

The power of the oven never ceases to amaze me.

the power of community is wonderful as well.

S.W. from the UK sent me a wonderful-wonderful link that made me think, let me post it for you, then I will come back and reply......

As pointed out by the LA Times, a recent broadcast on NPR aired tape recordings from an interview between David Sheff and John Lennon that took place over a three-week period in 1980, here in New York City. The tapes have allegedly never been broadcast before, though the transcripts were published.) The interview came out in Playboy, in an issue that hit newsstands on October 6th of that year.

What was Lennon's life like just before he was murdered? He was apparently playing the role of stay-at-home dad and got way into baking bread! He says, “I took a Polaroid photo of my first loaf. I was overjoyed, you know. I was that excited by it. I couldn’t believe it, it was like an album coming out of the oven on the instant. And every day I was cooking lunch for the staff-drivers, office boys, anybody who was working. Come on up! I love it!” He also described his bread to BBC at the time, saying, "It looked great, you know, and it tasted good—that was pretty damned good."

The End

Can you dig that?

Here is a guy who was as popular as Christ...his words not mine LOL, and even though he lived amongst a world that worshipped him, the Walrus prefered the company of the oven.

This simply does not surprise me in the least.

Klecko likes attention -

Klecko likes girls and parties -

Klecko likes selling out Madison Square Garden

But at the end of the day, when a person grows up and matures, when a person lets wisdom take root.

They will realize that there is simply nothing as miraculous and tangible than feeding bread to people.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Will America Starve? (151 Bread Taxes)

I will never forget how taken back I was during an interview I was conducting with some bakery administrators in the Baltic Regions of Russia.

Part of the reason I was there was to help them develop some interesting product lines.

Each time I'd slide a formula across the table my interpreter would explain my ideas, while the Russian admin folks would crunch their calculators, and everytime their answer was the same....

"This would be many rubles too much."

What I didn't know at the time was under Russian law, bread has a guarenteed priced.

I just kinda scratched my head in bewilderment......

"How can Klecko, or free enterprise flourish over here if the people are not given a choice of products and price ranges?"

That was only 5 years ago, but boy....now that I look back, and now that I see what I see within my own country...I understand it, and I am humbled.

The Russians had to put a fixed price into effect because former leaders and businesses out priced its people from one item that really needed to be an entitlment.......

Bread.

In America, we take things for granted, we assume we are above whatever mistakes more established countries have fallen into.

This scares the Bejeezus out of me.

What is one thing that the United States has in common with Russia (and pretty much every other country out there)?

We are run by corporations that are far more worried about turning a profit, than making sure your kids go to sleep with a full stomach.

OK...I can hear right now..."There goes Klecko again, the little drama queen must need some attention because now he is throwing down his conspiracy rant!"

Wake up America....WAKE UP!

Look what the housing market did over the last decade.

When you bought a house for $85 000 and the following year it listed for $200 000 didn't you wonder how that economic platform could withstand?

All of us know people who have lost their homes in the last couple of years because they couldn't keep up with the payments that they "qualified" for.

But now the topic turns to food.

I remember thinking what a drag it would be to not have options as to what kind of breads I would be able to make.

I lamented at the possibility of living in a world where honey, molasses, wild rice and imported grains might not be made available to me, and my accounts.

But I can say in al honesty, I have never gone hungry.

So when I pose the question.......

"Is it better to have a system in place that promises us a mundane staple loaf each day?"

I don't really expect or want you to answer this, but what I would like my fellow country men/women to know is......

The commodity markets are spinning out of control, I am sitting in a place of advantage where I can see the track being laid out.

Being hungry in America is happening now, but I am sad to report that I think its going to get worse....

A lot worse.

I will leave you with another mad rant, from the 40th President of the United States......

Ronald Wilson Reagan

(The 151 Taxes in Bread)
"If people need any more concrete explanation of this, start with the staff of life, a loaf of bread. The simplest thing; the poorest man must have it. Well, there are 151 taxes now in the price of a loaf of bread — it accounts for more than half the cost of a loaf of bread. It begins with the first tax, on the farmer that raised the wheat. Any simpleton can understand that if that farmer cannot get enough money for his wheat, to pay the property tax on his farm, he can’t be a farmer. He loses his farm. And so it is with the fellow who pays a driver’s license and a gasoline tax to drive the truckload of wheat to the mill, the miller who has to pay everything from social security tax, business license, everything else. He has to make his living over and above those costs. So they all wind up in that loaf of bread. Now an egg isn’t far behind and nobody had to make that. There’s a hundred taxes in an egg by the time it gets to market and you know the chicken didn’t put them there!"

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Irish Guns in the Mental Warehouse

Isn't it interesting?

Each one of us have a mental warehouse that contains crates filled with life experiences.

And as we get older, sometimes unexpected situations will serve as a compass that will lead us back into time.

Many of these moments we've forgotten, but all it takes is one triggered occurrence, and before you know it...the flood gates are opened, and you just stand there slack-jawed wondering how the "H" you could have completely forgotten something that at one time seemed so relevant.

Earlier today, I was at the gym talking with one of the personal trainers.

The kid has to be mid 20's, and he's Irish.

Now when I say he's Irish, I'm not talking about some "Lace-Mick" that came to America when he was 3.

This guy just got of the boat a couple of years ago.

Anyways, we were discussing marketing and branding, and he mentioned that being Irish in a city that identifies itself with the emerald isle was really quite an advantage.....

"Everybody here talks as if the majority of St Paul's population has deep roots in Ireland, but to tell you the truth....I sure haven't run into very many."

His words struck me instantly, like a slap...and before I knew it, Klecko faded back into his mental warehouse, and looked into a box that he didn't even remember.

Before the Mexicans became the majority of Saint Paul's commercial baking community, there were the Hmong, and before the Hmong came the African Americans.

But before all those ethnic groups took control, maybe 20-25 years ago...Saint Paul bakeries were filled with Micks.

I remember working at a shop where I worked with Irish co workers.

Back then we used to smoke cigarettes in the production area, and on Fridays...we'd drink beer throughout our entire shift.

Jimmy D on the other hand drank everyday, and beer wasn't enough to cure his ills, Jimmy was a whiskey drinker.

Dude was well over 6 feet tall and 250 pounds.

Throughout the first 6 or 8 hours of his shift, he was funny, gentle, kind.......

But when he'd hit the 9th-10th or 11th hours.....the spirits would kick in and Jimmy D would become insane.

Ownership was afraid to fire him, and supervisors were afraid to discipline him, not just because the guy exhibited Level 10 FOF (Freak Out Factor), but the Ol' Boy had some connections to ghosts that scared the crap out of most of us.

About once a month a visitor would stop by the bakery.

He never came at the same time twice, and he never approached any of the staff as he made his way into the building.

But the guy was tall, confident, and just by looking at him, you could tell this guy would kick Indiana Jones a** without even flinching.

Although the thuggish guest never pulled out credentials, it went w/o saying that he was I.R.A. and each month he would stop by to gather contributions to what we bakers called "The Gun Fund."

Back in those days, things were so different, people who took your money weren't required to show you receipts to prove how your money was being used...they didn't have to.

Back then, Saint Paul was filled with Micks that would do anything they could to eliminate the Protestants back home.

Even though I am 1/2 Irish, I didn't have any ties that reached back to the island that houses God's favorite lads, but I have to tell you....the Micks are passionate on the topic of hate and revenge.

I remember discussing how I saw some speaker talking about setting up a school in Dublin where 1/2 the students would be Irish boys, and the other 1/2 would be English.

I don't remember exactly what I said, but it was something like...

"This is a good thing, now these 2 camps can start out fresh, and grow up w/o having hatred planted into their minds."

Jimmy D looked at me when I said this, and in a polite but firm way he responded......

"I know you mean well Danny, but you'll need to never talk like that again, it is ignorant in present company."

Then some of the guys shared stories about how mothers were pushed down staircases and kicked in the ribs by cops, or sisters be raped in front of their fathers, and when they relived these stories, some pretty tough men had tears in their eyes.

For the first time in my life, I really realized life's solutions weren't as simple as we were made to believe at a U2 concert.

I struggled with some of the things I witnessed, but I was a kid in an industry where I was at the bottom of the totem pole.

I had no voice, and more than that. I wasn't sure how to feel.

I have never liked hate, but I do love the Irish.

Eventually the Irish have faded into the banks of the Mississippi,but yet I still find myself wondering. What would Klecko do if any race, or religion attacked his wife or kids.....I would probably not be strong enough to shed hatred, I too would be prone to exacting revenge.

Isn't it odd, how groups, customs and traditions end up vanishing from our daily routines without saying good bye?

Working with the Micks was such an honor, but yet it's kinda like they left and I didn't even notice.

I'm not really proud of that.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

The SoDak Files - Bison and Choke Cherry Pie Recipes

PRAIRIE PATRIOT

by Klecko

If you want to discover America
If you want to understand it's heart
Go to Washington D.C.

Where you'll find documents
Monuments and laws
Installed to govern the thoughts
Of your brethren


If you want to discover America
If you want to know its soul
Go to the prairies of South Dakota

Where you'll find buffalo
Hoping to be witnessed in silence
And if this is done
No further explanation will be needed

LAB RATS....ready?

3-2-1 and let's get started.

Close to 40 years ago, little Sue McGleno stood in the driveway of her house, the paneled station wagon was packed, and within 30 minutes her family was about to head out toward the Black Hills.

Being a little too amped, little Sue McGleno ran over to the near by school, hopped up on the monkey bars, and then proceeded to fall off and break her arm.

Her family never rescheduled the trip.

Over the decades, Sue McGleno has lamented her "Lost Moment", and often times she gets really pissed off when me and other family members accuse her of spending 6 digits at a therapist to deal with the high levels of grief this situation has created.

Over the years she has hinted that I should take her and the kids to the Black Hills, and maybe we could stay at a quaint campground right?

Nadda-Nadda Enchilada - Klecko doesn't do tents.

Have I mentioned that I've never slept with my family in a tent?

Anyways, I ended up renting a suite (equipped with HBO) at the Custer National Park. We stayed at the State Game Lodge.

The brochure mentioned that American Presidents had slept there, but I forget which ones.

So we drove-and drove, and drove, and drove and drove across the flat state of South Dakota and end up finding the lodge.

Custer State Park is the nations 2nd biggest national park (Yellowstone's #1) and is 72 000 acres.

In the midst of this impressive territory is a rolling prairie, every bit as big as Luxemburg or Delaware .

When a gentle breeze passes through, and the grass bends and you feel as if you are on the ocean. It's beautiful.

Like most vacation spots, there was tourist trap stuff, in this instance there was a company that plops 6 people into a Jeep and takes you on a buffalo safari. This reserve is so huge, it actually houses multiple buffalo herds.

So before ya know it, me and Sue McGleno were in this Jeep with a family of 4 from Milwaukee and a driver named Merle who was retired and originally from Texas.....


The Jeep pulls out, the safari begins, and Merle starts telling us stories and canned jokes over a make shift P.A. system.

"Over to your right is the such and such flower." he says...."They sure are pretty huh? Some old gal told me that this plant was somewhere over in Rome a couple thousand of years ago. Now if you look over there at 10 O' clock, you'll see the donkeys. Can you make out the one with the stripe on his hind quarters? I've been told that's the same donkey type as the one that the Christ rode on Palm Sunday."

Merle was a good guy.

Over the couple hours we spent with him, he told us and the Milwaukee peeps all about his wife, children and how the Methodists in Nebraska (where he spent part of his off season) needed to be kinder to church visitors, like the Methodists in Texas do.

"See that range over there?" our tour guide asked......

"That was purchased by some French people in the late 1800's, but eventually the sold their land to the government who wanted to expand the park, but under the condition that they left the grave of their baby boy intact."

Then our Jeep chugged over towards the pile of rocks that had covered the infants remains for 110 years.

That story creeped me out, but within moments Merle switched topics.....

"Ya'll know what choke cherries are?"

All of his passengers sat stupefied. 

"Really, not a one of ya huh?"

Then he went on to tell us that the choke cherry was the staple fruit of the Native Americans in the Dakota's.

"The Misses should be down here to pick some of these in a few weeks for pie. Birds, love choke cherries too, but they sure are tart. I like it best when she blends them with rhubarb."

Then finally...........we pulled into a herd of buffalo.

There was hundred's of them.

At one point America had millions of them, but after the whites slaughtered them to jerk with the Native Americans food source, they almost went extinct.

I have stood within herds of animals before, and I always have loved the feeling, but I have to tell you, these buffalo's were special.

Like many of you, I remember the scene in Kevin Costner's "Dances With Wolves" movie when the herd stampedes through his back yard, but to be there amongst them, it was kinda....I don't know, kinda bizarre.

I really don't want to come off as "New Age" guy, but I do have to say that in those old western movies, the ones where the Cowboys and Indians discuss the Buffalo having a spirit that overwhelms.......

I'm not going to disagree.

I went to South Dakota to fulfill a dream of my wives, or if nothing else to cross an entry off of her bucket list.

Instead, I found a moment of absolute-complete peace.

That almost never happens in my life.

The Buffalo Spirit simply can't be explained, not by me anyway.

Choke Cherry Pie   

2 cups chokecherry juice 
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1 - 9 inch baked pie shell

Combine the ingredients in saucepan.

Cook ingredients until thick, stirring constantly to avoid scorching.

Cool.

Pour into pie shell and place in refrigerator until thoroughly chilled.

Serve with whipped cream or if you are a Pollack....Cool Whip



Saturday, July 7, 2012

L.A.B. Shut Down?

Yes, that's correct.

Tomorrow Danny Klecko will be celebrating his overdue birthday. He and Sue McGleno will be leaving to travel the world (South Dakota) and Klecko will be back late Wednesday night.

Look for the next L.A.B. post Thursday or Friday.

BTW....if you guys want to carry on in this room while I am gone, have at it.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Baking in a Heat Wave

124 DEGREES -

With two hours before sunrise
The last baker enters the break room
Joining a crew, soaked and faded
Their shift hasn’t started

Condensation on windows
And Gatorade puddles
Serve as warnings
That this won’t be a day for talking

In silence they wait
Listening to the compressors
Wheezing for air, on the other side
Of the Oven Rooms door

Each considers leaving
But fears being the first
To turn tail
While their brothers face the dragon

Only years later will they realize
Why they had to carry on
It wasn’t for themselves
But each other

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Inmate Bakers Hall of Fame (Class of 2012)

Today is the 4th of July, the biggest patriotic holiday in my country.

I am grateful (as most of us are) for the sacrifices so many people have made to make the United States a wonderful place to live.

But as many of you know, Klecko isn't a political guy, instead I think it would be safe to say that he has been more influenced by Hollywood, Music and Religion.

With that said, who better to pay tribute to on this wondful day than American Icon......

JOHNNY CASH!

Even though the Man in Black is no longer with us, I am willing to bet that he might enjoy the following...

Inmate Bakers Hall of Fame - Class of 2012

What many people don't realize is that for decades, Americans were nourished by a countries bake staff that was usually trained in one of two systems....

The United States Military, or Prision System Bakeries.

Even when I got into the show in the late 70's, the goverment had only shut down it's baking program within a couple of years, otherwise you can bet Klecko would have taken his training with a rifle strapped to his back.

Anyways, when you place patriots and prisoners into a Yahtzee cup and shake them onto the table, it's pretty difficult to tell which is which.

Most bakers have both strains in their make up.......

So Johnny as I digress, let me say on behalf of the American Bakers Hall of Fame, I am proud to extend the honor of H.O.F. Baker to the ghost of Alvin "Creepy" Karpis.

(The Following was taken from a San Francisco Blog Site..........

Alvin "Creepy" Karpis
Born Alvin Karpawicz on August 10, 1907, Alvin "Creepy" Karpis spent more time on Alcatraz than any other inmate – over 26 years. His flamboyant robbery style incurred the wrath of FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover, who despised Karpis so much that he arrested him himself. He was the fourth and last man to become Public Enemy Number One in 1934.

Karpis's life of crime seemed to begin after a doctor told him to take an extended vacation because he had a leakage of the heart. Alvin then went to live with his sister, Mrs. Bert Grooms, in Topeka, Kansas and it was there that he began an active criminal career, which eventually lead him to Ma Barker in Thayer, Missouri.
A burglary got him a ten-year sentence at the State Industrial Reformatory at Hutchinson, Kansas in 1924. Karpis escaped, sought refuge at his parents' home in Chicago, and was protected by their silence until he moved on to Kansas City, Missouri, where he stole a car and was sent back to the Reformatory as punishment for escaping. In May 1930, he was transferred to Kansas State Penitentiary at Lansing, Kansas, where he made the acquaintance of Fred Barker. When Karpis was released in 1931, he and Barker met up in Tulsa, Oklahoma and began a long career of bank robbery, theft, and murder. Over time, he became part of the infamous Ma Barker gang, killing law enforcement officials as well as law-abiding citizens who got in his way.
Even after the Barkers were apprehended in 1935, Karpis eluded capture for another 15 months, eventually taken into custody in New Orleans in May 1936. He was 28 years old. Three months later, Karpis found himself the newest resident of Alcatraz island. He arrived just after the prison opened and left just before closed in 1962.
His time on The Rock was spent mostly in the prison bakery – when he wasn't fighting with other inmates, participating in strikes, or creating disturbances. By all accounts, he was an excellent baker (he'd worked in bakeries a bit before he opted for crime as a career). He was transferred to McNeil Island in April 1962, where he spent another seven years. While at McNeil, he taught a young inmate named Charlie Manson how to play guitar.
In 1969, the federal prison system released him and deported him to his native Canada, where he spent the next ten years writing a book about his experience on Alcatraz. Karpis committed suicide shortly after he moved to Spain in 1979 so he never saw the publication of his book in 1980.

END

So Happy Birthday America, and Johnny, just because your gone doesn't mean you are forgotten. I have talked to the Saints of Warsaw, so when you get this message....I'm expecting you to pass it along to Creepy, and maybe you can buy his a beer.







Sunday, July 1, 2012

Making the Most of Your Baking Moments

If you want to be satisfied in life.....

If you want to be satisfied in the moment.......

Then I suggest that you take time to understand the moment.

Not just spectacular episodes in life but....never mind, I'll just give an example.

Today it was 96 degrees and sticky in KleckoLand.

The neighborhood is dead, pretty much everybody is camped out in air conditioning or a body of water.

I decided to go to the gym, and to my surprise, there was a dozen, maybe 15 people there.

That's not typical for a Sunday afternoon.

While I was lifting, I noticed that over 1/2 the TV's (which are suspended from the ceiling) were set to the Twins / Royals game.

These 2 teams were playing today to see who would avoid being in last place in the American League Central.

Usually the gym has the volume turned off on the televisions, but for whatever reason the volume could be heard faintly on one of the sets placed towards the center of the gym.

Everybody was in the midst of their work out when all of a sudden we hear "WHAP" and then the roar of 50 thousand fans brave enough to sit in a blazing ballpark.

Now dude on the treadmill steps off and approaches the TV with the faint volume, chick on the elliptical joins him as well. Then me and a few others slowly walk over like zombies being pulled by magnets.

So now there's 6 or 7 of us standing there while Fox Sports shows a replay of the Twins back up catcher 

Drew Butera circling the bases after hitting a go ahead home run.


Everybody in my little zombie pack had a big-big grin on their face.


At that moment I had to chuckle, like I said....come October when the World Series is taking place, nobody will even remember this moment that we just shared.....shoot, furthermore, there is a good chance by the time our pack falls asleep we'll have forgotten Mr. Butera's shot to left center.


But during that one specific moment, all of us shared a moment of joy. It was quite obvious, and even though none of us knew each other, and none of us spoke....there was something special about this fleeting event.


As I went back to the leg press machine, it occurred to me that baking is a lot like a Drew Butera home run.


By the time we get cleaned up, wash our dishes and get a chance to sit down....our baked goods are gone.


Chewed, swallowed and consumed.


It's not like every time you send a loaf of bread, or basket of muffins out to a table somebody is going to hand you a blue ribbon, or even give you a compliment for that matter.


I think to be a real baker, a level 10 baker, we need to have the foresight to disregard the lack of attention we are going to receive for feeding the people we love.

Sure, if you're lucky, you might get to bake a cake for your parents 50th anniversary, or your granddaughters baptism, but those moments are so few and far between.


But let me tell you guys a secret.


Even though none of those 7 people will go home and even remember to mention Drew Butera's home run or the eventual Twins victory...for a moment, a single fleeting moment, these people shared abject joy.


It makes me wonder how many smiles your baked goods have put on the faces of people that would never take the time to tell you how much they enjoyed a small portion of their life, where the fruits of your labor helped them grind through another day.


Bake on L.A.B. Rats


The Last American Baker