Saturday, September 22, 2012

Old Soup Recipes in the New World

We've already established that the Last American Baker has a son that is going to college amidst a cornfield in one of America's more forgettable states.

I stopped by there recently to pick him up so we could conduct some buisness.

The drive from my front door to his is about 2 1/2 hours, and as I made this drive, I did so with a tired mind.

Whenever summer blends into can a guy not feel a little tired?

In addition to watching your enviroment wilt to gear up for the up coming tundra, there are other components that let a guy know it's time to reinvest and take stock for chapter next.

I made this trip on a Thursday which coincidentlly lined up with the Minnesota Twins day game.

Typically the squad does this once a week, all the other games are played underneath the lights, but when a brother has hours a carting across Amish Country......such distractions are welcome.

My home town team has had a rough summer, so as the game starts, many of the standard roster slots have been replaced by new talent.

Sometimes if you want to win, you just have to sacrifice the present for the future.

Anyways.....I pick up the kid, the kid hops in, and unlike most times he decides to actually stay awake and talk with his old man.

Rumor has it that he may be skipping next semester so he can study abroad this upcoming summer in Russia.

His schools semesters overlap with those in Russia, so if you are going to study in the former Soviet Union....some sacrifices must be made.

Tydus begins to explain how he'll need to get a passport and then discuss with his professor as to what location he should study at.

I can tell he has his mind kinda made up, he's leaning towards Saint Petersburg, but I chimed in that I would study in Moscow.

I guess that might be a lie, If I were young, I would go to Moscow, drink vodka by the bucket....and share my time with the many women this city has to offer, studying would become an option low on my priority chart.

Say what you want...but the Angels of Heaven are going to agree with me.

There are no women that can compete in beauty with the women of Moscow.

End of discussion.

However....Tydus is a bit more prudent.

He claims that all of Russia is filled with knock out women, but Saint Petersburg is the only city in Russia that has maintained most of its celebrated architecture.

All the other major cities were bombed out during WW2.

From what the kid tells me, by making this academic addition to contributing to his major in education, he should come close to picking up a minor in Russian studies.

So then we become silent.

The two of us just sit quiet, driving through what could have easily been considered just another one of lifes segue moments, but then I began to drift into the future.

How many times?

How many times I heard men...and women lament over not taking the time to learn their parents signiture recipes?

How many times??????

About a billion.

And whose fault is this?

Well I can only speak from experience, but I am going to place 99% of the fault on the parents.

Young people are young.

Their desires are different than the aged.

When I was my sons age....I wanted girls, booze and merriment.

I think my son is a bit like me.

But life happens, tragedy crashes unannounced.

It has become apparent to me that I am going to have to force my son to spend 4 hours of his life in the kitchen with me to learn how to make borscht.

Not for me, and maybe just a little for him.....but there will be a day when he will want to root a signature recipe into the life of his family.....if he chooses to have one.

But even if not, friends, lovers and colleagues can best carry away an essense of us by the food we best know how to prepare for them.

So maybe during the Thanksgiving, or Christmas break for sure....if I can stay alive that long, I'll chain the kid to the kitchen table and walk him through the family recipe.

Now I look over and surprise.....the doofus is passed out. Jaw slack - mouth opened and my mind starts to scramble as to what I can use for a bib so my lout son won't drool on the Breadmobile...LOL

Then, like all fathers do, fathers that have made this identical trip.....

I combatted the road with daydreams.

I begin to think of my favorite soup recipes and pair them with my favorite breads.

The follow are just some of my selections, and if you are feeling daring yourself....why not let the othe L.A.B. Rats know what yours are?

Borscht - Black Bread

French Onion - Carway Sourdough

Chili - Parker House Rolls

Minestrone - Basil Foccacia

Chicken Noodle - Ciabatta

Wild Rice -  Kalamatta Honey Wheat

Potato Soup - Pretzel Bread

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Russian Dogs and American Tattoo's

Dateline Yesterday -

So there's Danny Klecko, alone...sitting in a bread truck in the parking lot of General Mills.

I am there to give a presentation, a presentation that will require a lot of visuals.

My visuals are mostly bread starters/ferments and they are throwing a stecnch in my ride that can only be described as a July hamper filled with soiled football uniforms from the big game....5 days ago.

I am early, too early in fact to buzz my contact to let me in, but then I recall the advice that Batman gave me as a child.....

"It is better to be 5 minutes early, than 1 second late."

And remembering this....I take solace.

I have 15 more minutes to kill before I can even attempt to seek admittance without being a complete annoyance.

Like many of you, the first way I attempt to kill this lull is by whipping out my Droid to see what is going on in Facebook Land.....but I can't get reception for some reason.

Bob Dylan's Tempest disc is playing, but at the was on the last track "Roll on John" which is Dylan's tribute to John Lennon.

John Lennon in on Klecko's Top 10 list of people who he feels is overated.

So Klecko goes old school and drifts back Walter Mitty style and begins to day dream.

In my mind, I am back at the Sea Wolf Tattoo Company, where I had spent the previous evening.

Jason, my tattoo guy was busy on his honeymoon, so for this appointment I was inked by a 22-24ish year old artist named Dylan.

I had sent her instructions informing her that I was looking for some kind of tat that would capture the spirit of Laika the famous Russian dog that was sent to her demise during the Sputnik 2 flight.

Russians have got a bad wrap for this debacle, and rightfully so, but kinda not.

You see back when the Cold War was at it's zenith, The USSR beat the United States by getting Sputnik 1 into space before the Americans could float one of their vessels.

Russian President Nakita Kruschev felt that the momentum was be all cost.

I don't know the name of the Soviet's NASA program, but their scientists were given extreme pressure to send another rocket ship up, but this one needed to support a life.

Great minds were gathered.....

"Should we send a duck, moose, elephant? Nah let's send a dog."

So the scientist scoured the streets of Moscow. It was felt that a street dog would have a more adaptable immune system that a domesticated mutt.

Kruschev began to tighen the screws to the scientists and demanded an immediate launch.

However, the scientist pointed out that although they had the technology to get Laika into space, they didn't have the knowledge to bring her home.

This would be a one way trip.

The Russian NASA peeps were sick about this, they loved that mutt, but if they didn't comply it would certainly mean their career was over....or who knows, maybe worse, maybe some Gulag time, or maybe even death.

When the news of the launch went public, the world knew that the poor dog was about to be murdered, and there was an outcry that was so loud, I'll bet it gave PETA a smile.

It has been reported to me that the entire island of England would have National moments of silence to display their saddness and their wraith.

Years later, some of the Russian scientists stepped forward and confessed to have nightly nightmares, for not standing up to the tyranny involved.

On the evening before the blast off, one of the project leaders risked peril and actually removed Laika from the launch site and brought her home.

When doing this, everybody pretended not to notice.

The guy was going to bring the dog  to get loved up on what could be the final night of her life.

In the spring of 2008, the day before I left Moscow, I was watching on the news how they had raised a shrine of this noble canine at their NASA like HQ.

It is tragic when a country gets a bad wrap for the choices, or actions that a goverment makes.

This launching was like what??? 1/2 a century ago???

And I can tell you from first hand experiance, the people of Russia love-love-love that mutt.

People who weren't even alive when Laika died know the story, frontward and backward.

All of this has been passed on by their elders because the Russian people are beautiful, they have hearts like nobody else I have ever met.

Buzzzzzzzzzz, the tattoo gun pounds the top of my right shin.

Buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz- Buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz and still some more buzz........and Wa-Lah....Dylan nailed it.

Tattoo #41 is complete.

There on my leg is the head of Russia's most famous dog, framed by a rocketship and stars.

Underneath there is font that spells out.....MUTTNIK.

All of my tat's are pretty much other peoples stories that have impressed me, but for whatever reason......

I consider this tattoo, this story my own.

It has all the componants of the things that bring abject joy into my heart.......

Dogs and Russia.

So after Dilly takes a couple photo's, wraps plastic around my leg and pushes me out the door....

I experienced a sensation I had never felt before.

As I hit the sidewalk of 35th and Cedar a thought creeped into my head......

"O-M-G......dude, you have so many tattoo's, you're almost kinda scary....and you are going to look this way until the day you die."

I don't know where that came from, but I won't lie to you guys, you're family....I was actually scared.

For about 2 minutes, and then I went back to being my typical loser self.

I'm going to leave you with a poem I wrote about Laika, it will be released in my upcoming poetry-cook book entitled EXIT THE DRAGON.

Laika heard the children laughing
From what appeared to be a distant room
The most beautiful sound she ever woke to
When Victor brought her home from work last night
And took her straight to bed
It seemed natural to assume they were alone
Fraternizing was considered unprofessional
But this secret would remain safe
By this time tomorrow she would be gone
Boarded onto a tin can
Filled with rocket fuel and no parachute
All the more reason to break protocol
This is why the entire science team
And the launching crew
Held their tongues and looked away
While Victor escorted her
Off the project site
So her last day of freedom
Could be spent outdoors
Getting belly rubs
From his daughters

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Klecko and Ireland

Yeah, my immune system sucks, I get it.

So back to the doctor I go.

There is something uneasy, even for me when they stick you in the little room to wait for the doctor.

However...before the doc comes in, they send the tech first.

So mine was name Lisa, and Lisa hovered over me for a bit acting like she was thinking, but really she was surveying my tattoo's.

When she asked what arm I wanted her to slip the blood pressure cup on, I chose the one w/o the Ronald Regan tattoo, is an election year.

So now that the automated sleeve was pumping....Lisa just stared at my the other forearm that is covered with a Communist farmer, wheat stalks and the letters U.S.S.R.

 Lisa didn't say much with her mouth, but I could tell in her eyes that there were questions running in her brain.

So now I sit and wait for todays featured guest to enter, I hate waiting more than almost anything, so to kill  time I brought the essential poems of Vladimir Nobokov.

Most people know him as the guy who directed the film Lolita, but Nobokov had stated he enjoyed poetry more than novels or film.

The guy was Russian, but yet he wrote some of the most beautiful love poems you'll ever read in English.

Dude...I struggle writing in my first language, let alone my second.

Oh yeah...LOL, the guy kind of looked like Alfred Hitchcock and his other life passion was hunting butterflies.

Poets Are Lame.

Doc comes in, tells me that the odds would indacate that I just have the crud that's going around, b-u-t.....she's gonna chest X-Ray me, stick a swab on my throat, up my nose and draw blood.

Then before stepping out she says that she called in my prescription to the Walgreens on Randolph Avenue.

So now I steer the bread truck up the hill and within minutes I'm tucked back in the corner standing in line at the pharmacy.

Tick-Tock......Tick-Tock, the line just doesn't seem to move, but then I hear a woman in the front getting testy......

"I said the name was Ireland, and you're going to ask me how to spell it? didn't you ever study Europe in school? Spell it like that."

Now I start to laugh, and begin goosenecking through the crowd to spy the source of my entertainment, and to my surprise, the woman is wearing a tie died shirt with the logo of my bakery on it.

Coolio, it was the new 'Bread Heads Unite" shirt that sports little teddy bears across the chest, kinda a homage to The Grateful Dead right?

But it was weird to be at a random place and then see a minor outburst, and the person who was starring in this scene was wearing my brand.

I was digging it.

The woman had a walker thing too, as as she leaned on it, I couldn't help but notice that every finger on both of her hands contained a huge ring.

This woman had bling that would rival Mr. T.

Dude behind the counter was taken back by his customers comments, and while he was at a momentary loss for what to do......Klecko inserted himself into the scene.

Remember, I don't know this women all that well, she is an occasional Retail customer, but I scurried past the crowd, gently placed my hand on her back, and before she could turn around, I said....

"Let the baker fix this, Ireland - I-R-E-L-A-N-D!

And then she turns around, stares (remember Klecko is in street clothes) and then she smiles.....

"O-M-G...Klecko, how are you?"

Eventually we both had to wait for our drugs, so we sat next to each other in those waiting room chairs and Ms. Ireland says....

"I don't like to be that way Klecko, but I am in pain. I have worked on concrete for 41 years and this body of mine is broken down."

Then she ran through an inventory of ailments and I nodded as she stated each one.

I also loved that she referred to her self in the first person.

"Ya know Pat, I said to myself" or "It's no lie that Pat Ireland was the first female luggage handler at Northwest Airlines, and ya want to know something Klecko, it almost killed me, but I never asked for help. The guys didn't want me there, but after they realized I was proud, and I was going to buckle down, then they took me into the family. when you work blue collar......nobody wants a free loader."

I smiled, our drugs were ready, and then I told Pat Ireland that if she comes to my Oktoberfest Retail, I was gonna let her cut to the front of the line.

It's the least I could do for a woman who wears my shirt.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September 11th - Red Velvet Bundt Recipe

OK, it's September 11th, and yeah.....11 years ago was a bad day for Americans, and pretty much all people that desire peace.

I am not bright enough to address world politics or global strategies, instead....I'll take this post in another direction.

Today is Tuesday....September 11th and Bob Dylan is dropping his what?

Like his 900th album?

It is called Tempest, and some have pointed out that The Tempest was Shakespeare's last work.

Is Bob telling us something.

I have decided that after work I will go out and get this CD and come home and bake.

I won't have the TV on...because I simply don't want to hear Wolf Blitzer or Rush what's his head add the political commentary.

I'm gonna share the recipe I'll be working on, and if you cats care to join me.....hop on.

Congratulations on your album Bob.

The following recipe was baked for me recently by my dear friend Kim Ode.

Tunnel of Rhubarb Red Velvet Bundt Cake
Adapted from the "Kiss My Bundt Cookbook."

1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons red food coloring
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon high-fat cocoa powder
3 cups chopped rhubarb
1/3 cup powdered sugar
8 oz. cream cheese, softened (not low-fat)
1 egg, beaten
½ cup powdered sugar

To roast rhubarb, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Arrange rhubarb in a shallow baking dish or pie plate and sprinkle with 1/3 cup powdered sugar. Roast for about 20 minutes, stirring once, until rhubarb soft. Scrape into a small bowl and set aside to cool.
Mix together cream cheese, beaten egg and ½ cup powdered sugar until smooth. Stir in rhubarb.

Thoroughly coat a bundt pan with shortening, such as Crisco, then dust with flour, tapping out the excess. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar and vanilla. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cocoa. Slowly add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, stirring slowly to avoid lumps.
Pour about 2/3 thirds of the batter into the prepared bundt pan, then carefully spoon the rhubarb mixture in a circle, making sure it doesn’t touch the pan. Cover with remaining batter.
Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until cake begins to pull away from the sides and springs back lightly when touched. Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes – no longer – then invert onto serving plate. Let cool thoroughly before slicing.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

God & Gays at the Fair

OK, this is it, my last State Fair post I promise.

Several days ago I released the results of the Golden Whisk award.

How wonderful it was to see over 100 people pop onto Facebook and send well wished to Kelly.

But now I am going to tell you guys about 2 conversations that I had during my 12 day marathon.

In many ways my demo kitchen is like a fish bowl.

Klecko pretty much rotates in a small cooking space that is placed smack-dab in the middle of a warehouse.

There are barriers at my kitchens perimeter. They are not so strong that they are going to prevent somebody from entering if their mind is set on that, but for anybody with a social filter, they get it.

You stay out there, and Klecko swims within the fish bowl baking Bundt cakes.

The first year I worked this area I spent a lot of time along the perimeter, talking with people who were bored or needed directions to the bathroom, but it didn't take me more than a couple of hours before I realized I would certainly lose my voice if I spent an entire 12 hour shift amidst conversation.

So that's when Klecko decided to look busy towards the back of the kitchen.

Even when implementing this strategy, some friend, colleague or whoever will pull me up to the surface every 4 or 5 minutes.

Over the course of a Fair...the Last American Baker will engage in thousands, and thousands of conversations.

Most are typical, some are tedious, but then there are always a couple that inspire me to new heights.


Several years ago, like 3 or maybe 5....

I had a young woman working at the bakery. She had finished (or was in the process of) getting her culinary degree at one of those cooking schools that charge kids $40 000 a year.

The young woman's name was Abbey, and she was polite, prompt and courteous.

When a person comes to work and possesses these qualities, I almost always automatically like them.

"So Abbey" I asked "What are you going to do when you get that degree of yours?"

And you gotta realize that when I asked her this, we were alone in a remote part of the bakery.....

One 276 pound, tattooed thug, and a young woman......

Abbey smiled and with every bit of confidence she replied...........

"I want to move to Indiana, and join a ministry where I can serve God. I have been torn over this for a couple of years....but that is what I really want to do."

Usually, or many times at least...when a young person makes such a proclamation, often times they are simply trying to avoid what is in their immediate scope.

Often times words uttered like these fall off the tongue of youth that have been disenfranchised from their family.

Well I took the kid into my office and gave her a speech that pretty much applauded her hearts desires, but then the dad in me took over and I had to reveal that the creepiest part of the Jesus experience can be his employees.

I bet I spent 1/2 hour discussing how a beautiful young woman is OK to put 100% trust into their faith....but only put 25% into the men that are leading these causes.

I can't tell you how many people I know that have been trampled on by people who were in position the be a church figure head.

Well....the kid must have discussed our discussion with her family because a couple days later her Mother, Father and siblings showed up at the plant.

The Dad had such a grateful look in his eyes, when his clan ran over to look at some equipment, he whispered........

"Thanks for encouraging my daughter, but doing so with caution......she didn't believe me, or pay any attention at least, but she believed every word you said."

Funny how kids always seem to listen to anybody but their parents huh?

Well about 1/2 through the Fair Abbey and her Fam stopped by the fish bowl.

It's been a couple years since I've seen her, and I can't tell you what a sight she was. Kinda like how they paint women on religious postcards, all radiant and stuff.

The new-news in her life is she is about to take a vow that will prohibit her from marrying.

She is going to devote her ENTIRE life to God.

When she told me this....I got scared, because I wanted her to know the joy of having a family that will love her.

Sometimes I think God put my Fam in my life to make me better, more patient...ya know?

But Abbey is brilliant, and if you met would realize she was 40 X's smarter than me.

Before she left, I informed her that I was getting old, but yet I felt as if I had 3 or 4 more years to crush the skulls of any ministry members that tried to mess with her.

That's when her dad smiled, and then she hugged me like they do in the movies, and then she faded back into the crowd.

For just the splittest of split seconds, Danny Klecko was feeling this strong reverent vibe, but within moments a middle age couple got into an escalated argument concerning which building the Butterhead sculptures were in.


One of the things that people will remember the 2012 Fair by is the strong push concerning Gay Marriage. 
During Minnesota's next election, there will be an amendment to legalize same sex marriges.

No matter where you stood during the Fair....whether it was the Midway, Machinery Hill or the Beer Garden's you couldn't help but see a dozen people wearing T-Shirts telling the rest of the world how to vote.

I have friends on both sides of the fence.

And if I am going to be honest, I can see points why each camp thinks the way they do.

Whenever an issue entwines commonsense with morality....the outcome boils down to perception.

Dude.....I've stood at a table with ladies trying to decide whether our bar recipe should or should not add pecans.....and that almost started a Holy War.

But when you take things like biblical scriptures, social mores and toss them into a Yahtzee cup with love, DNA and the personal testimony of a large fraction of our population....?

Now most of you who know me know that I never tell others how to vote.

That is up to you, and to be honest....I don't want anybody to agree with me, because 9 out of 10 times I'm lost.

But when I stood in the fish bowl for 12 days and witnessed my Right Wing friends wearing shirts declaring.....

Adam and Eve
Not Adam and Steve

I can't tell you how ashamed I was.

This vote coming up is a serious matter.

And to treat the Gay Community as if they are the weak / unpopular kids in second period study hall in unforgivable.

With all of my heart I believe that ridiculing or shaming others is the quickest way to find yourself in need of a fire proof wardrobe.

Maybe it's too much to expect, but wouldn't it be nice, or aren't we as Minnesotan's capable of discussing such an important matter without taunting or shaming each other.

Shifting Gears..........................................

If you recall earlier in the Fair a local TV station sent a camera crew into my building to film me acting like a Bundt Cake big shot.

The piece aired at 8 a.m., but I had to be in my kitchen at 6:30.

So basically things are hurry up and wait, hurry up and wait.

My warehouse was in complete darkness except the the interior lights in my kitchen.

It kinda gave the space an eerie feel, as if you were in a UFO or something.

In the midst of this lull, there was a 10-15 minute slot where only I and a 55-58ish year old woman who did the lighting were in the building.

Maybe because the building was scary......

Maybe because the baker was creepy.......

The lighting woman chose to break the awkward silence......

"Do you ever bake gluten-free items Danny?"

I explained that I didn't.

"The person I live with is somebody that just can't eat wheat." she continued, and then paused....

Silence -

Silence -

Silence -

And we are still in a tractor beam of light amidst a ocean of darkness.....

The setting was surreal......

"Are you referring to your girlfriend?" I asked.

Now the woman looked puzzled and sick to her stomach...but to her credit, in this strange setting, with a thug she had never met before....she went against her natural instincts and decided to trust me.

"Ahhhh, is my girlfriend. How did you...or do you know that?"

Typically I am not all the touchy feely, but I put my right arm around this woman and gave her a "Big Brother" hug and  informed her......

"Whenever people our age discuss who they live with, they always use husband-wife, boyfriend-girlfriend, they say it w/o thinking. But when you are past 40 and you describe your partner as "The person I live with" it's kinda like code for saying I am gay but not sure I can tell you this, because I don't know how you will react."

Silence -

Silence -

Silence -

"Your safe in this kitchen kid." I told her "And just for the record, you are living in 2012....there is no reason to live in fear."

Then I saw a weight lifted from this woman that I won't even try to describe.

This woman wasn't trying to be political.

She just needed acceptance and reassurance. 

So as I sign off from another Fair that took place in an election year, I guess I will go against my own personal template and tell all of you........

You don't have to agree with everybody -

You don't have to understand everybody -

But if you just shut your mouth and actually loved people different than yourselves w/o shoving your own intentions down their throat....

Your world will change for the better.

OK...I am off the soap box, and next time we talk.....we will be back to chapter next.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

2012 Minnesota State Fair Golden Whisk Award

Alright, I know that  many of you have been waiting with great anticipation to find out which State Fair presentation in the Saint Agnes Demo Kitchen will win the coveted 2012 Golden Whisk award.

For those of you who are new, this award goes to the presenter who came to the Fair with the most complete demo.



Production value of handouts


These are the categories that I judge the shows on, there is no ribbons or trophies given out for this honor.
It's just my way to relive the highlights of 48 shows.

In past years Debora Drower & James Freid won for "Making Ice Cream in the Office Place"

Then there was Patrick Phundstein's "History of Milling" where he brought 1000#'s of props onto the Fairgrounds in an army duffel bag.

Last year, Lee Svitak Dean did the unthinkable and won even though she was show #1 of 48. It's pretty hard to splash that hard in a lead off role, but she did a spaetzle demo that was simply the cats meow.

Before we get started though........

I would like to hand out some "Christopher Columbus Awards" to.......

Arlene Coco - Who traveled from Duluth

Sue Doeden - Who traveled from Bemidji

Joan Gerland - Who traveled from Wisconsin

Laura Bender - Who traveled from close to the U.P.

This is commitment, and the State of Minnesota is deeply in your debt. It is women like you that have made the Minnesota State Fair the greatest in the Nation.


Klecko -

"Hey Lia Syse, your Apple Bundt looks awesome, have you won any baking awards?"

Lia Syse -

"No, not for baking."

Klecko -

"But you have won other awards?"

Lia Syse -

"Yeah, I'm a gamer and I won the Gears of War video game contest. It's satisfying knowing that you have the ability to destroy the dreams of 15 year old boys."

The Creative Activities exploded in laughter after that proclomation.


Without a doubt that would be Sue Doeden. She did several Honey Date Bar demo's that were fantastic.

Some people have good looks......

Some people have good speech........

Some people use good tools.........

But Sue has/had all of these. It is EZ to put together a good demo if you really want to work at it, but I'm thinking Doeden has the grit to deliver on a Julia Childs level.

Her presentation may have had some of the best production value that ever came into the demo kitchen.


This is a no brainer....Htom Trites wins this award hands down. In addition to doing a Lime Bars and Cherry Bars presentation (which I should add, might have had 100 props combined) he also did an Understanding your Bundt Pan demo where he brought upwards of 40 Bundt Pans.

Htom actually needed a hauling cart, cardboard boxes and duck tape just to get these items from point A to point B.

O-M-G......that guy is epic.


I hate to be a weasel, but I'm going to have to list 2.

Arlene Coco made a Jambalaya Hotdish that had me drooling within minutes. Alrene may live in the northern part of our great State, but she grew up in the Big Easy.

Kim Ode made the "Sweet Goods" that I most desired. It was a spin off of the Betty Crocker - Tunnel of Fudge Bundt......but Kim's was a Red Velvet Bundt that she tunneled with a rhubarb-cream cheese.

I shared it with the Admin girls next door and they gushed with joy.


Beth and the Biscuit not only brought her own sound track, but she also melted the audience with a southern accent that almost made you wish you were attending a State Fair in Dixie.

Mrs. Minnesota 2012 Leah Nicholson w/o a doubt had the most fashionable costume that entered the kitchen this year. Not only did she sport the feminine version of an Uncle Sam suit.....but she made it herself.

Who knows, addition to the kitchen, she should consider trying out for Project Runway Season 11. Who knows????? After all, I do have an in with Heidi.

Keeping with the theme, Ice Cream moguls Debora Drower and James Freid made the most unusual item. In was so creepy (in a cool kinda way) I almost doubt that Andrew Zimmern would scarf on it. In addition to many culinary musings, these crazy kids brought a fish shaped Jello mold and made a gray fish.
The finished product was slimier than a real fish, and when Drower and Freid became bored....

They haphazardly splashed the fish exterior with edible silver glitter.

Those 2 kids always seem to take my Klecko senses to new levels and may be one of the few tandems that have an automatic invite to any and all future shows.


Most years I try to balance the shows with established presenters as well as new talent.

This year, I might have to say some of my most special moments in the kitchen were with Darlene Anderson and her daughter Katrina. Her demo was Banana Peanut Butter Bars...and it was good. But these to woman overtook the kitchen later in the Fair when I was starting to wilt.

Darlene and Katrina not only did a great job with their show....but they went out of their way to show me love, and there has to be a mention for that.

Thanks D&K for being so nice to me.


On the Sunday before Labor little Granddaughter M-Rose came to the Fair with Sue McGleno and my daughter Kiki and her husband J.R.

As much fun as the Fair can is always better when you are there with family.

At the beginning of show #44 of little 3 1/2 year old Granddaughter introduced her Papi and said...."WELCOME TO THE SHOW." and then within seconds she bolted off stage left to go secure large volumes of cotton candy with Sue McGleno

DRUM ROLE PLEASE..........................................................



Kelly is one of the few presenters that I brought in from the Minnesota Food Bloggers site called Fortify.

Kelly has always done interesting Blog posts so I asked her if she would be interested and let me tell you....

Her vibe is to talk about the need for having access to single serving recipes.

Well.......about 4 hours before showtime, this young woman wheels in a gigantic suitcase filled with who knows what.

She was with other adults from her family, but the thing I remember the most is how she had a nephew tagging along with her.

At a moment like this it would have been EZ for Kelly to be locked into her own world, but she was very sensitive and deliberate when answering the 10 billion questions that this little boy hurled at her.

As showtime drew closer.....Kelly set up a portable kitchen like I have never seen in close to 500 shows.

All this culinary apparatus was certainly enough to nominate her for the golden whisk....but then I saw her hand outs.

WOW......she had 4 color professionally designed recipes that were worthy of a glossy mag.

I was pretty impressed.

But then....get this, then when the audience was assembled, Kelly pulls out a big Bible like looking book.

Then she smiles and says....................

"In my kitchen at home, I leave this book open and anybody who comes over to my house is free to sign it. I really enjoy looking back and remembering some of my fondest moments, but then I got to thinking....this may be the biggest kitchen I ever get the chance to cook in, and I would be really honored if you folks would take the time to sign my book."

What a classy move.

And when the presentation was over.......Kelly's groupies swarmed the stage to add to her memories of this special day.

About a million hours later when her fans thinned out, and she packed all her gear away, her family filed into the kitchen to thank me for allowing Kelly the opportunity to present.

I felt kinda weird cuz.....truth be told, the pleasure was all mine.

Nice job Kelly.    

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Reconciliation at the Annex

Today I had to break down my Demo Kitchen at the Minnesota State Fair.

It's the 10th time I've done this now, so I kinda knew what was in store.

After 12 days of frivolity, ruckus and sensory overload......

I knew that I would end up spending my decompression time alone.

Amidst empty tables, mountains of bulging Hefty trash bags, and dust-bunnies, the size of poodles.

Danny Klecko was attacked by quiet.

It's hard to ignore the silence on the Fair grounds.

As a somewhat mature adult, I know this is a natural part to the process, yet part of me wants to shirk my responsibilities by leaving my van load of stuff there so I can just go home and lay in the fetal position on the concrete of my basement, underneath the washtub.

If I did that, perhaps I could cocoon for 353 nights, and let life elapse until my State assembled once again.

It's not often that I feel sorry for myself, but on this one day of the year....I let self pity reside.

After bucking up a bit. I decided to take some mental notes as to what were some of the best moments I had throughout this Fair.

As you can imagine, there were many, but w/o a doubt.....

The part I was most excited about was the fact that my daughter would be bringing her family up from Omaha to visit me and take in the Fair.

Their E.T.A. was last Friday night, and like most Grandfathers, I wanted to spoil my granddaughter by showering her with gifts.

Show I went into the annex which adjoins the Creative Activities building, and marched the aisles looking for trinkets, worthy enough to signify a Grandfathers love.

After mucking through a bunch of gizmo's....Klecko eye-spied a woman who was selling hand made clothing that was created to cover the modesty of American Girl dolls.

I had just purchased one of these for my little Madison several months ago when we celebrated her 3rd birthday.

The display was ominous, the options were daunting......and the booth attendant, a woman who I would guess was on the back 1/2 of her 60's just glared at me.

First I got the Easter Bunny outfit. 

Next I got the progressive dance attire.

Then there was the pink studded hip-hop hoodie, and a pair of shoes that would surely raise the street cred of my granddaughters imaginary friend.

So now I set the pile down on the booth attendants card table right?

And she is giving me a weird look.

Not a look that says....

"It's day 8 of 12 and I am burnt out."

And it wasn't the look of a proprietor who was speculating whether or not this tattooed lout was ripping her off. was a completely different look.

On day 8 of the Fair, the only faces I recognize are those of people that either sleep with me, feed me....or sign my paycheck.

The booth attendant's face looked familiar, but my mind was far to slushy to contemplate whether I knew this woman or not.

So like I said....I piled up my wares, the woman adds the totals with a calculator. 

One eye was looking at the L.E.D. digits, but the other eye stayed on me.

"Your total is $52:48" she informed me "but just give me $50."

Then she stopped, paused, and then she just continued to stare at me as if she wasn't sure if she was going to place my newly purchased clothes in the plastic bag that ready to engulf it's inventory.

Now the woman's mouth was open, but her lips were pursed, much like a ventriloquist.

The woman paused several more 1/2 seconds...blinked her eyes....and then words were blurted from her mouth in a fashion that almost seemed involuntary. 

"Your total is $52:48, but you can just give me $50.........but I don't know why I'm doing this for you, when you wouldn't even give me a free recipe!"

And with that, the woman stuck the articles of clothing in the bag, and then her glance rocked the swivel and her eyes focused directly downward to the floor.

Like water rushing over the all came back to me.

This woman came to one of my shows on day #6 and stood at the perimeter of my kitchen and asked for the recipe of whoever was going to demo next.

But this was like 40 minutes before the show, and many of the guest only bring 30-50 copies of the recipe.

At the conclusion of most demo's....there simply are not enough recipes for everybody in attendance, and people walk away disappointed. 

But if I were to hand out a recipe to each person that asked for one prior to the show. This would create a riot.

Even though the shows are free, there is a self entitlement at the Fair, and if you don't regulate your success....mutiny will bounce like chimps on a trampoline.

So there I stood, time to go home, granddaughter gift in hand...and this woman has just taken every ounce of joy out of what was intended to be a moment of celebration.

But after the woman blurted out her the guy who starred in the Old Man and the Sea.....she immediately tried to reel her comment back in.....

"I am very sorry, that was uncalled for. I am sure you are not allowed to give recipes to every person that asks. I am sorry, I shouldn't have said anything. It isn't a big deal." 

Then the woman just continued staring at the floor.

If my cold reading was somewhat correct, I would deduce that 1/2 of her was level 10 embarrassed that she had lost control of her tongue, but what do the scriptures say???? The eyes are the windows to the soul.

This woman was still more than pissed that she didn't get that recipe.

She was upset not just because I denied her, but maybe because I had done so with such little effort.

It has always been my point that every conflict has a component of resolution.

To plug reconciliation in isn't that tough, but lining up peoples perception....well that's a different story.

At this point, the last thing I cared about was who was right and who was wrong.....

I just realized that this decent woman, who I'm guessing has a pretty good soul still had 1/3 of the Fair left to go, and she was trying to survive this marathon with a wound that my actions had inflicted.......

The first thing I thought about was trying to remember whose recipe she had requested, but then....the angels of Warsaw whispered in my ear.......

"Hey you dumb Pollack, didn't you just bake a Ginormous Pineapple Rum Bundt Cake? Go fetch it and lay it at the feet of this woman and beg her forgiveness."

Now the old Klecko, would have let this entire episode pass.

The old Klecko might have justified his actions by excusing his brashness with legalistic jargon.    

But the tribal leader Klecko is lucky enough to have gained wisdom.

I had the power to resolve this conflict.

Most of us do.

So now I run back to the fish bowl, open my fridge, grab the Bundt (and it was still warm) and circle back to the woman's booth.....

I was only gone 90 seconds...but now she was gone.

Another woman sat in her place, and she looked at me with curiosity.

When I asked where the other woman went.....she said she needed to get away for a bit.

It was time for me to go, but I really wanted to patch this situation up a.s.a.p.

Time kills deals, so I just stood there like a stooge.

Tick-Tock......Tick-Tock, time passed.....but eventually I saw the woman down on the other end of the annex, and while she returned to her booth, she saw how stupid I looked standing there with a 500 pound Bundt in my hands, and she smiled.

When she stepped back into her area......and I usually don't like to touch people, or be touched....but I hugged her and told her that I was sorry for bringing sadness to her, and I wanted her to have this wonderful cake.

The woman "Aw Shucks" smiled, while her booth mate took our picture, and as my former foe now accepted my token she looked me in the eyes and asked....

"Do you want me to bring back the platter?"

I said "Nope."

But she did anyways.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Show #48 (12 Blue Ribbon Poems)

About 6 months ago, Mike Finley and I sponsored a Blue Ribbon poetry contest.

We did the whole deal on Facebook and to our surprise.....a lot of people entered.

We asked that each applicant have a Minnesota connection, and that each poem should have a focus on food.

There was also a 100 word limit, and all parties concerned were informed that we were looking for fun submissions., as I concluded the State Fair with show #48 of 48, I devoted this slot to the winning poems.

Many people stopped by the booth throughout the Fair to celebrate the community that was built from this experience, and I must say.....

Show #48 was awesome.

Several Blue Ribbon Poets showed up to read their work.

I was humbled and honored.

Submitted for your enjoyment is the works of 12 great poets that Minnesota is lucky to be connected with.

Thanks to each of them for making my and Finley's summer a blast!

#1 -

JoyandDubblex Leftow

 Apples in Seatlle

I smell like an apple
Today just for you
Only you're not here so I

Smell my apple scent
Myself and imagine you
Smell it instead of I

#2 -

Jana Anima

To know the melon's soul, choose
The large knife, the heavy blade
With swift stroke, a rupture of the dull globe

Two suns that wobble
And slosh, their slippery afterbirths ready to spill
From the hollows of their bellies

You will think you see it, pulsing in that blaze
Of fruited orange. But its all show
And dazzle. You cannot see the melon's soul.

You will not know it until the moment it
Explodes upon your tongue.

#3 -

Ethna McKiernan


She loved that stove, high backed,
Black, old, the one she's written poems
On forever, gas, not electric. her neighbors
Worried she would burn the kitchen down

So many papers, so many words
No casserole to speak of
The boys were young, but even after
She could afford a desk

She persisted in the kitchen
Writing, dreaming, At ease
With spices to her left, the notebook
To her right, the harmony of writing at the stove

#4 -

Kim Ode

At The Great Get-Together

The concession stands in Heaven
Have nothing on the Fair
While ascended souls from Nevada
Or Kentucky, or New Hampshire
Marvel at bags of warm tollhouse

Ears of butter-drenched corn
And pikes of deep fried candy bars
Minnesotans who have passed on
Silently give thanks
For pockets no longer lined with sticky change

#5 -

Jeannie Piekos

Sunday Dinner

After mom left him
My dad began to cook
It was 1969

Man had walked on the moon
America survivied three days of peace and music
Richard Nixon was President

And my father made Chicken Cacciatore
He cleaved the breast from back, thigh from leg

He stirred and stewed then took me to church
Where I contemplated
The transformation of father

With shrimp cocktail to begin
We sat down to dinner
I peeled back the hard pink shell

Finally understanding the sacrament
For here in my father's kitchen
Was resurrection

Redemption and, best of all

#6 -

Susan Koefod

Free Samples

Vivian pitches the pleated sample cups
in the Pardeeville Piggly Wiggly,
Her hair net jaunty over her perky perm

This week it's salmon with slivered almonds
And harissa-smothered sirloin
Though Viv's quick to say that the the sirloin's a dollar off
And salmon's half price
She never pushes the hard sell

So there's no need to scurry off after slurping your sample
Because Vivian lives for that guilty look you give
When you help yourself to seconds

#7 -

Tim Nolan

Roasted Chicken

I'm writing on the cutting board after
One hour of the Amish chicken roasting in the oven

How can I say this other than directly
He is beautiful, brown and still cooking here

On the cutting board, he's so beautiful, all fat
In the breast, his legs sticking out, I salted him

All over, upside and down, in the dark cavity of him
The salt draws in the moisture of him

Praise be to his absent little brain, his beak
His pecking intentions for the bit of grain, I'm sorry

But hungry, writing here in red ink
The splotched grease of him, smeared here with my words

#8 -

MaryAnn Franta Moenick


This dream has no wings
Keep it warm

#9 -

Loren Niemi


The circumference of the world is no bigger
Than this bowl, nor the stars any further
Than the length of this spoon

The sun embracing summer is no warmer
Than love, even that of wife, mother, father
Or children any less filling than this soup

#10 -

Erin Boylan

Yin Bread Yang

This morning I burnt the bottom
Of something I was cooking up

While the top stayed golden
And the rest laid charred

Neither crumbled in the flip

#11 -

N.M. Kelby

Dinner in Havana

The orange blossem air is little consolation; the kitchen does not want you.
The stove turns the other cheek.
Oysters here are salty pearls. Mangoes bleed pink sugar.
The word "hot dish" cannot be translated - no one is sorry for that.
After rum, and more rum, small spiny lobsters marinate in sour orange and garlic.
Black beans and amethyst. Annatto bleeds saffron into the rice.
Outside, peacocks shed their iridescent plumage without poetry.
Nothing here needs you for its beauty, and there is mercy in that.
The ravenous crchids thrive in the salt air alone.

#12 -

Julie Wheeler

Good Gravy

Some were impressed
When water turned into wine
Not me

Water and wine into gravy
That's the miracle, performed yearly

Three days and three nights
From roasting to ressurrection
Lesser cooks lose faith
Or never had any
Or resort to a flavor packet

I draw a faithful crowd
Giving thanks and praise
Renouncing their low-fat ways for the good-good gravy
Only the bird is sad to be invited
But his sacrifice serves us all

Saturday, September 1, 2012

5 More Klecko Secrets

phpyDC97BDanny Klecko is the CEO of the Saint Agnes Baking Company in Saint Paul and the author of the MHS Press book, K-9 Nation Biscuit Book. He is currently hosting twelve days of food demos at the Minnesota State Fair, in the Creative Activities building. If you would like to hear more stories from him, check out his popular blog site The Last American Baker.
1. What is a typical weekend for you?
When you service hotels, restaurants, and casinos there is no such thing as a typical weekend. Saturdays are interesting because I can find myself running products to my farmer’s market booth or bringing baked goods to one of our accounts that may have forgotten to order. To me it has never seemed like work. I love the energy that surrounds the Twin Cities food scene.
If I am lucky enough to get the weekend off, you’ll find me on a baseball diamond teaching kids how to hit baseballs. Saint Paul has produced legends like Mauer, Molitor, Morris, and Winfield, but I had a group of kids this summer that might give these legends a run for their money.
2. What are some of your favorite local Friday night activities?
On Friday evenings I like to attend all types of events. I don’t care if it’s an intimate show at Patrick’s Cabaret or something bigger, like a Timberwolves game. Oftentimes I find myself not even watching the entertainment because I become more intrigued by how these venues light their spaces or how they control their traffic flow.
3. What/where do you eat on weekends? What’s a typical Sunday breakfast for you?
When you service 300 commercial accounts, you have to be careful when you give a personal endorsement. To put one restaurant on a pedestal means you might upset the other 299 concepts. With that being said, I’m going to go out on a limb and be honest with you. When my family goes out together, we always do breakfast. If you live in or around the Highland Park area, is there any other choice than the Copper Dome? I’ve lived in this neighborhood for 20 years and I swear to Caesar their staff hasn’t turned over a single employee in decades.
However, if I am by myself, I go to the Day by Day Cafe. Overall I would say they offer the most complete breakfast for sophisticated guys like me.
4. What’s your weekend reading like?
During the weekends, if I want to indulge myself, I’ll usually mix myself a Rusty Nail and read poetry. During the winter months I will either review the classics like Carl Sandburg, Ezra Pound, or Saint Paul’s own Poet Laureate Carol Conolly. When my son comes home from college in the summer we read nothing but poems from Russia and Poland.
5. What is your top Minnesota getaway?
The thing I enjoy most about Minnesota is there are more getaway options than I have time for. But, if I want to go someplace special, someplace that offers intrigue or romance, I’m heading north to Duluth. My wife is more adventurous and likes to go to spots that we are unfamiliar with. In fact just a couple of weeks ago she made me go to Luverne. If you check out my Facebook page, you’ll see her standing next to a scale-sized plastic buffalo.