Al Edenloff, editor of the Echo Press, called this morning. He said he had heard about this blog site (OK, who squealed?). At first I thought he was going to issue a subpoena for violating the Echo’s non-compete clause within a 10-mile radius of Big Ole. But as it turned out, he was just interested. I told him it was about sports, music, and stuff I found silly (the one area in which I excel). He asked, “Like your pretzel letter?”
[An August 31, 2009 submittal to the Echo – it was subsequently “killed” by the author because he found them. Pete’s, to this day, stocks Snyder’s in boxes, but not in the chips and nuts aisle (?).]
I went shopping today. It was the second day in a row. I do not like to shop. I’m a man, and an older one at that. The object of my endeavors does not appear to be available in our fair city any longer . . . and as a creature of habit, that bothers me.
[The only “true” pretzel; except for the large soft ones, warmed and served with mustard at athletic events, or sold by street vendors in large cities.]
I was shopping for pretzels. While I obviously have not covered all possibilities, I have shopped the “biggies,” and pretzels aren’t there anymore. Now it’s true you can find bags of things in these stores that are labeled pretzels. They aren’t. They are sticks and twigs with salt on them. Some of them claim to be buttered (or faux buttered) or have other alien substances on them. Some have cute, twisty exteriors; some are called rods (an automatic disqualification from pretzeldom); and some actually have a true pretzel shape, but are of the wrong size (tiny) and ingredients. A real pretzel should be at least as thick as your little finger, should have the distinctive pretzel shape, should be dry, crunchy, and crumby, and should not have any artificial flavorings . . . and should be low in calories.
The latter is of extreme importance because I am the typical older American male occasionally in search of the waistline of my youth. Unfortunately, the metabolism of my youth (under age 50) went into a coma about 12 years ago. It is not expected to revive during my lifetime. The low calorie pretzel fills a niche in my daily routine previously filled by cookies, potato chips, or M&M peanuts. In fact, there is a pretzel diet. So please – I need help here. Caramel rolls are off the menu at least until I think about having one again.”
And since we’re talking about food. Old guys mall walk together – old guys don’t talk about girls (usually) or sports (usually), we talk about food. And because we are “old” guys, the repartee’ reaches a decibel level heard by people anywhere in the mall. The true chefs among us often discuss recipes – and these recipes become the gist of inquiry from other people who just happened to be in the mall at the time. El Holm, while also a retired teacher from the Alex school system, was mostly known to his fellow walkers as a pasty maker. After days of continuing discussion, El said he would bring us homemade pasties (probably as a means of changing the subject). The following e-mail included a photo that El found thoroughly delightful – an unabashed display of his product:
[February 13, 2010.] Honestly, I wanted Ruthie to be the model here – but her hair wasn’t done (women are strange that way). Anyway, Bob Annen and I have been mall walking with Elsworth Holm for some time now. El came to Alex in 1964 to teach business at the high school. He is a native of Michigan’s UP, and his father was a noted pasty maker there. The pasty is the cornerstone of UP (as well as Minnesota’s Iron ‘Ranche’) gastronomic delights – a handy-dandy, all-in-one meal that is a lunchtime favorite for such as loggers and iron miners. Basically, a sandwich style potpie featuring beef, potatoes, rutabagas, carrots, et al. El’s wife makes the crust, El the innards. Well, apparently, February is pasty month so we have been badgering El to bring us a homemade pasty. So, here is the result – Ruthie pronounced it a ’10’!! Yummy!