Monday, July 26, 2010

Greetings from Door County, Wisconsin!

We think that food is one of the best and most delicious ways to share one’s culture. When we travel we like to take cooking lessons because we get to learn about different cultures, sample new foods, and it is fun.

Door County, Wisconsin is the little pinkie-like peninsula that sticks out into Lake Michigan. Can you find it on a map? We took a cooking lesson at the Savory Spoon where Janice, the teacher, taught us how to make two Asian dishes. One was Asian Dumplings with Chile Ginger Sauce. Dumplings are found in nearly all cultures. In Italy they are called gnocchi and made with potatoes. The Russian version are meat-filled piroshkis. Each culture has some version of a dumpling that they make it their special way. The same is true of soup. Every culture makes soup but they use local ingredients so there are many kinds of soups worldwide. Janice taught us how to make Coconut Soup with Shrimp, another popular Asian recipe. People who live where there are coconut trees often make soup out of coconut milk and if they live near the sea they put fish in their soup.

There are many cultures in the United States. When people moved here from other countries they brought they recipes with them. We are lucky because we can try many different kinds of food without traveling very far. There are Italian, Mexican, Chinese, and Thai restaurants close by. Some places have their own local specialties. Did you know that salt potatoes are only found in Central New York? They were “invented” when the Irish workers at the salt works in Syracuse area cooked their lunch of potatoes in the vats where the boiled the salt water until the water was gone and only the salt was left.

In Door County they have their own local specialty cooked in a special way. It is called a Fish Boil. Many fishermen from Norway, Iceland, and Sweden settled in Door County and they brought with them the idea of a Fish Boil. Our Fish Boil dinner started outdoors behind the Old Post Office Restaurant where we sat around an open fire. Earl, the Boil Master, explained, “A basket containing potatoes and onions has been cooking in the kettle and it is now about time to add the fish.” Earl displayed the whitefish steaks in a wire basket and then it is placed in the pot. It takes 10-11 minutes for the fish to cook during which Earl, the Boil Master, told jokes which even he said, “smelt.”

Earl asked us, “ What song do fish sing at Christmastime?” Do you know? The answer is “Salmon Enchanted Evening.” And, “How much does a pirate pay to get his ears pierced? A buck-an-ear!” When he finished with the jokes Earl threw kerosene on the fire, which caused the fire to blaze up and water to boil over. When the water boils over it takes the fish oils with it which is one reason even those who say they don’t like fish love the fish from a fish boil. The fish is light, delicate and fresh.

Dinner was great and ended with cherry pie. Door County is an important cherry growing area. We visited several cherry orchards and learned about the many tasty food items they make from cherries including salsa and they even added it to mustard for a cherry-mustard pretzel dip. The White Gull Inn serves Cherry Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast. It is so good that it won the Great American Breakfast Challenge on Good Morning America TV show! Food is fun and interesting – don’t you think so?