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Stirring up memories



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Michigan Memories
February 9, 2005

What’s Lynda Wight Todaro’s most favorite time of the year?   Anyone who knows Lynda; anyone who’s met Lynda doesn’t have to ask. It’s Artsfest week.

            Riverside Artsfest!  No question.  And when Artsfest moved from summer to May and from May to March, well that was just fine with Lynda.  Whenever, it’s always her favorite time of the year and has been for the last seventeen years.

            How long?  That’s right; the good folks of Bainbridge and Decatur County have been celebrating and learning about the arts and about many of our own United States for seventeen years.  In March we’ll observe our eighteenth festival.

            And Lynda has been right in the middle of everyone of them, from the first in the extra hot summer of 1988 when we first celebrated the classical music, art and wonders of Pennsylvania, right through the cowboy states of New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming and Arizona, the Cajun carousing of Louisiana (remember Al Hirt?) and the southern charm of our own Georgia, and Tennessee and South Carolina.   She’s entertained artists and patrons, licked stamps, hung art, set up booths and been in the middle of everything.  If I’m not mistaken, in her artist mode Lynda’s had work showing in the regional art show.

            She thought she couldn’t be more in the middle than last year when she was the chairman of the Riverside Artsfest Steering Committee as we celebrated the great State of Kentucky.   But maybe not. 

            This March our Artsfest focuses on the wonders of Michigan—and not only is Lynda Chairman of Riverside Artsfest, Inc., she’s a Michigander.

A cold country childhood

            Lynda’s dad, Earl Wight hailed from the wilds of upper New York State, but his career as a CPA led him to Detroit where he met lovely Irene Kate Walthall, a young nurse from England—met and married her.  After the two boys, Byron and Allan and the baby girl Lynda came along, the family moved briefly to Ohio, but then Earl remembered his two great loves—Michigan and the wilds of New York.  He put them together and the family moved to the little Michigan town that Lynda remembers as her hometown, East Tawas.  Actually, near East Tawas, for the family home was in the country in a house that hugged the banks of Lake Huron. 

            If you think of Michigan as the familiar mitten (not a bad idea considering Michigan winters), then East Tawas and its neighbor, Tawas City, are right on the edge of the pointer finger—way up north.

            It’s a friendly place.  Lynda recalls that as the family moved in, they left the doors propped open to the mild summer air.  A nearby neighbor, Queenie, dropped by with her three children and came on it without even knocking.  Not surprising in this community except for one thing.  Queenie was a raccoon.  She made herself right at home.

            Life on Lake Huron revolves around the outdoors.  Lots of folks not from the community came to share it—Tawas is a tourist mecca year round.

            In summer it’s sailing and motor boating, with plenty of water-skiers.   Fishing, at least according to the Chamber of Commerce, is just about the best in the world.  And while they might not have been there when Lynda was a lassie, today windsurfers abound. There are landlubber adventures too—there’s 10 miles paved bike and hiking trail for the tame, and for the wilder spirited, over 200 miles of mountain bike trails in the nearby Huron National Forest.

            We’re not the only community with a festival.  Tawasians (if that’s the word) celebrate each year with Summerfest.  This year it will be July 13-17 and features (sound familiar?) a street dance and classic car show.  

            It’s no wonder they decide to celebrate in summer—winter comes often and lasts long.  Lynda remembers her favorite day of the year as the day after Labor Day.  That’s when all the tourists headed home and she had her very own beach to herself—at least until winter set in and the tourists came back, for Tawas is a winter sports center as well—for tourists and the home folks.

            Winter memories are Lynda’s fondest.  While Lake Huron itself never completely freezes, Tawas Bay does and so do the surrounding ponds.  There were no skating rinks, Lynda recalls.  Kids just found a pond, scooped off the mounds of snow and strapped on the skates. Or they’d ramble onto the ice-covered bay for skating and more. 

            Strong winter winds blew ice up into huge crystal-clear blue blocks.  But these blocks weren’t solid; they were spotted with deep caves.  Well-bundled children crawled over the blocks and down into the glassy caves for an adventure.

            “We’d hope not to fall through,” Lynda added.

            But some folks did cut holes out in the bay.  The bold ones, known as Polar Bears, donned their swimsuits and plunged themselves in—and right back out as quickly as they could.  Others built shanty-like houses around their holes.  They’d drive their cars (yes, drive their cars over the ice on the bay), go in and—just like in the summer time—go fishing.

            It looked like a little town, Lynda told me.  So much like a little town that it had a name—Perchville—for the fish they were after.  Sure enough, right in this year’s Tawas Chamber of Commerce schedule—“56th Anniversary, Perchville, U.S.A.

            Intriguing.  But I’d rather be in Bainbridge, Georgia, U.S.A. in March amid azaleas, dogwoods and daffodils celebrating the climate, culture and food of Michigan.

            Food?  I asked Lynda for food memories.  Fruit, and Michigan is famous for fruit, particularly the crispy McIntosh apple—especially turned into applesauce or apple pie by fine cook Irene.  But Lynda’s favorite childhood food was pasties, a sort of “fried pie only baked,” that has roots in Cornwall.  Irene made them at home, but, Lynda adds, you could pick one up at the bakery and they appeared on almost every menu.

Lake Huron pasties

Filling

1 1/4 pound cubed beef round steak

2 1/2 cups peeled and cubed potatoes

1 cup peeled and cubed carrots

2 chopped onions (medium)

Salt and pepper to taste

            Combine all ingredients, cover and set aside.

Crust

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1 3/4 cup Crisco or other solid shortening

1/2 cup water

1 large egg

1 tablespoon white vinegar

           

Mix the flour, sugar and salt.  Using a pastry blender, 2 knives or a food processor cut the shortening into the mixture until it resembles course crumbs.  Combine the water, egg and vinegar; add them to the flour mixture stirring until you have a thick dough.

             Turn the dough onto a floured surface.  Divide into six portions.  Roll each into an 8-inch round.

        Spoon filling onto one side of each round.  Fold the uncovered side over the filling, tucking it under the filling.  Bring the exposed edge up to meet the tucked edge, and then pinch the edges together to seal.  Cut a slit in the top of each pasty.  Place the pasties on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Place in a pre-heated 400 degree oven and bake until golden, about 50 or 60 minutes. 

            Pasties are equally good served warm or at room temperature.

           


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Trilla Pando is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance & the Story Circle Network