Archive for the ‘Tradition of Deceit’ Category

Tradition of Deceit Giveaway

May 23, 2018

This year from January through August I’m holding monthly giveaways of my Chloe Ellefson mysteries. The featured book for May is the fifth in the series, Tradition of Deceit.

To enter the giveaway for Tradition of Deceit, just leave a comment below before 11:59 PM (Central US time), May 24th, 2018. One entry per person, please.

Winners will be chosen at random from all entires here and on my Facebook Author Page, and announced the next day. Each winner will receive a personalized and signed trade paperback copy of Tradition of Deceit. 
Good luck!

Researching Tradition of Deceit

May 15, 2018

Interstate 94 Highway sign for West to Minneapolis and East to Milwaukee.

Front cover of Tradition of Deceit, the fifth book in the Chloe Ellefson Mystery series by bestselling author Kathleen Ernst.Mr. Ernst here.  In Tradition Of Deceit (TOD) Chloe and Roelke get caught up in separate mysteries, in separate cities, each facing deadly perils on their own.

Chloe’s in Minneapolis helping her friend Ariel at the Minnesota Historical Society work on transforming an enormous abandoned flour mill into a museum.

Roelke’s in Milwaukee running a very personal, and unofficial, investigation into his best friend’s murder.

Though separated by hundreds of miles, the mysteries and threats that Chloe and Roelke each face are culturally and historically linked.  Their experiences take place during February 1983, with historical threads set in 1878 and the 1920s.

This post focuses on researching a key transition scene in TOD, the fifth book in Kathleen’s award-winning Chloe Ellefson mystery series.

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At the end of Chapter Thirty-Five, Chloe comes into possession of what later proves to be an important clue:  a piece of Polish paper-cutting art called wycinanki (pronounced vee-chee-non-kee) discovered in “No Man’s Land” — the female worker’s break room in the long-abandoned Washburn-Crosby Gold Medal flour mill in Minneapolis.

The first thing that presented itself was a rectangle of heavy cream-colored paper, corners marked with pin holes. Despite a film of dust, and the passing years’ inevitable fading, a collage of cut and layered paper still suggested a vivid rainbow of color. A central bouquet of stylized flowers was flanked on each side by a rooster. She gently lifted the piece. Pride in creation, determination, feminine strength . . . all those seemed palpable.

She was pretty sure that this glorious example of wycinanki had been made long before the mill closed in 1965. It so closely resembled what Roelke had tried to describe on the phone that an ice chip slid down Chloe’s spin. Ariel had said that a motif of flowers and roosters was common. Still, it was uncanny that this piece, left behind in No Man’s Land, echoed whatever it was that Roelke had found in Wisconsin decades later.

Was it even remotely possible that the same woman had created each wycinanki? “If so,” she whispered to whomever might be listening, “why did you leave this beautiful piece in No Man’s Land? And how did you get from Minneapolis to Milwaukee?”

Kathleen asked me to research how the woman who created the wycinanki piece could have traveled the 350 miles from Minneapolis to Milwaukee in 1921. Turned out, her options were limited.

  • Minneapolis is located on the Mississippi River and Milwaukee on Lake Michigan, but there are no connections between the two cities by water.
  • There were roads between them back then, but stretches were still unpaved (the Interstate Highway System was decades in the future) which may be why long-distance motorized bus service did not yet exist.
  • And the first rudimentary airline passenger service was still years away.

So how did people travel long distances in those days?  I discovered that back then America enjoyed an extensive system of railroads offering scheduled, reliable, relatively affordable passenger service.

September 1921

LIDIA TOOK THE TRAIN from Minneapolis to Milwaukee. She knew there was a large Polish community there, and although she’d managed to hide away a few coins after grocery shopping these last few months, she couldn’t afford to travel any farther. 

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As a little boy I spent many happy hours playing with model trains.  I loved watching and riding real trains too — and still do all these (many) years later.

Which is to say I was absolutely delighted when Kathleen asked me to dig up the details of Lidia’s train trip.

In 1921 the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway (widely known as the “Milwaukee Road”) offered regularly scheduled daily passenger service between Minneapolis and Milwaukee.

 

Color photo of a map showing the upper Midwest portion of the Milwaukee Road's railroad lines in 1920.

The Milwaukee Road’s extensive rail lines and stations serving the upper Midwest in 1920. The highlighting shows Lidia’s route from Minneapolis on the top left, down the Mississippi River to La Crosse, then across Wisconsin to Milwaukee. (Map in author’s collection.)

Black and white photo of the Minneapolis Milwaukee Road railroad station circa 1922.

Lidia departed from the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad Depot in downtown Minneapolis. (1922 photo in author’s collection.)

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This is the renovated Depot today in its new role as the Marriott Renaissance Minneapolis Hotel. (Image by the author.)

But with every clack of the turning wheels she felt herself moving farther and farther from Matka and Grandfather Pawel. From Bohemian Flats and Minneapolis and the mill. From her whole world. She’d had no time to say good-bye — and she wouldn’t have dared, anyway. 

Vintage black and white photo of a C.M. & St. Paul railroad passenger train pulling into Hastings, MN circa 1920.

A coal-fired steam engine train like Lydia took, stopping in Hastings MN on its way south along the Mississippi River. (Source unknown.)

Lydia had to change trains in La Crosse, Wisconsin. She approached a woman in worn clothes who looked to be about her size and offered to exchange clothes. “Why?” the woman asked suspiciously, eyeing her stylish dress.

“I need to disappear,” Lidia whispered.

Ten minutes later she emerged from the ladies’ room wearing a heavy skirt and faded blouse. “Be careful,” the other woman said, before disappearing into the swirling crowd in her new finery. 

Image clipped from 1910 postcard showing the type of railroad passenger cars that Lidia rode.

Milwaukee Road passenger cars at La Crosse, from a 1910 postcard. These are similar to what Lidia rode in. (Author’s collection.)

Postcard of the the C. M. & St. Paul Railroad Deport in Milwaukee, circa 1900.

Lidia arrived at Milwaukee’s 1886 Everett Street Railroad Depot, formerly located immediately south of what is now called Zeidler Union Park. (Postcard in the author’s collection.)

Color photo of the modern office block that replaced Milwaukee's Everett Street railroad station.

Office block that replaced Milwaukee’s Everett Street Railroad Depot when it was razed in 1966. (Google StreetView Copyright 2018.)

She’d arrived in Milwaukee weary, nauseated, anxious, and broke. Now she sank down on an empty bench, watching other travelers. She seemed to be the only person in the station with no one to meet and nowhere to go. With a surge of panic, she wondered if she’d just made a colossal mistake.

We’d love to hear what you think, now that you’ve had the chance to compare the scene with some of the historical research used to help write it. Please feel free to leave us a comment below.

TOD is available in trade paperback and multiple ebook formats from independent booksellers as well as Amazon and other online resellers. Both formats include an Author’s Note, a Cast of Characters, and photos of the places and Polish wycinanki folk art featured in the book.

But Wait, There’s More!

Hopefully this article has piqued your interest in discovering more about the ‘people, places and the past’ that went into making TOD.

You can find a page full of details about it on Kathleen’s website, including a discussion guide, Google maps of Milwaukee and Minneapolis featuring scene locations and photos, an original 1930’s Washburn Crosby Gold Medal Flour cookie recipe for the Old-Time Cinnamon Jumbles that Chloe bakes in the story, a slide show of objects featured in the book, public radio interviews with Kathleen, plus additional blog posts, links to booksellers that offer TOD — and more — by clicking on the link below.

https://www.kathleenernst.com/book_tradition_deceit.php

Next month I’ll post an article on this blog about researching the next book in the Chloe Ellefson mystery series, Death on the Prairie, which takes place at six Laura Ingalls Wilder homestead historic sites.

Tradition of Deceit – A Retrospective

May 8, 2018

Front cover of Tradition of Deceit, the fifth book in the Chloe Ellefson Mystery series by bestselling author Kathleen Ernst.As I began conceptualizing Tradition of Deceit, the 5th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, I had several goals in mind. Since main characters Chloe and Roelke were getting along pretty well by the end of the previous book, I figured it was time to throw a new challenge their way:  distance.

I’d heard good things about the Mill City Museum after it opened in 2003. For much of the book, Chloe is in Minneapolis while Roelke is in Milwaukee. Both get tangled in murder investigations that involve good friends. How will they cope?

Back of the mill complex.

In Chloe’s day the mill was an enormous abandoned industrial site. The opportunity to have Chloe visit an urban historic site was intriguing. The mill itself told important stories from the days when Minneapolis was the flour milling capital of the world. After one visit I knew it had great potential as setting for a murder mystery. 

Taking notes on a behind-the-scenes tour.

Featuring this site also had good potential to satisfy another series goal—to provide a glimpse of the challenges inherent in museum work. In the 1980s, the abandoned mill provided shelter for many homeless people. This presented a dilemma for the historians working to turn the site into a museum. Chloe’s decision to help a friend develop an interpretive plan for the mill put her right in the middle of the debate.

Homeless Protest Master combined

(Star Tribune, May 2, 1990)

Choosing the mill as the setting also let me feature Polish immigrants and their experience in the new world. New food traditions and folk art! A thread of historical fiction gave me a chance to imagine the challenges faced by an immigrant woman named Magdalena and her descendants.

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Magdalena was skilled at Polish paper cutting, such as this piece displayed at the Old South Side Settlement Museum, Urban Anthropology Inc., Donated by Konkel Family.

Cop Roelke McKenna’s experience of trying to solve a friend’s murder in Milwaukee let me echo some of these same themes. Milwaukee was home to a large population of Polish immigrants as well. That commonality let me link Chloe’s mystery with Roelke’s.

Basilica of St. Josaphat

The Basilica of St. Josaphat, Milwaukee.

And, Roelke fans were letting me know they’d like to see even more of him. In Tradition of Deceit Roelke faces his most painful and challenging investigation. New aspects of his character are revealed as he follows both his heart and the sketchy clues.

I don’t outline stories in advance, so when I begin I’m not sure where any given story is going, or exactly how it will be resolved. This book had a more complicated structure than most, but in the end I think the pieces fell into place quite nicely. It’s one of my favorites.

SPOILER ALERT:  Plot points discussed below!

During my first scouting trip to the Mill City Museum, I learned about the tragedy of 1878, when the first Washburn A Mill exploded because no one at the time understood that the flour dust clouding the air was combustible. Eighteen workers died.

Harpers Weekly, May, 1878.

I wanted to include that in the book, but anyone working in the mill at that time was male. How to get a woman in the building? Playing with that question led to the creation of Magdalena and the historical plotline. I needed a plausible reason to get her into the mill on that tragic night.

One of readers’ favorite characters in this book is Pawel, a mill worker who gives Magdalena a chance to dream of happier days:

Magdalena regarded him. Pawel was a big man with massive shoulders and corded muscles rippling in his arms. He spent his 12-hour shifts rolling 196-lb. barrels of flour from the packing machines into train cars. He was part of the Polish Eagles, a six-man crew that usually bested other packing teams when challenged to a race.   No one would pick a fight with Pawel.

But unlike some of the other laborers, Pawel had a gentle manner. His face was broad and plain, his hair the color of dried mud, his hands huge. No one would call him handsome, but Magdalena liked him. She thought he liked her. Maybe, she thought, just maybe…

General Mills included this engraving from the 1880s in a 20th-century ad.

It would have felt too pat to have Magdalena visit the mill simply to see Pawel. Instead she goes to obtain some flour in hopes of baking a treat for him.

In the end, Magdalena’s legacy collides with Roelke’s search for answers to Rick’s death. When Roelke’s struggling to find Erin, the young woman who’d fled her abusive husband years before, his first clue is a business card decorated with wycinanki:

“All I have is this.” Danielle scrabbled in her pocket. “I found this sort of business card thing this morning under the coat hooks we use.”

Roelke felt his nerves quiver as Danielle extracted a creased business card. An address, a phone number—he’d be grateful for even the tiniest scrap of information.

He didn’t get an address. He got chickens. Two very pretty chickens, flanking a bouquet of flowers, printed in vibrant colors. It was all very artsy, and not the least bit helpful.

I made this wycinanki piece to represent the one described in the book.

Tradition of Deceit is all about power—who wants it, and what they’ll do to get it; who has it, and what they’ll do to keep it. One of the people abusing power is Professor Everett Whyte, the man found stuffed into a turn head distributor in the old mill. Whyte’s male students and colleagues admired him; his female students, not so much. I based Whyte on one of my college professors who made inappropriate suggestions to me and other female students. When I reported my professor’s behavior, my advisor replied, “Is he up to those old tricks again?” Evidently it was well known that my professor harassed women.

The turn head distributor at the Mill City Museum.

The book is also about secrets. Secrets, abuses of power, and geography might have meant the end of Chloe and Roelke’s relationship. Was Roelke’s emotional reserve understandable? Had Rick been right to keep a secret from his best friend? What did you think?

You can explore relevant people, places, and the past on mwebpage for Tradition of Deceit. Resources include a Google map, color images of key artifacts, a Discussion Guide, recipes, and links to lots of additional background material.

Cooking With Chloe: Steamed Puddings

December 11, 2015
Last spring I invited Chloe readers to try one of the old recipes I collected while writing Tradition of Deceit.  Mary M., who is experienced with period foodways, volunteered to try a couple of steamed pudding recipes. I decided to save her report until the holiday season. If you’ve always wanted to try a steamed pudding, read on!
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Old cookbooks tend to assume the users have a lot of experience/knowledge.
Mary kindly shared some general instructions; read through those before trying one of the recipes.
* * *
Steamed puddings are basically a cake baked in moist heat and a covered container, as opposed to baking in an oven’s dry heat in an uncovered pan. Steaming was a practical method of baking in the days when ovens were small and stoves were kept burning all day (for example, to heat water).
 
EQUIPMENT

Use:  A pudding mold with a lid. You can find these in specialty kitchen stores or online. It’s important to butter or coat mold with nonstick spray, and equally important to butter/spray the lid, too.

 

Equipment -steamed pudding

Or use:  A large coffee can, buttered or sprayed. Don’t use the original plastic lid of the coffee can! Instead, tie heavy-duty foil over the top of the coffee can, and remember to butter/spray the foil.
pudding 1

(Note from Kathleen – A few years ago my younger sister and I experimented with a Christmas pudding. Since we didn’t have a mold, we used coffee cans.)


You can use: A metal mold intended for desserts or decoration. I tried using my mom’s old decorative copper mold (with a foil “lid”). It worked fine for the pudding, but was a nightmare to clean…and my mom’s mold never looked the same again.

RACK
Use:  I found a round metal rack that fits perfectly in my Revere Ware dutch oven. It sits a good 1/2″ above the bottom of the dutch oven.

Or use:  If you have trouble finding a rack small enough, you can use 2 or 3 metal rings from canning jars. (Don’t use the flat removeable metal lids that go inside the rings; just use the rings.) This works fine.

 

pudding 2

(From Kathleen:  I used canning rings, just as Mary suggests, for the rack.  I fastened them with twisties.)


Don’t use:  Once I tried using a decorative cast iron trivet that barely sits above the bottom of my dutch oven. This did NOT work! There has to be room between the bottom of the pot and the bottom of the mold so that the water can circulate.
OTHER TIPS:

Keep the water in the pot boiling or simmering throughout the steaming process.

The water should come up at least halfway up the pudding mold. Check the water level and add more boiling water if necessary. (Just don’t let the water level get so high up that it goes under the lid and gets into the pudding.)

 

mold steaming

Once steaming is done, take the mold out of the pot and remove the lid. IMPORTANT! Don’t unmold right away!  Test the cake for done-ness (with a toothpick or skewer, or check to see that it’s pulled slightly away from the sides of the mold). If the pudding is done, let it sit for at least 15 minutes. This allows extra steam to escape and helps the pudding keep its shape.  Unmold and then let cool.

After you butter/spray the mold, you can put a little sugar inside, put the lid on and shake to distribute. This can add a tiny bit of “crust” (for a nice “mouth-feel”) before you add the batter.

I have also spooned some seedless jam into the bottom of the mold before adding the batter, to add a nice color and flavor. (Unfortunately, this didn’t work well with the Whole Wheat pudding.)

 

Version 2

The puddings Mary steamed came from the Gold Medal Flour Cookbook (1909).

WHOLE WHEAT PUDDING
 
The verdict:  Hands down, this was the easiest pudding I’ve steamed, though at 3 hours, it was the longest steaming, too.  Results were like a moist, less-spicier-than-gingerbread type of cake.
 
2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 t. soda
1/2 t. salt
1 c. milk
1/2 c. molasses
1 c. stoned dates
Sift soda and salt with the meal; add dates until they are thoroughly floured; add milk and molasses. This will make a soft batter but the dry flour absorbs a great deal of the moisture. Steam three hours in a closed mould. Serve with any plain pudding sauce or whipped cream.
If sour milk is used add one level teaspoon of soda. Raisins, figs, prunes, or chopped apples make a pleasant variety.
Mary notes:

It didn’t taste heavy like I expected of whole wheat flour, though I used King Arthur Unbleached White Whole Wheat.

Final thoughts:  very easy, made with usually-at-hand ingredients, pleasant tasting, not exciting, but a simple recipe that would be good for a first-time steamer.

 

Pudding cut (800x600) - steamed pudding

Instead of dates, I chopped up a honeycrisp apple. And I also tried one thing that’s worked well for me with other puddings; I put a bit of seedless raspberry jam in the bottom of the mold. With other puddings, I’ve found that adds a nice color and flavor once the pudding is unmolded. But with this pudding, the jam never melted into the cake and remained a slightly gooey mess once I unmolded it. On the good side, the jam actually stuck with the cake and came cleanly out of the mold. But I wouldn’t add the jam the next time I make this.

BLUEBERRY PUDDING

The verdict: 
I have a new favorite pudding recipe!  This one is just as easy as the Whole Wheat pudding. But it’s tastier and steams for only 1 hour (instead of 3). 
3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. butter
2 c. flour
3 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
3/4 c. milk
1 egg
1 pint blueberries
Mary notes:

I creamed the butter and sugar, then added an egg. Then I added half the dry ingredients, alternating with half the milk, then dry, then milk.  The batter was smooth and thick
.

I used frozen blueberries. I wasn’t sure how much flour to use to flour the berries, but I wound up using two tablespoons.
 
I steamed the pudding for just over an hour, then took it out, removed the lid, and let it sit for 15 minutes still in the mold.
finished pudding still in mold
 When the pudding was still in the mold, the bottom looked pale and not so appetizing. But unmolded, (and flipped right side up), it had a nice brown color. (Although sadly, the blueberries hide my pudding mold’s decorative fluting on top.)

finished pudding from side

The pudding is surprisingly light tasting and refreshing…though the batter was heavy, the final cake is not. Very good and I’ll look forward to making this again.  I wonder if it works with apples or currants or other fruits…

finished pudding cut

The recipe suggests serving the Blueberry Pudding with Creamy Sauce:

1/4 c. butter
2. c. powdered sugar
1 egg
1 t. vanilla

Cream the butter, add the sugar; cream together; add the cream, the egg well beaten, and flavoring.  If it should separate set it over hot water and stir until smooth.  Serve cold.

# # #

If I’d had Mary’s instructions, I probably wouldn’t have had trouble unmolding our Christmas pudding. (It tasted fine, though, and we enjoyed it anyway.)

Version 2

But now I’m psyched to try one of these puddings. If you steam a pudding, let us know how it goes! And huge thanks to Mary for sharing her time and knowledge.

Hands-On Wycinanki

June 30, 2015

Readers have been wondering where they can try their hands at wycinanki, the art of Polish paper cutting featured in Tradition of Deceit. (Learn more about wycinanki here.)

If you live in Wisconsin, try contacting the Polish Center of Wisconsin, the Polish Heritage Club of Madison, or other local Polish heritage groups. (Similar groups in other parts of the country can probably also provide information.) I’ve taken several workshops with Kasia Drake-Hames.

wycinanki class

Kasia (in the tan sweater) holds workshops and classes that are low-key and fun, most often in the Milwaukee area.

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My very first wycinanki project. Yes, it is just like making snowflakes.  I took a class on wycinanki Christmas cards at the Polish Center of Wisconsin.

If you can’t find a class, don’t despair. It’s easy (and inexpensive) to get started.

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Materials needed: paper (I use origami paper), scissors, glue. Tweezers can be helpful for placing pieces, and Q-tips work well to spread glue.

I wanted to feature symmetrical flowers from central Poland’s Łowicz region in Tradition of Deceit, and I’ve learned a lot about this type of wycinanki on my own. Ornate flowers are made by layering different colors of paper.

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After gluing, I put the flowers between sheets of waxed paper and press them under heavy books. This keeps the flowers from curling as the glue sets.

When you’re starting out, it’s easiest to use printed patterns.  I’ve found posts at Papermatrix particularly helpful. I also picked up a couple of vintage books.

wycinanki books

After you’ve used someone else’s patterns for practice, it’s pretty easy to start experimenting with your own. Google wycinanki, study examples, and see what appeals to you.

When I design my own flowers, I use graph paper to help keep the diminishing sizes in order.

IMG_1133

Patterns show half of a flower layer. Fold the origami paper in half, place the pattern against the fold, and trace around the pattern. (Trace on the back side, so any pencil marks that remain after cutting don’t show.) Use the fold line to help you align each new layer right in the center of the one below.

I started small by making simple wycinanki cards.

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photo-2 - Version 2

wycinanki KAE

My big goal was to create a piece like one described in Tradition of Deceit, described as “Two very pretty chickens, flanking a bouquet of flowers, printed in vibrant colors.”

Roosters are very common, but I needed to create my own chicken pattern. I started by making a simple drawing, and then sketched in layers.

wycinanki chicken - Version 2

Then I transferred the layers to origami paper.  You can see how some of the details evolved.

KathleensChickenWycinanki500w

I wanted to have this piece finished before Tradition of Deceit was published.  I wanted to have it finished before putting this post together.  It’s still not complete…

Tradition of Deceit wycinanki

In process!

That’s OK, though.  I started with a very simple flower bouquet, but kept wanting to add more blossoms. Then I decided that the open space above and below the chickens needed to filled. The two flowers above the chickens haven’t been glued down yet because I’m still playing with ideas.

I’m sure more experienced paper cutters would have prepared a complete pattern layout before beginning.  My piece has been growing more…shall we say…organically. (Hey, I don’t outline before beginning a novel, either.)

I’ve had a lot of fun with wycinanki, and if you’re so inclined, I hope you do to. And if you do try it, I’d love to see the results!

Urban Anthropology in Milwaukee’s Old South Side

June 26, 2015

I discovered the wonderful work being done by Urban Anthropology while working on Tradition of Deceit.

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The organization’s museum and programs began when a group of cultural anthropologists in Milwaukee decided to apply their skills—cultural research, museum curation, cultural land-use, neighborhood oral histories, film-making, and others—to the city.

About half of Tradition of Deceit takes place in Milwaukee’s Old South Side, where my cop character, Roelke McKenna, began his career. I wanted to feature historic places, including the Basilica of St. Josaphat,

Basilica of St. Josaphat

The Basilica was built by Polish immigrants in a working-class neighborhood. What a testament to their faith!

Basilica of St. Josaphat

Visitors are welcome.  See the website for more information.

Kosciuszko Park,

Kozy Park

Note the blue police call box. Such boxes are locked and disused now, but a few decades ago they were essential.

Kozy Park

Statue of General Thaddeus Kosciuszko in Kozy Park.   This location played a key role in Tradition of Deceit.

and Forest Home Cemetery.

Forest home Cemetery

The Landmark Chapel, 1892. Forest Home Cemetery dates back to 1850. It includes a small museum,  walking tours and other programs featuring the historic area are offered periodically. The historic area of the cemetery is fascinating to wander.

Forest Home Cemetery

Side view of the Landmark Chapel entryway.

And right in the heart of this vibrant area, Urban Anthropology maintains the Old South Side Settlement Museum.

Old South Side Settlement Museum

The museum is in a lovely old home.

Old South Side Settlement Museum

The local community has always been culturally diverse, and the museum portrays change over time.

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Rooms in the front part of the house reflect the Polish immigrants who settled here in great numbers.

Old South Side Settlement Museum

The story of Polish immigration to Milwaukee includes a chapter about a community of fishing families.

Artifacts on the display help tell the story.

Artifacts on the display help tell the story.

Old South Side Settlement Museum

Although there are still many Polish-Americans in the Old South Side, other cultural groups have found a home in the area.

Old South Side Settlement Museum

The back part of the museum depicts more recent Mexican arrivals.

Old South Side Settlement Museum

Carefully chosen objects help convey this part of the story.

Old South Side Settlement Museum

I loved having the opportunity to compare and contrast. While many things changed in the presentation between the Polish and Mexican portions of the museum, it also becomes clear that many cultural traditions—such as the importance of faith and family—remain the same.

Old South Side Settlement Museum

I couldn’t resist showing a bookshelf that includes Little Town on the Prairie, The Settlement Cook Book, and A Child’s Garden of Verses.

If you want to walk in Roelke McKenna’s footsteps, and see some of the Milwaukee locations featured in Tradition of Deceit, you can easily visit all of these places in a single trip.

Important note:  The Old South Side Museum, 707 W. Lincoln Ave,  can only be accessed by prearranged tours. Call for reservations (414) 271-9417. $10 Adult, $8 seniors, students, and children.

From June – October, Urban Anthropology also offers walking tours on Saturday afternoons.  “The Cultures and Architecture of Lincoln Avenue” features the historic area, its ethnic groups, artists and architecture.  A tour of the Basilica of St. Josaphat is included.  Please call (414) 335-3729 to reserve a tour or for more information.

The Settlement Cookbook

June 10, 2015

My dear friend Lynn recently shared a photo of a family treasure—her mother’s copy of The Settlement Cookbook.

Settlement Cookbook

My mom was married in the 1920s, and I think in those days ladies didn’t have the wealth of cookbooks available that we have now. This was my mom’s “go to” for everything.  I remember her having the pages open and making the best meals for all of us.  She and my dad used everything from their huge garden, and she canned all summer long. This cookbook was her treasure.  I think she must have had it from the very beginning of her marriage, as it is so worn out. When she made a cake from the cookbook (cakes were for birthdays and special times—not an every day thing as now), we all waited with anticipation because we knew it was going to be fabulous.

Lynn’s husband notes that the best recipes can be found on the most stained and thumbed pages.

I love exploring food history because food is one of the most tangible connections we have with the past. Just a glimpse of Lynn’s cookbook suggests a wealth of stories.

Settlement Cookbook

There must be many treasured copies of The Settlement Cookbook still in kitchens. First published in 1901 as a fund-raiser, over two million copies have been printed.

The cookbook was compiled by Elizabeth “Lizzie” Black Kander of Milwaukee. Kander had long been involved in civic work, including helping newly arrived immigrants adjust to life in America. She served as president of the organization that founded a Settlement House, and taught cooking classes. But she thought the her students wasted too much time copying recipes from a chalkboard.

To solve that problem—and to help fund the Settlement House programs—Kander suggested publishing a cookbook. She requested $18 to fund the project.  When the Board of Directors refused to finance the project, she worked with a local printer and raised money by selling advertisements.

All the copies printed sold within a year. The cookbook was reprinted again and again, with Lizzie making updates and corrections as needed.

Settlement Cook Book

1924 edition.

In addition to helping immigrants learn how to prepare American dishes, the book contained recipes from some of the ethnic groups represented in Milwaukee.

Settlement Cook Book

Settlement Cook Book

A whole chapter on kuchen!

Settlement Cook Book

Lizzie and her colleagues were so successful in attracting immigrants to their programs that more than once, they had to move to a bigger space.

Abraham Lincoln House - exterior

The Abraham Lincoln Settlement House ( 601 Ninth Street in Milwaukee) opened in 1912.

I was not really aware of The Settlement House Cookbook until I moved to Wisconsin in 1982. To my surprise, however, I found a copy in my maternal grandmother’s small collection of cookbooks after she died. My grandmother was born and bred on New Jersey’s Atlantic shore—daughter of an oysterman—but this cookbook, compiled by a Milwaukee woman of German-Jewish descent, had a place on her shelf.

Settlement Cook Book

1965 edition, published by Simon and Schuster.

Partly in her honor (and in honor of women like Lynn’s mom), I couldn’t resist including a brief mention of the Settlement House and Lizzie Kander’s cookbook in Tradition of Deceit. It fit perfectly with the themes of urban immigration and food history.

Tradition Of Deceit Cover

Has The Settlement House Cook Book been part of your family’s food traditions? I’d love to hear about your favorite stories or recipes!

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And if you’d like to learn more about Lizzie Kander, I recommend A Recipe For Success:  Lizzie Kander And Her Cookbook, by Bob Kann, part of the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Badger Biographies Series.

Lizzie Kander and her Cookbook

Old World Wisconsin Locations Guide

May 13, 2015

As the Chloe Ellefson Mystery series grows, I thought it would be helpful to provide a single list of Old World Wisconsin locations that appear in the books.

(Special note:  This Sunday, May 17, I’ll be sharing a preview of the next Chloe mystery, Death on the Prairie, at Old World.  The 4 PM program is free of charge, but why not come early, buy a ticket, and tour the site? You can visit the highlighted buildings, and enjoy springtime activities throughout the outdoor museum.)

SPOILER ALERT: the notes below reveal information about the plots.

OWM – Old World Murder (#1)
THM – The Heirloom Murders (#2)
TOD – Tradition of Deceit (#5)

(Books # 3 & 4, The Light Keeper’s Legacy and Heritage of Darkness, do not include scenes set at Old World.)

Crossroads Village

St. Peter’s Church – The series begins with Chloe walking into the Village and visiting this structure. (Note: The Swiss house mentioned in OWM, is imaginary. All other buildings mentioned in the series are real.)

St. Peters Church, Old World Wisconsin, 1981

I took this photo on my first visit to the site, in 1981. It’s hard to remember the church without its fence.

Four Mile Inn – Chloe sometimes attends the morning briefing held for the interpreter in the basement, which is closed to the public.

Yankee Area

Sanford Farm – The large barn across the road from the farmhouse was the scene of a murder in THM.

As you travel from the Village to the German area, you will see a marshy kettle pond to the right. In Chloe’s time, her office building—Education House—was located out of sight on the far side of the pond. (That’s where I worked for many years.) The area is now closed and not accessible.

German Area

Schottler Farm – During the early 1980s, ski trails were maintained on the site. In TOD, Chloe takes a break from stress by skiing out to this farm, ostensibly to check the stove. (In reality she enjoys baking kuchen and making notes about trouble in Minnesota.)

Schottler Farm, Old World Wisconsin, 1981

The Schottler house, 1981. The farm looks much better now, with gardens and fences and more outbuildings!

Norwegian Area

Kvaale Farm – This farm plays a key role in OWM. Chloe visits the farm while searching for the missing ale bowl, and Roelke is called to the farm after an alarm is triggered one night. The climax scene takes place in the farmyard. Be sure to visit the stabbur, where Chloe found the bowl (the 2nd story is not open to visitors) and the barn where Chloe tries to hide from Joel. Inside the house you’ll find an ale bowl on display on a high shelf.

The climax scene in Old World Wisconsin takes place in the Kvaale farmyard.

The climax scene in Old World Wisconsin takes place in the Kvaale farmyard.

Finnish Area

Ketola Farm – Chloe especially loves the sauna, which is the first small building you’ll encounter. In THM she visits to enjoy some quiet time after-hours, and gets locked inside.

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Much more detailed Locations Guides for Old World Murder and The Heirloom Murders are available on my website.

Old World Wisconsin is a great place to visit any time, any season. Happy wandering!

Old-Time Molasses Cake – 1930s (Gluten Free)

May 12, 2015

Welcome to Cooking With Chloe! The celebration of food explored in Tradition of Deceit continues.  This week we have another wonderful recipe from Gold Medal Flour, Old-Time Molasses Cake. Colette B. tried the recipe for us.

Molasses Cake 1 Molasses Cake 2

The verdict: An absolutely delicious gingerbread…better than my great-grandmother’s recipe!

Colette adapted the recipe for those with a gluten intolerance. (In general I ask test-bakers to stick to the recipe, but I knew this would be helpful for many readers.)  Her notes and photos are below:

I just followed the directions! Super easy!

I did, however, make a few substitutions to this recipe. Because I have a gluten intolerance, I used gluten-free flour rather than Gold Medal flour and added 1 ½ teaspoons of xanthan gum. (I mix my own blend of GF flour, but I recommend using King Arthur brand of GF flour if you buy your flour.)

I also used butter rather than shortening and used plain, unsweetened kefir in place of the “thick sour milk” called for in the recipe. I read that buttermilk is also a common substitute for thick sour milk, so that might work too. I don’t think any of these substitutions had any effect on the recipe…it was great!

This recipe is quite similar to my great-grandmother’s gingerbread recipe, which is one of my family’s favorites, but it was a richer-tasting cake because of the “thick sour milk” (or kefir or buttermilk). The Gold Medal recipe was easy to follow and quick to make; it produced a very smooth batter and ultimately a moist gingerbread that had a lot of molasses and mild spice flavor. And the kitchen smelled wonderful while the cake was baking 🙂 We all loved it!

Photo 1: Butter, sugar, molasses, egg. If it wasn’t for the raw egg, I would have eaten this…it smelled so good!

Molasses Cake 1

Photo 2: Dry ingredients ready to be mixed in.

Molasses Cake 2

Photo 3: Batter all mixed and ready to pour into pan.

Molasses Cake 3

The only issue I had was the baking time. The recipe says to bake at 325 for 50 minutes, so I did. After 50 minutes, the edges looked and felt like they were done, but the center still was not fully baked; the cake had a dip in the center because of this. I put the heat up to 350 and left the cake in for another 15-20 minutes. At that point, the center was baked but still dipped; I felt that it could have used a bit more cooking but didn’t want to leave it in any longer since the edges were a bit crisp on top. I think that baking the cake at 350 for maybe 40-50 minutes would result in a more even bake.

Photo 4: The cake at the end of the baking time called for in the recipe. It’s a little hard to see, but you can just make out the dip in the middle of the cake where the batter isn’t quite set.

Molasses Cake 4

Photo 5: The finished cake. Yum!

Molasses Cake 5

Many thanks to Colette for doing a trial run of this recipe for us—and especially for making a gluten-free version!

Kuchen

April 29, 2015

Rhubarb is popping up in my garden, so this edition of Cooking With Chloe comes from yours truly.

As curator of collections at Old World Wisconsin, Chloe Ellefson, protagonist of my historic sites mysteries series, is responsible for maintaining the antique stoves in each historic kitchen.  In Tradition of Deceit Chloe skis to one of the German farms one winter day—for purely professional reasons, of course—and bakes kuchen.

At Old World this German coffeecake is often made at the 1875 Schottler farm. The Schottlers’ granddaughter recalled enjoying the treat with her grandparents.

KAE Schottler Sepia enhanced

(That’s me in the Schottler kitchen back in 1982, cutting up rhubarb for kuchen. A friend took the picture and printed it in sepia tones.)

You don’t need a wood stove to bake kuchen, and you can use whatever fruit is in season.

Kuchen

2/3 c. sugar
2. eggs, beaten
1 t. salt
1 c. shortening (originally lard)
¼ t. nutmeg
2 oz. yeast, dissolved in ¼ c. warm water
1 c. milk
3-4 c. unbleached flour
fruit
cinnamon and sugar to taste

Put yeast and water and 1 c. flour in mixing bowl. Let sponge set for about 1 hour. Add sugar, salt, nutmeg, shortening, and egg. Add remaining flour and knead. Let rise until almost doubled, 60-90 ninety minutes. Grease a round cake pan or cast iron skillet. Punch down dough, and form dough into pan. Top with sliced fruit, and/or cinnamon and sugar. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown, about 35-45 minutes.

Enjoy!