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An old friend of Melissa's came to visit – well, not an old friend, but one she's known a really long time, most of her life. They'd been friends for many years before I met Melissa. Saturday, the three of us went to the Anchor Bar in Superior to feast on their legendary burgers for lunch. Later, we would head home and put kabobs on the grill for dinner. I cut and seasoned the meat before we left home so it could marinate for several hours.
a local brewery in the Lincoln Park District, on Duluth's west side. Melissa had boasted about their ciders and was disappointed when they didn't offer their most popular flavors on tap. We ordered a flight of samples and found a table. The ciders were all very good. Even if they weren't what she was expecting, we each chose our favorite.
"They've changed their logo." Melissa noticed while studying the sign on the wall. Her cheeks flushed with embarrassment, "No wonder they didn't have the other flavors; this is Duluth Cider. We're at the wrong place." We all shared a good laugh about that. We were now committed to stopping at another cider brewery – but not before the girls bought a growler of Trailside and Sour Pineapple Cider to take home.
Wild State Cider featured a live band. We liked their sound and stayed longer than expected. A stop at Castle Danger Brewery in Two Harbors was also planned on the way home.
An iron ore boat was departing the loading docks at Two Harbors, so after our beverages we drove to the harbor to watch. It was nearing sunset, and the lighting was perfect. The girls took off down a trail to take photos of the boat and the lighthouse. Between the burgers and brews, the band and the boat, and all the bull… oops, I mean stories being told, we ended up getting home way too late to put kabobs on the grill. That was fine; the longer the meat marinates, the better.
It was fun to listen in as they shared memories of years gone by, stories from the past. In a way, I was jealous because I didn't know my wife back then, and I wish I could have been a part of that era too. Sometimes, while hearing of their tales and shenanigans, I'd shake my head and ask, "Did you really do that?" Other times, I feel a bit outside because I wasn't there when such memories were being made; they shared stories so quickly, I'd get lost trying to keep up. As much fun as it is to hang out with them, I try to make sure they have time alone together as well.
Melissa found a cabin rental that came available for one night only, Sunday night. (there's usually a two or three-night minimum, especially on Memorial Day Weekend) One evening would be perfect for a "girl's night out." Melissa and Nicole packed their fishing gear, hiking boots, growlers of cider, and life jackets. They headed out for Hungry Jack Lake on Sunday morning.
At the resort, they rented a canoe and went casting. Casting is when you intended to go fishing, but no fish were caught – zero – not one – not even a bite. So technically, they went casting, not fishing. (Just getting in a bit of jab there)
I had to drive to southern Minnesota and back Monday afternoon, and so I would be gone when the ladies returned from their outing. It was expected to be pretty chilly that evening. I knew Melissa would want a fire, so I prepared one in the woodstove with newspaper, kindling, and a few small logs. When she opened the woodstove doors, she would see my note inside, "Make sure the damper is open, then hold a lighted match to the base and enjoy." But that wasn't the only surprise I would have for them.
While the women were out casting their lines, I was busy at home. I prepared dinner by spearing cubes of marinated beef, red onions, green peppers, cherry tomatoes, and mushrooms on wooden skewers. I covered them with plastic wrap and placed them in the fridge along with cobs of sweet corn cleaned and wrapped in aluminum foil. All the girls had to do was light the Weber grill and throw on the kabobs and corn. But, when old…I mean to say longtime friends reunite, no plans are firm; things can change.
I thought they would be heading home around noon or so. Apparently, the two went casting again on Monday morning (another jab) then headed for the End of the Gunflint Trail. They stopped at the Gunflint Lodge and had walleye chowder for lunch. They explored and hiked some trails shooting photos of the north wood's scenery and wildlife. Later, heading south on Highway 61 along the lakeshore, they went to Cascade lodge for supper. After dark, they got home, and they were in bed by the time I got back.
When I got home, I was looking forward to snacking on leftover kabobs. I laughed when I opened the fridge, "That meat is really going to be well marinated when I put it on the grill tomorrow night." I looked inside the doggie boxes they brought home from dinner. I was hungry, but it was already near midnight, and I didn't want to eat that late.
I turned off the kitchen lights and went to the living room. I opened the woodstove doors to find my fire surprise was still intact. "They must have been completely worn out." I closed the doors imagining the carefree day of fun they'd had, then I went to bed myself.
After Nicole left for home early Tuesday morning, I went to the refrigerator to get strawberries and milk for my cereal. I saw those bright, colorful skewers. "That's a lot of kabobs for two people; maybe I should invite Aunt Di for dinner – but she eats gluten-free." Right then, it occurred to, "Hey, kabobs and corn on the cob – I've already made a gluten-free meal."
I called Di, "I'd love to come over for dinner." She said, and we made plans for five-o-clock. I thought I should make a dessert to go with our meal. I could make my mom's "Berry Patch Treat," but it would take all the strawberries I had. I put the berries back in the fridge and cut up a ripe, half-brown banana on my cereal.
The dessert has to chill for several hours before serving, so I pulled out all the ingredients and got to work right after breakfast. "Darn! I don't have enough gluten-free vanilla wafers, but I have plenty of regular wafers. What to do?"
I worked at Pizza Hut in high school, perfecting my "half and half" pizza-making skills. I saw no reason I couldn't do the same with a dessert – make it half gluten-free and half regular. I crushed the wafers, keeping them in separate piles, and began making the delicious treat.
Whenever I layer the cookie crumbs, custard filling, strawberries, etc., I always think of the scene from the movie Shrek. He is trying to explain to Donkey that ogres have layers, like onions. Not liking onions, Donkey offered, "You know what everybody likes? Parfaits…Parfaits may be the most delicious thing on the whole darn planet." I love that scene.
Yellow onions can be hard to see on a pizza; gluten can't be seen at all. At Pizza Hut, I learned to mark a pizza with two small pieces of green pepper to know where to cut it for people who ordered their pizza with no onions on half. I had to find a way to define which side of the dessert was for Di, but I didn't want any green peppers on my dessert.
I cut some strawberries vertical and the other half horizontal to garnish the top of each piece of dessert, that way, I would know which half was gluten-free. "You, sir, are a culinary genius," I said to myself as I covered the dessert and put it in the refrigerator.
Di arrived a little before five. We had plenty of time to visit while I put dinner on the grill. The beef in the kabobs was full of flavor – as it should have been after all that time marinating. After dinner, I pulled out the Berry Patch Treat. Di's eyes lit up. "I have to confess," I told her, "I didn't have enough gluten-free vanilla wafers to make a whole dessert."
Di interrupted, "I don't care. I'm having a piece of that dessert."
I laughed, then told her, "I made it half and half and marked them with differently cut strawberries so I'd know which side was which." Di wanted to know which half was gluten-free. "The problem is, I don't remember. It's going to be like playing Strawberry Roulette. I wouldn't want to give you the wrong…"
Melissa immediately jumped to Di's rescue, "You remember perfectly well, now quit taunting the poor woman and give us that dessert!" Us?
"It's two against one; this situation could turn unfavorable for me." I thought to myself, "I'd better get cutting and serving." We all enjoyed our dessert, and more conversation while I packed some leftovers for Di to take home
As I slid the meat and veggies from the wooden skewers into a to-go container, I thought about the onions and Melissa and Nicole telling stories. Each story was followed by another and another. There were layers of stories just as there were layers to their friendship. - like an onion, the layers make it stronger. Donkey said, "Not everybody likes onions, Shrek." No problem.
I put two slices of dessert in a container and thought how it was also layered, just like a parfait, or an old…I mean, longtime, friendship. I wished Nicole could have stayed for dinner too. Parfaits may be the most delicious thing on the whole darn planet, but you just can't beat Strawberry Roulette with friends and family - people you love.