The Painting Blog

Started as a daily painting blog but this is easier to live with-
the once-in-a-while blog of a painter who also writes.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Holmes City

The one little thing I regret from a summer jaunt through western Minnesota is that I didn’t follow my nose to the scent that pervaded the weekly outdoor market we visited. I have a strong suspicion that it was bug spray; but not a toxic scent that repels humans as well as mosquitoes. This was a lovely scent that could have easily been sweetly perfumed homemade soap. Since aromas are memory triggers, whatever this one was will take me back to Holmes City when I smell it again.
            Holmes City is an unincorporated community, which means, in part, that there’s no sign announcing how many residents live there. Their signage, however, was very welcoming announcing both the weekly market and the weekly community breakfast.
            Lack of signage on the part of another small community’s Saturday event is what determined where we landed that day. I had heard about the ongoing restoration of another small town in Pope County. Their Saturday event was to include art shows in two locations, a tractor show and a potluck dinner. We thought we’d check it out and arrived at the advertised starting time of 10:00 a.m. We took about five minutes (it’s a small town) to drive all the streets looking for signs and/or a gathering of people. We didn’t see anyone on foot and just two people in a pick-up who had apparently unloaded a tractor. No signs for the art show. An electric drill resting on the door sill of one of the venues made it look like something was happening within but to me it said they weren’t ready for company just yet. The main venue had one car parked out front but no sign of artists.
So, we did a pass through on this one and headed back toward franchised coffee. But when we saw the Holmes City Farmer’s Market sign, we turned right into an unincorporated community with a strong sense of self.
We looked over the vendor’s offerings first: wooden items, quilts, jams and jellies, barbed wire sculptures, baked goods, and produce. What caught my eye, if not my nose, was the three air-pots of coffee next to a display of bags of whole coffee beans. Bryce, the young man behind the display, explained he is a home-based coffee roaster and invited us to try three of his varieties. We were on a quest for good coffee, after all, so we tried all three. He explained the blends he had devised and the attributes of each. We bought the sales pitch as well as a 12 ounce bag of his “Bryce’s Beans Original.”
By then my travel companion was sensing that first breakfast had worn off and maybe it was time for second breakfast.  The church and hall adjacent to the parking lot, and its members who put on the weekly event throughout the summer, host and serve.  Judging by the new blue steel roof on the building, their efforts have been well rewarded and put back into the church community.  We put in our free-will offering and loaded up on baked eggs, French toast, fresh fruit and sausage. Oh, and see-through-to-the-bottom-of-the-cup Lutheran coffee. I was glad the taste of Bryce’s Beans still lingered on my tongue. We spooned special toppings onto our French toast and I was half-way through before I remembered to take a photo. One of the toppings was a lovely seasonal sauce of rhubarb and strawberries. The other had a gourmet flair. “It’s bananas foster,” explained the man who refilled our coffee cups. “It’s usually served on ice cream,” he added. But oh what a marvelous addition to breakfast! It may be that the brown sugar, butter, bananas and cinnamon had not been enhanced by a conflagration of rum, but it was a delicious surprise.
We rolled back out into the parking lot and chatted with the mushroom forager whom we had missed on the first run through. His baskets of oyster and sulfur shelf mushrooms and hard-to-find  chanterelles were a mushroom lover’s dream. He explained that he only wild-crafts mushrooms, as well as the spring offerings of ramps and fiddleheads. The farm to table restaurant in the neighboring town puts his hard-found fungi on their menu. He described that amount of time and effort he put in on the treasure hunt to bring these decidedly Minnesota offerings to this weekly market. “I spend five hours of windshield time just going to the places where I can find them,” he said, of course not revealing exactly where he finds the chanterelles or the 60 pounds of morels he amassed last spring. He didn’t say anything about the amount of mosquito repellent he goes through.
My second regret of the day is that we didn’t buy a quarter pound of chanterelles to try along with the lion’s mane and oyster mushrooms my travel companion is growing on specially inoculated logs at home.
Next time I’ll follow my nose and leave with no regrets.

The egg bake was as light and fluffy as I’ve ever tasted. The kitchen ladies happily shared the recipe. I’m sharing it with you exactly as it was written. You’ll have to figure out for yourself how to make a quantity that suits your own appetite. And you might have to stop in at a weekend coming up if you need to know the size of the pans and if the 12 eggs and 2 cups of milk are used for each pan. (The recipe page also showed biscuits and gravy and bread pudding so it must be that the menu changes from week to week.)
                                 Holmes City Egg Bake
“I line each pan with parchment paper and start by cutting up bread that loosely fills the pan. I usually make 18-20 pans. I buy 2 large stalks of celery, 5 pounds of onions and grind them in the food processor. I put them in separate bowls and split each ingredient between all the pans before adding the bread. Then I use the mixer to beat 12 eggs, 2 cups of milk, salt and pepper to taste and pour that into the pan filled with bread and stir. It should be a little juicy. Then add chopped up sausage or ham bits and put that on top. Sprinkle grated cheese on top and put into the refrigerator until Saturday. Start baking at 6 a.m.—you can get 6 pans in each oven but you have to watch them carefully, switching them around occasionally. At 350 they can take about an hour since they are cold going in.”

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