Saturday, August 26, 2006

Elderberry Syrup

The bare facts are these. Barbara has been cleaning and rearranging the kitchen cupboards. She discovered a cache of fruit syrups put up by her sister, Stephanie Murphy, and given to us as Christmas gifts. In 1991.

I just tried the 15-year-old elderberry syrup on waffles. Not only is the elderberry syrup outstanding, it has turned into a liqueur. [See Note 3, below.] So I used more elderberry syrup on my waffles. And more. It’s outstanding! For somebody from Minnesota, however, such straightforward praise is a little over the top.

So it seems appropriate to try translating this series of events into Minnesotan*. Follow along closely so you don’t miss the action.

Barbara: “Hey, hon, look what I found?

Richard: “What is it, then?”

B: “Steph’s elderberry syrup. Don’t know how long it’s been back there. Kinda funny what gets pushed into the back of the shelf, doncha know?”

R: “It says ‘elderberry syrup’ right there on the label, sure enough.”

B: (removing the obligatory scrap of decorative cloth on the Mason jar’s lid.) Will you look at this. Steph put this up in 1991.”

R. “That’s different.”

B. “Wonder if it’s still good?”

R. “Well, if a guy was to try it, maybe he’d find out whether it’s still okay or not.”

[Note 1: The elderberry syrup was NOT found during breakfast. Even though we now live in Texas, one of us still follows “Minnesota Rules” during breakfast time, mostly: You get up and sit in your bathrobe and stare until the coffee is done. Maybe you have a doughnut with your second cup. When the other members of your household wander in, you don’t speak unless spoken to. Barbara would never have discovered Steph’s syrup during breakfast – it’s just not done. Back to our story.]

B. “You don’t have to do that.”

R. “It’s no problem. I was going to have waffles anyway.”

B. “No, I wouldn’t want to put you out. I’ll just open it up and see – it’s probably gone off or something.”

R. “You don’t have to go and do that. I’m going to have the waffles…may as well try a spoonful, just to see if it’s any good – not that Steph doesn’t make great syrup.”

B. “Well, if you’re going to do it, let me just pry off that lid. Seems a little stuck.” (She does so, using a ‘church key’ imprinted with the logo of the 1981 Bemidji, Minnesota, Wild Rice Pageant and pouring the syrup into a bottle.) “There you go.”

R. (Pours some syrup over his waffles. Takes a bite.)

B. “Well, how is it, then?”

R. “Seems kinda different, you know? In a good way, though.” (Takes a few more bites of the waffles.) “A guy could maybe get to like this.”

B. “You thinking about trying some more?”

R. “I don’t need it, really. But hey, as long as the bottle’s right there, maybe I could have just a little more of it.”

B. “I guess it’s the least you can do, seeing that Steph went to the trouble of making it.”

R. (Pouring about half the bottle over the remains of the waffles.) “Yeah, well, boy!”

B. “I guess it’s okay, then?”

R. “It sure beats some of that other stuff we been paying 20 bucks a bottle for down at Spec’s.”

[Note 2: Spec’s is a Houston institution, an immense liquor store that has about a thousand different wines, whiskeys, beers and liqueurs – not the kind of exotic retailer you’d ever find in Minnesota, whose inhabitants are suspicious of excess.]

B. “Well, that’s a keeper, then?”

R. “Not to bad a deal, really. Kind of a shame it’s gone, mostly.”

B. “There’s another jar here with the same date on top, only it’s strawberry.”

R. “Heckuva deal.”

[Note 3: In 2006, an elderberry liqueur with 17% alcohol won a Silver in the Great Taste Award run by the Guild of Fine Food Retailers. These awards are regarded as the “Oscars” of the fine food world and recognize the exceptional standard of food and drink available in Britain, which is somewhere over thataway with people who kind of sound just like Minnesotans, only different.]

B. “What are you going to do for the rest of the morning, hon?”

R. “Think I’ll go out back and cast for some walleyes.”

B. “Are you all right, Richard? I can’t recall there’s ever been any fish in our swimming pool.”

R. “Whatever.”

*We moved to Houston in ’84, so it has been quite a long time since I spoke Minnesotan. I used a book by Howard Mohr called How To Talk Minnesotan: A Visitor’s Guide as a kind of a reference guide. It’s about 20 years old now and I guess it’s a pretty good book, thought Barbara doesn’t find it nearly as funny as I do. But that’s because I was never a real Minnesotan in the first place. Maybe you’d like it, or not.

†This part is an exact quote from Mr. Mohr’s book. I wouldn’t want him to think I was trying to get away with anything here. He might still be alive.

Photograph © 2000 Rosie Lerner, Purdue University.


Lynn Slavik said...

Now listen here, Richard...I may say, 'that's different,' but only in the context of something being unlike something else. We Minnesotans might sound funny to you Texans, but Texans sound funny to us (except you guys who have not picked up the dialect - I'm so proud of you!). I'm very surprised you didn't incorporate the traditional Slavik favorite into your story: doings. Although 'doings' is listed in Merriam-Webster, I had never heard it used (even in New Prague) until I hooked up with this bunch. It seemed that there were always 'big doings' going on somewhere.

Your story was great - thanks for sending a smile my way. Say hi to all!

Donna Nytes said...

That's neat! and funny too.

Sandra Epstein said...

Richard: Even though our daughter and her husband live in Wisconsin (now there is an accent), they do "Ole" from Minnesota quite well. Their son Josh is a sophmore at Minnesota and he actually had a close friend, Ole. Ya know! And the word now becomes this long nasal sounding two-syllable word. I thought only Southerners made one-syllable words into two or three.

Oh well, what do I know!!! But I can speak Wisconsin, Minnesotian or Geechee(Charleston,SC) as well as they can - well almost...some people say I have an ear. I know I have two !

Enjoyed the, Richard, you are a really big deal!

S Reeves said...

I craved waffles all day. Just had 2 for dinner. No fancy syrup though. Had the no sugar added kind.