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Roman Meal Bread at Oregon State University
by Don and Peg Doman
Back at Joyce's home, I went and took an afternoon nap, while Peg chatted with Joyce. Joyce and her family have lived there since the 1950s. She raised five children there and opened up her home to her granddaughter, while she attends OSU. I loved the backyard deck and the huge family room in the basement that leads out to it.
Travel in the Pacific Northwest is not always a hassle, but sometimes it just seems that way. Peg and I left Tacoma in the rain, several hours past the time we wanted to depart. Late November is not a good touristy time to drive around Washington, but we were determined.
We were on our way to Corvallis, Oregon for mostly business, but with us business is usually a pleasure as well. We were to videotape some intereviews as well as gather some stock footage for the Roman Meal Company. The focus of the final Roman Meal video production is improving the nutrition of school children. Peg and I were really looking forward to visiting Corvallis, but not the five-hour drive. When it got darker and wetter and windier . . . and accidents came and went, we bailed out and stopped an hour south of Tacoma in Centralia. Centralia is a nice town and we’ve explored it many times. We have our favorite places to eat and enjoy, so it wasn’t really a hardship.
We got a room at King Oscar’s, which is right next to the freeway, unpacked and went out to dinner. We chose to visit Papa Ray’s where we knew we could get chicken fried steak “as big as your head.” Unfortunately, they’ve changed cooks since we last ate there. The service was slow, but the cup of beef stew warmed us up. It might have been Dinty Moore with some pepper added, but we enjoyed it. It took forever for Peg’s pork chops and my chicken fried steak to arrive. I think it took extra time for the over-cooking that was involved. Pork and steak without moisture is a travesty. When I paid the tab, the waitress asked how everything was I replied, “Over done.” She had no comment other than, “Oh.” I don’t understand how anyone can ask an open-ended question like that and not have a remark . . . or at least a statement of regret to follow.
One of my favorite lines from Movies comes from the Donkey in Shrek: "And in the morning, we'll have waffles." The little kitchen area of King Oscar's had an automatic waffle maker AND real butter. I was looking forward to breakfast after the disasterous dinner the night before.
I work Peg and then went to the office for breakfast. I poured my batter in the waffle maker and then helped myself to the butter and orange juice. The juice was excellent . . . thick and sweet with a little tartness to help clear your throat. I smeared a little butter on the paper plate and then retrieved my waffle when the timer went off. The pronged waffle fork pulled the hot waffle off the grill with no problem. I added butter to the top and a little syrup and entered the gates of heaven. They weren't the Bill Gates of heaven, but close. Peg joined me and I poured her orange juice and made her waffle. We read the USA Today and then readied ourselves for the rest of the trip to Corvallis.
As we drove south on I-5 Peg checked our voice messages. How insulting! Someone had called our office from the sign on my Durango door to complain about my driving, "You were driving like a maniac." Well, they were close. Only crazy people were on the freeway and I was not, so I got off and left the driving to the real crazy people. I just see the person calling me with one hand on the wheel and one hand on the phone as he weaved in between tractor trailers and sped past the Jersey Barriers.
We made connections with both Karen Swanger and Joyce, a sister in Peg's sorority P.E.O. Karen is head of KidSpirit: Chefs in Motion nutrition program at Oregon State University and Joyce had welcomed us to her home. As we traveled, Peg read from Life Without Lawyers, the latest book from my non-fiction book club. I really enjoy Peg reading to me as we drive. As she reads, we often stop and comment about the content. It keeps us both awake and mentally . . . uh, something or other.
We found Joyce's house just minutes from OSU. We felt instantly at home. We had our own bedroom. Joyce's granddaughter is living with her as she attends the university. She had been in the nutrition program, so that was quite a nice connection for us. Peg and I were in Corvallis to videotape Karen Swanger's nutrition program for kids.
Leaving Joyce we went downtown. Peg and I saw a thrift shop, so we stopped and found some treasures in both items and people. The cashiers were friendly and helpful. One gave us a map and noted the post office, the Ink Well, the University Bookstore and the hall where we were to meet Karen Swanger and her program leader, Kasra, or as he is know by the young students, "Grizly." Looking at the map we were able to orientate ourselves. It had been twenty years or so since we have been there. Rich Neill, our son-in-law graduated from OSU.
After shopping and paying for our goods at the thrift store, we dropped off a package at the post office and then parked by the river walk before driving two more blocks to the Ink Well. Along the way we passed The Beanary, where we used to drink coffee and read the local newspapers and the bar where we saw Angry Housewives performed. The downtown area is so small . . . and so interesting.
Peg used to shop for artist supplies at the Ink Well, but then they made the big switch to kitchen items and home decor. Go figure. Two of our favorite shallow bowls were purchased nearly twenty years ago at the Ink Well. Of course, Peg found several items to admire and buy. Next trip down to Corvallis, we'll have to come in the summer or spring and take full advantage of shopping and walking by the river.
We left the Ink Well and drove a few blocks to the campus of Oregon State. We were unsure, which building contained Karen's office. We called the office phone number and found that we had stopped on the street nearly on the doorstep. We found a place to park and walked back.
The campus at OSU has many trees and is lovely in the spring, but not unattractive even at the end of fall and the start of winter. There are wide open spaces and buildings huddled together. There we students on almost every street corner usually laughing and talking with each other. The teaching staff is excellent and the students finish with a top notch education.
Although the bookstore is modern, well-lit, and up-to-date, the buildings we visited are not. Karen's office and the headquarters for her program look like something out of Rocky. Although the office and storage room are on the first floor, it felt like an unfinished basement with a gymnasium upstairs. Milam Hall, where we would see the program in action the following day, has had the brass letters of Home Economics removed sometime in the distant past, but you can still see where the letters were and make out the words above the stairs and entrance. Many of the Oregon State University buildings are not fancy, but they are clean and servicable. The buildings and the campus grounds felt . . . well, comfortable.
We met Kasra, the program leader for KidSpirit. He gave us a tour and talked about the program. Kasra grew up in Corvallis, but attended the University of Oregon for a year in Eugene. He returned to his roots. Both his parents are employed by OSU. He is considering a degree is modern communications, which would cover the many ways individuals and businesses communicate today with handheld devices and the internet. He loves cinema and has many favorite movies. He has videotaped some of the KidSpirit activies. He is known to the kids by his "camp name," Grizly, probably because of his facial hair, but not because of his manner. It is obvious he loves the program and the kids.
Karen arrived. She and I had talked number times via email. Peg and Karen had talked via cellphone on our trip from Tacoma to Corvallis. She has a ready smile. We outlined events for her class the next day and made a date for diner that evening. Peg and I explained we like the unusual. Karen suggested McMenamin's Pub just off campus. As we drove past the pub on our way back to Joyce's home it looked unassuming.
Peg and I drove to the pub and parked behind the little strip of buildings. We looked into each fast food establishment as we neared the pub door. What a surprise waited for us inside. Kasra was already there and put our group on the seating list. There was to be a fifteen minute wait. It was actually eighteen. The pub has a main floor, a lower floor, and balcony seating totalling 3,800 square feet. As I looked around and waited, Peg who was sitting down caught my eye and motioned behind me. I saw nothing that she might be trying to tell me about and then she motioned up. Whoa. On the wall behind me as an immense scupture.
"Over the past two decades, Oregon State University grads Brian and Mike McMenamin have built a highly successful string of 50-plus brewpubs across the Northwest that has grown to include several movie theaters, a number of historic hotels, a golf course, a vineyard and a distillery.
Now you can add the Wall of Sinks to that list.
The whimsical blend of plumbing and art is the perhaps the most noticeable feature of the brothers' newest venture, McMenamins on Monroe . . . in the University Center.
Constructed from 20 sinks salvaged from various McMenamins properties, the sculpture spreads like a copper and porcelain tree up the new pub's south wall, with water cascading from sink to sink through a branching network of pipes. Several of the five artists on the company payroll painted fanciful images on the undersides of the basins, while another fashioned copper leaves that seem to sprout from the assemblage's main stem."
-- Gazette-Times, September 23, 2006
I stared at the wall for some time. It was wonderful.
Karen and her husband, Russ arrived and soon we were seated on the balcony level. We all sipped our own mixture of pop, water, or beer. Kasra, was too young for beer. He didn't seem to care, although he kept getting text message from his friends inviting him to join them. I'm glad he stayed with our little party.
With Karen, Russ and Kasra we had a nice time talking, laughing and eating. The food was good solid pub food. I ordered fish and chips with extra fish. They served sweet potatoe fries, which I really enjoyed. There were perhaps the best I've eaten.
Like Karen and Kasra's parents, Russ is also employed by the university. He works in the AV department. Like Peg and I, he enjoys seeing programs and discussions on a wide variety of subjects. Both he and Karen, like Kasra, have camp names, too. Karen is "Big Mama K" and the kids have named "Russ Big Daddy R." Although we talked about many different things as we got to know each other, we always came back to the nutrition program. I had seen video, photographs, and heard stories, but nothing explained the depth and joy contained in the program that Peg and I were to witness the following day.
The progam is alled KidSpirit: Chefs in Motion. What a great title. The class (students from 3rd grade to eighth grade) starts off in the gymnasium with stretching exercises and playing active games.
One game was Builders and Destroyers. In this game the group is divided into two groups. One group tries to set up as many eight-inch cones on the gym floor as they can, while the other group tries to knock them down. There is a lot of running and bending . . . and yelling. After the games the instructors take the kids out on a twenty-minute run around campus, and end up at the kitchen classroom.
The kitchen has several different ranges and preping areas as well as a mirrored presentation counter on wheels for food recipe demonstations.
The Saturday morning class from from 9:30 to 1:30. One of the students told me that he didn't mind getting up early on Saturday for this class. It was easy to see why. After the morning exercise the kids plunge immediately into cooking . . . after washing their hands of course. The program for the day was making hamburger patties, shish-kabobs, salad, dessert and baking their own hamburger buns. The students are taught all aspects of nutrition, diet, cooking, presentation, table setting, and clean up. These kids are in constant motion. There were no breaks.
Class instructors (university students) prepared bowls of raw hamburger and bowls of shredded carrots and zuchini along with bowls of diced red onion and oats. Three spices were chosen for the class barbecue, but the students were free to choose others if they desired. Each chef chose a bowl of hamburger and then began adding the other ingredients according to their tastes. Each burger was put on a cookie sheet and labeled with the chef's name.
The hamburger buns were built from scratch. Roman Meal whole grain flour and Roman Meal Bread is distributed in Oregon by Bimbo Bakeries. The flour was the first building block. The kids combined the ingreidents and began mixing and then kneeding their dough. Working in pairs they rolled out their dough and then cut out the rounds for the buns (top and bottom). They were free to add oats or seeds to the top bun.
The meat elements of the shish-kabob had been marinating overnight. The chefs chose from steak or chicken and cut each piece for their skewers along with peppers, onions, and mushrooms. While some chefs made salad and dessert, others went outside to barbecue the burger patties and the shish-kabobs. The instructors had a pellet-fed barbeque. The insructors explain and ask questions. The instructors also handled the barbeque and showed how to tell when the food was thuroughly cooked.
Next, the kids set up plates, silverware, placemats, and napkins for lunch. After a brief discussion about what they had all learned, the eating began. I inherited a patty with shredded carrots and a slice of cheese. My bun was perfecty baked . . . soft and still warm. I would have liked to have grabbed a couple more, but I had work to do. I was busy videotaping, so I also missed out on a skewer, but Peg said her's was really good.
After dining, the instructors and the students all shared in picking up, putting away, and cleaning up the kitchen. You could tell they had done this before and it was becoming a habit. Excellent! A few minutes later I talked to a couple of the parents. They told of their kids participation in family cooking and shopping. The children make recommendations for shopping lists as they share their recipes and techniques from class. What a wonderful experience they are having.
We had a very nice time visiting and staying with Peg's sorority sister, Joyce. She was an excellent hostess. I had the opportunity of drinking coffee in the kitchen while made breakfast for the three of us. Her French Toast was wonderful and served with either maple syrup or raspberry syrup. I tried them both with Joyce twisted my arm for one more piece. Breakfast started out with granola, yogurt, blueberries and ended with a warm hug.
We videotaped much longer than we had planned, but logged some great footage. We made our way back to Albany by a different route, stopping by the Bimbo's and Orowheat Outlet store, where we bought two cookies for the return trip. We ate the peanut butter cookie first and saved the chocolate chip for later. In Albany, we were able to join the traffic on I-5 going north. We were making good time and then it got dark and started to rain south of Centralia. Seeing no let up and even though we were within an hour of home, we got off the freeway in Centralia for the second time in this adventure and were welcomed back by King Oscar.
I went to bed and sleep immediately. I awoke at my normal six-thirty time the next morning. I was looking forward to the orange juice and waffles in the kitchen/office. I discovered my second disappointment in Centralia. When I approached the orange juice pitcher I could see the juice was pale yellow. It tasted weak and watered down. When I dispensed the waffle batter it was thicker than it had been previously. When I went to peel my waffle off the iron it stuck. I put it on my plate, but I hate to eat something that looks pre-chewed. The office clerk didn't clean off the iron, so there was no reason to make another one. I went back to the and couldn't find the chocolate chip cookie. Darn. Peg had eaten it the night before while I slept.
Peg woke up and soon we were cleaned up and packed up and ready for breakfast. We had a decent one at Country Cousins. The only bad things about Country Cousins is there country farm motiff. Each time someone opens the door the rooster alarm gives off a cock-a-doodle-doo. Peg and I took seats a long way from the front door and enjoyed our morning coffee and toast, which they serve with apple butter, while looking out the window at a little rain.
We enjoyed our short drive back to Tacoma, mostly without wind and rain. We found that some people had lost power the night before, but all of our clocks and electrical equipment were working without need for reset. Our biological clocks needed morning naps, however.