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Sometimes, cream of mush is the right thing to use

Thanks to everyone who stopped by to say "hello" at the Generations show at Mayo Civic Center on Thursday. It's always gratifying to talk in person with the folks who are regular readers of this column.

I continue to be amazed at the number of people who are familiar with the sometimes pretty obscure places I write about. It is, indeed, a smaller world — or in this case country — then we realize.

For example, I talked with a gentleman at Generations this week whose wife went to school with my father, Les Sellnow, at Hewitt High School in Todd County in central Minnesota. (Hewitt, by the way, is not far from Verndale, which is not far from Staples.) That's pretty amazing when you consider that my dad graduated in a class of 13. Hewitt High School, which merged with Bertha High School a few years after Dad graduated, is now a museum in the city of about 260 people.

Several readers told me at the show that they agree with my columns "95 percent of the time." Here's what I always tell people who admit that they don't agree with me 100 percent of the time. 

A) Unlike the Answer Man, who I'm sometimes mistaken for,  I'm not alwaysright.

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B) A columnist whose readers agree with him 100 percent of the time would be a pretty dull columnist.

Potluck contest judging is complete

I got an email Thursday from accomplished chef and cooking instructor Tom Skold regarding my mention of him in an Aug. 30 column about his Rochester Community Education cooking class, "One dish wonders."

Here's part of the class description in the course listings: "Check your cream of mushroom soup at the door. These one-dish meals are all from scratch and up to date: just add a salad and bread for a complete meal."

It goes on to suggest that class participants wear aprons that make fun of hotdishes.

I used the course description as a jumping off point for a defense of cream of mushroom soup in general, and of my "Ultimate Minnesota Potluck Recipe Contest," in particular.

"Thanks for just sayin' something about my class," Tom says in his email. "We were full to the gills and everyone had a great time. By creating interest through your writing you help the cause of better eating in Southeast Minnesota. And, yes, I do like things made with canned soup, though I'm forbidden from using it myself. I'm also Lutheran and Scandanavian, though I'm seldom allowed in my church's kitchen by the ladies who run the place."

Speaking of church kitchens ...

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On Wednesday night, about 30 people at the church my family attends, Mount Olive Lutheran in Rochester, got together to judge the 19 finalists at a mini-potluck. It was organized by a genuine Mount Olive "church lady," Pam Berg, who was too Minnesota-nice to turn down my request that she coordinate the judging. The judges were ages 6 through 60-something and ranged from accomplished cooks to accomplished eaters. I'm in the process of compiling the results and judges' comments, and I'll list the winners in my Oct. 8 column. I'll include the recipe for the overall winner in the print edition. Category and honorable mention winning recipes will be posted on my blog.

Thanks again to the 80 or so people who submitted recipes for the contest. This has been great fun! Stay tuned.

The honey crisp hype

I've been reading and hearing a lot lately about the long-awaited arrival of honey crisp apples at grocery stores, farmers markets and roadside stands. People are so excited that they're paying ribeye steak-like prices for these gems, when they could be paying less than half that for other varieties of delicious apples.

Personally, I'm a fan of the Zestar, Haralson, and Jonathan, among others.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the honey crisp. It's firm and sweet, with just the right amount of tartness. But is it worth the price, when there are so many other flavorful — and much cheaper — options available?

On Sunday, my wife and daughter and I went to Sekapp orchard, which is about a four-minute drive from our house in southeast Rochester, to pick some apples. I "forced" myself to sample seven varieties. They were all delicious.

There is nothing like the crunch and burst of flavor from an apple picked right off the tree. Happy fall!

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