Monday, September 29, 2014

On the Road to Rhode Island

Forty-Eight miles by Thirty-Seven miles.  That’s what I’m working with this week.  Remember my lack of fondness for North Dakota after I spent a ridiculous amount of time searching for what made it unique?  Well, Rhode Island has given it a tiny run for its money.  And after the plethora of information on Pennsylvania last week it was a bit of a struggle really getting into Rhode Island.  But, each state is unique and special (or so it has been my mission to teach the Dynamic Duo!) so I’m motoring on through “The Ocean State” (geesh I could walk across it in a day!) this week, or as it is officially called The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.  So if you’re ready, grab a coffee milk or get a quick drink from the bubbler, dust off your tennis racket and grab the big blue bug spray as we head off on a Rhode Island adventure!

My “Teeny Beanie” will probably be the easiest Gatchel to sway on board the Rhode Island train this week when I tell her that she can thank Rhode Island for the first indoor mallBuilt in 1828 in Providence, the Arcade is the nation’s oldest indoor shopping mall.  Rhode Island is also hope to Ann & Hope (now known as Curtain and Bath Outlet) which is thought to be a pioneer in what are now termed ‘big box marts’.  Ann & Hope was one of the first self-service department stores, in which customers could look at items without sales personnel, and also was one of the first to use shopping carts in a department store (thanks Oklahoma!).  Ann & Hope had a full-service cafeteria, a parking lot (not common in the 1950’s) and a very liberal return policy.  A trip to an Ann & Hope store in 1961 is said to be the inspiration behind Sam Walton’s Wal-Mart and Harry Cunningham’s K-Mart.  So shoppers unite – Rhode Island has plenty to like!

To sway Noah, I’d usually use sports, but this may prove to be a little difficult this week.  Rhode Island has no major professional teams so to speak, and its largest sports ‘claim to fame’ is the fact that it is home to the International Tennis Hall of Fame.  Located in Newport, the grounds include a museum, grass tennis courts, an indoor tennis facility, and a court tennis (or real tennis) facilityThe Hall has played host to the U.S. National Championship since 1881.  That tournament evolved into the US Open. The Hall of Fame Tennis Championships remains the only professional tournament played on grass in North America.  So not sure that tennis is up Noah’s alley, but that’s what Rhode Island has to offer!

I’m the music buff around here so the fact that one of Rhode Island’s most notable residents is responsible for giving us “Give My Regards to Broadway”, “Over There”, “The Yankee Doodle Boy” and “You’re A Grand Old Flag” is enough for me.  George M. Cohan, (who may or may not have been born on the 4th of July, depending on which story you believe) hails from Providence, where his parents were travelling vaudeville performers that he joined on-stage almost as soon as he could walk.  He was one of the founding members of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and is seen as an early pioneer of the ‘book musical’ (a musical play where songs and dances are fully integrated into a well-made story).  Did someone say musical?  Silly me complaining about Rhode Island before!

I had three words for Grant – White Horse Tavern.  Located in Newport, (and still running to this day), America’s oldest tavern was opened in 1673.  The tavern served as a meeting place for  the Colony’s General Assembly, Criminal Court and City Council in its early years.  I knew I also may be able to sway him with mention of Del’s Lemonade.   Famous for their ‘soft-served frozen lemonade’  the Cranston based company was opened in 1948 as a small push-cart stand which morphed into "Del's Trucks" which were to serve the beverage anywhere in the state. The company still uses the trucks today in addition to its storefront locations which can be found worldwide.  And honestly, I’m not too worried about Grant – when he hears about the State Beverage he’ll be completely onboard this week.
History is important, too, of course and for that it’s important that from Rhode Island I teach my crew about Roger Williams and Slater MillWilliams was the founder of Rhode Island who, believe it or not, left the settlements in Plymouth and Salem Massachusetts due to religious persecution.  (Come on, I can’t be the only one that finds it completely ironic that people left England and landed in Plymouth for this same reason!) He is well known for the friendly relationships and bonds he formed with some of the Native American tribes and is sometimes credited for inspiring men like Thomas Jefferson who borrowed Williams’ words “A hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world.” in regards to the separation of Church and StateSlater Mill was established by Samuel Slater who is known as the "Father of the American Factory System.” for bringing principles of the Industrial Revolution from Great Britain to the United States.  Since its inception, Slater Mill has been home to the production of everything from jewelry to coffin trimmings, plants for cardboard, and bicycles.  It is most famous for its original purpose as a cotton mill, where it was part of the establishment of America’s textile industry.

So it looks like one way or the other, I’ve got the whole gang involved and on board for Rhode Island week.  And just in case, I saved the best for last.  A drive down I-95 near Newport just may give you a glimpse of one of Rhode Island’s most recognizable residents – the Big Blue Bug.  Mascot for Big Blue Bug Solutions ‘Nibbles Woodaway’ claims to be the world's largest artificial bug at 928 times the size of an actual termite and perches on top of the store, standing 9 feet and 58 feet long and weighs in at 4,000 pounds.  They do change up the appearance of the bug (my personal favorite is the tie he wore in 2012 when the company renamed itself) which has made appearances on Oprah, The Daily Show and even Family Guy.  This is what I’ve been reduced to I have to include giant bugs on our Famous For list!

Oddly enough, I had no trouble at all setting my menus for this week.  There were lots of very distinct and “Rhode Island specific that I wanted to tackle this week.  I decided to start off with an iconic Rhode Island dish, Dynamites.  The author of the recipe says “A Rhode Island exclusive. Kind of like a Sloppy Joe but far superior.”  I found lots of references to this Rhode Island classic and figured it was a good kick-off for a busy Monday night.  (Really don’t like the timing of religious ed classes….).  I also made Rhode Island’s official state drink, Coffee Milk, tonight.  (Which is perfect because in a moment of throw back - Happy National Coffee Day!)  I raced over to get Noah while Grant and Kayla chowed down and then set my sights on making a Rhode Island Blueberry Slump for dessert tonight.   Believe it or not, I've made a blueberry slump before (could have been National Blueberry Day, don't remember...)  Anyway,  kind of think cobbler, but "Early attempts to adapt the English steamed pudding to the primitive cooking equipment available to the Colonists in New Englans resulted in the grunt and the slump, a simple dumpling-like pudding (basically a cobbler) using local fruit. Usually cooked on top of the stove.  In Vermont, Maine, and Rhode Island, the dessert was referred to as a slump." (  It's a really easy dish to put together and I had planned to make it tomorrow night, but I have a feeling something apple and delicious courtesy of a morning hang-out session with the amazing Amber will be on tap instead!

So I have everyone in my house convinced we can make it through Rhode Island this week – how about you?  Stick around tomorrow when Noah goes on his first field trip of the year and I make the first of three seafood based recipes for the week (Kayla is so excited!)  So until then…

Rhode Island Fun Fact of the Day:  Rhode Island has no county government. It is divided into 39 municipalities each having its own form of local government.

Rhode Island is up and running

A four year old shouldn't have to work this hard....

Poor NJ had to eat dinner by himself as soon as he got off the bus to make it to class (he didn't complain)

My coffee syrup


Coffee Milk

Rhode Island Dinner to start us off

Slump starts like this...

And ends like this

And is dished up like this

And gets the perfect finish like this!

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