Monday, December 1, 2014

Moseying Through Missouri

It was nice to have a break – right?  I mean, I adore the State Project as much as the next girl, but I was glad to have a few days off to focus on family, feasting, shopping and decorating (in no particular order, of course!) without having to worry about imparting my plethora of (sometimes useless) facts and datum on one of our nation’s fifty treasures.  (And DC which we’re co-celebrating this week)  So now that’s out of my system I’m ready to jump back in with both feet and celebrate a state we had to skip earlier in the summer.  So if catenary arches, clanging trolleys, cakes that can only be described as ‘gooey’, iconic American authors and ready mix pancakes are your thing, you’re in luck – Missouri has them all!  We’re down to our last few states, and I plan to do my best to show you the “Show Me State” this week if

After quite a big snit between the states of the fledgling nation, a Compromise was reached in 1820 and a year later Missouri became the 24th state to join the Union.  Today, St. Louis is home to one of the most iconic National landmarks, The Gateway Arch.  According to an early proposal, the monument was to be built as “A suitable and permanent public memorial to the men who made possible the western territorial expansion of the United States, particularly President Jefferson, his aides Livingston and Monroe, the great explorers, Lewis and Clark, and the hardy hunters, trappers, frontiersmen and pioneers who contributed to the territorial expansion and development of these United States, and thereby to bring before the public of this and future generations the history of our development and induce familiarity with the patriotic accomplishments of these great builders of our country.” ( Arch is 630 feet tall and spans 630 feet across (making it a catenary arch) and is made of steel and concrete.  Visitors can ride to the top of the Arch and (you probably wouldn’t want to climb the 1,076 stairs) and look out over both Missouri and Illinois.

While in St. Louis touring the Arch you MUST make a stop at The St. Louis Bread Company as it exists ONLY in St. Louis.  That’s right, because to all the rest of us, it’s known as Panera Bread!  The bakery-café actually traces its earliest roots back to New York, where it was Au Bon Pain Co., Inc. In 1993, Au Bon Pain Co., Inc purchased Saint Louis Bread Company, a chain of 20 bakery-cafes located in the St. Louis area.  By 1997 the national potential of the chain was recognized and it was re-launched under the name Panera Bread.  The company is headquartered in Sunset Hills, and continues to operate under the name “St. Louis Bread Company” only within the St. Louis metropolitan area.  My crew LOVES Panera (I think the Dynamic Duo could live off their mac and cheese) and I had fun chasing down some little known facts about one of our favorite restaurants to share with them this week.  (Including that my opinion of North Dakota continued to plummet when I learned that it, along with four other states, have no Panera’s!)

If we ever visit St. Louis I’d say that there’s a pretty good chance that while the kids and I are checking out the Arch and Panera, Grant will be off paying homage to Adolphus Busch and Eberhard Anheuser.  In 1861, Busch married Anheuser’s daughter and took on a role in his father-in-law’s brewing company, which he later purchased half ownership of, making him a partner.  The new company – Anheuser Busch!  In 1876, Busch created an American-style lager beer which he coined “Budweiser” which eventually, became the company’s flagship brand.  He was also the first American brewer to use pasteurization to keep beer fresh, mechanical refrigeration and refrigerated railroad cars  and the first to bottle beer extensively.  The company is based in St. Louis and is the leading American brewer, holding a 47.6 percent share of U.S. beer sales to retailers. Quite a few different beers actually are producer under the Anheuser Busch label (which is now actually owned by InBev) including Bud Light, Beck’s, Michelob, Rolling Rock, Stella Artois and Shock Top.  Grant says if I promise to let him try all the different beers produced by Anheuser Busch this week he’s totally up for whatever we want to do for Missouri week otherwise!

And then I told him about the pancakes!  In St. Joseph, in 1889, Chris Rutt and Charles Underwood of the Pearl Milling Company developed Aunt Jemima, the first ready mix sold commercially.  Quaker Oats later purchased Aunt Jemima Mills Company in 1937 and later added a line of syrup and frozen breakfast products as well.  Nancy Green, a former slave, was hired to portray the Aunt Jemima character from 1890 to her death in 1923.  Green’s amicable personality and talent as a cook helped establish a successful showing of the product.  Today the company has a product line that includes 5 different types of ready made mix, 6 syrups and self-rising flour.

If beer and pancakes aren’t your thing (and I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t love at least one of them) how about an ice cream cone?  In 1904, to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase, St. Louis played host to the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, informally known as the St. Louis World's Fair.  (Kristi’s aside – FYI the Louisiana Purchase was made in 1803.  The fair was SUPPOSED to have opened in 1903 but was delayed to allow for full-scale participation by more states and foreign countries.)  Exhibits at The Fair were staged by 62 foreign nations, the US government, and 43 of the then-45 U.S. states featuring industries, cities, private organizations and corporations, theater troupes, and music schools. A whole lot of inventions (including the typewriter, electrical outlet and what would become the fax machine) debuted during the Fair.  It also gave birth (or at least notoriety) to A LOT of food!  While foods such as the hot dog, hamburger, iced tea, Dr. Pepper and cotton candy weren’t seen for the very first time at the Fair, they all got a significant boost in mass appeal by being offered at the Fair.  The ice cream cone’s direct birth at the Fair is more debatable as there were 50 ice cream stands at the Fair and a large number of waffle shops, along with several differing accounts as to the birth of the cone.

Something not up for debate – the professional sports scene in Missouri.  (You know I can’t NOT go there with my crew.)  We AL Central fans are of course familiar with the Kansas City Royals and I lived in Peoria long enough to become quite familiar with the National League’s St. Louis Cardinals.   The St. Louis Rams and the Kansas City Chiefs are Missouri’s offering to the National Football League and it’s the St. Louis Blues if hockey’s your thing.

If you’d rather skip the sports scene but you love live entertainment, Branson’s for you.  Dubbed “The Live Entertainment Capital of the World” hosts over seven million tourists annually who flock there to make use of its four hundred lodging facilities, over two hundred restaurants and nearly fifty theaters.  Located in the Ozark mountains, Branson prides itself on having ‘family friendly’ entertainment (over 100 theater shows every day!) ranging from shows, to shopping to golf to museums.  I found all kinds of fun facts to share with the Dynamic Duo about Branson, my favorite of which is that Branson actually has more theater seats than the Broadway District in New York City!

Missouri is the birthplace of one President – Harry S. Truman.  Born in Lamar, Truman would become the nation’s 33rd President upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt.    Most readily associated with Truman and his presidency  are his decision to drop an atomic bomb on Japan, his policy of communist containment that perpetuated the Cold War, and his initiation of U.S. involvement in the Korean War.

My personal favorite Missouri born ‘celebrity’ hails from Florida (Missouri) though he spent the majority of his childhood in Hannibal where he went by the name Samuel Clemens.  The average American, though, probably more likely knows him by his pen name; Mark Twain.  Author of classic American novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (among others), Twain is a true literary icon.  (If you get a minute, check out some of his awesome quotes)  Though Twain is my favorite of all of them, Missouri is actually home to quite a few literary geniuses, including Maya Angelou, T.S. Eliot and Langston Hughes.

And I have quite the culinary adventure in store this week.  From BBQ to Chinese, Missouri is known for all kinds of culinary classics.  To kick us off tonight (and yes, gotta complain, to make something we can eat in shifts since NJ has class, grumble grumble grumble) I’m going with the St. Louis born dish, Toasted Ravioli.  According to Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink toasted ravioli is “a St. Louis, Missouri, specialty of meat-filled pasta dough that is deep-fried golden brown. Italian ravioli are boiled and served with a sauce, but toasted ravioli was supposedly first made in the 1930s at a St. Louis restaurant named Angelo Oldani's when a German employee named Fritz accidentally threw freshly made ravioli into a pan of boiling oil. Owner Oldani tried to salvage them, brushed them with grated cheese, and served them to his customers, who loved them.”  I knew this was a must dish this week that my crew would love.  (I’ve actually made this before as March 20th is National Ravioli Day and this is how we ‘celebrated’ in 2013!)  And it only seemed logical to make ice cream cones for dessert.  Happy Gatchel crew all around to start off Missouri this week!

I’ve got plenty planned for this week, as there’s no shortage of fun when it comes to Missouri, I’ve found.  (Plus I’ve got to work some Washington D.C. in as well remember…)  I’ve got a busy one tomorrow as it’s Pizza Kit Delivery Day (oh joy) so a post may be late – but I promise to have it up at some point!  So until then…

1.      Missouri Fun Fact of the Day:  The 'Show Me State' expression may have began in 1899 when Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver stated, "I'm from Missouri and you've got to show me."

The Missouri Wall is up!

As is our Christmas countdown calendar!

I decided to go authentic instead of making them myself today!

See - straight from St. Louis!

Um guys - have you SEEN this???

Dinner call!

And of course, ice cream cones for dessert!  (Kayla chose Peppermint Moose Tracks!)

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