Wednesday, June 27, 2007


I finally got around to planting basil. A month ago I had grand ideas of planting several kinds of herbs; parsley, thyme, mint, maybe dill. Time got away from me and it never happened, but I couldn't resist a basil plant for $1.39 at the produce market. Basil is supposedly foolproof. My coworkers tell me they stuck theirs in the dirt and minutes later the things had grown six inches. Perhaps that's a little dramatic, but it is supposed to grow quite easily with very little care. Somehow on my last go-around I managed to kill my plant within days. This time will be better.

So, here's my new pet, Lou. Hope he does okay in that coffee can. This is urban gardening at it's worst.

Eat lots of pork, live a long life...

Johnsonville Sausage founder, who popularized brats, dies at 92

Associated Press Writer

June 25, 2007, 4:57 PM CDT

MILWAUKEE -- Ralph F. Stayer, the founder of a Wisconsin sausage company that helped popularize bratwurst in the U.S., died Sunday in his sleep at a Florida nursing home, his family said Monday. He was 92.

Stayer lived the American dream, buying a butcher shop in 1945 and turning it into the million-dollar Johnsonville Sausage Co., said his son, Ralph C. Stayer.

"He started with nothing, and he had the joy of seeing his business blossom, of doing business in 40 countries," said Stayer, the company's current chief executive officer.

The elder Stayer was born in Ely, Minn., in 1915 and moved to Milwaukee as a teen. He dropped out of high school a month before graduation to support his parents and five younger siblings during the Depression.

"He always had a great sense of responsibility," his son said. "He just did what he had to do."

Stayer's butcher shop was struggling in 1945, when he went to a picnic and saw garbage cans filled with partially eaten brats. He and his wife drew upon their Austrian and Slovenian heritage to make better-tasting bratwurst based on an old family recipe, his son said.

Stayer once said he knew the company was doing something right when a customer who had previously ordered 5 pounds of bratwurst and 30 pounds of hamburger returned six months later and ordered 30 pounds of bratwurst and 5 pounds of hamburger.

Johnsonville Sausage became a multimillion dollar business under Stayer's son's leadership. Its brats are sold seasonally at some 4,000 McDonald's nationwide and in 16 NFL stadiums.

The sausage company is the main sponsor of Brat Fest, an annual Madison event in which participants eat nearly 190,000 of the spiced pork sausages in four days over the Memorial Day weekend.

Despite his success, Stayer never forgot his humble roots, his son said. He gave generously to causes supporting underprivileged kids, including a Boys & Girls Clubs chapter in Sheboygan County that bears his and his wife's names.

Stayer's son described his father's death as bittersweet.

"In one sense, there's a great sense of loss," the younger Stayer said. "In another, there's a great sense of joy, that my father was such a wonderful person, that he had an opportunity to enjoy life. That's what makes it bearable."

In addition to his son, Stayer is survived by his wife, Alice; a daughter, 10 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Something I missed at the NRA Show:

I have to try Wilson Creek's Almond Champagne ASAP. Sparkling wine that supposedly smells like marzipan? You know how much I love marzipan!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Does Not Compute

Yesterday I was working on a wedding cake when I realized that I needed help fast. I needed to know how much ribbon was necessary to border each of the tiers, and in order to equate that, I needed to know the formula for circumference.

Math's never been my strong suit. Left brain, right brain, whatever. I have always loathed math.

Flash back to sixth grade: numerous nights spent sitting at the table in the basement, poured over an algebra book with Dad, who majored in mathematics as an undergraduate. I remember moments of tension and irritation, nearing tears, as he tried to explain over and over what I just couldn't grasp. He never gave me the answers. Dad always pushed me to figure out the problems on my own. A little bit quiet, yet fully supportive. I'm sure he was just as frustrated as me.

I called Dad yesterday and laughed a little when I asked him for the formula, which of course he spewed out without hesitation. C = 2Pie*(r). Lifesaver, and not for the first time. Probably not the last time, either. He was happy to help, wanted to know what I was using the equation for. I joked that I never expected all of those teachers to be right, that all of those dreadful math lessons would be applicable in daily life. I am forced into a lot of numbers at work, and most of the time it makes my head hurt. Dad gravely responded, "It's a mathematical world."

It's a really precious gift to have parents like mine. Happy Father's Day a couple days early. Thanks for all of the help along the way.

*Cut me a little slack. I don't know how to type the symbol for Pi, and after all, this is a blog mostly about baking.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Have I undergone a labotomy?

I spent 13 hours at work today, doing nothing but mini pastries. Over and over, making and decorating tiny little desserts no larger than 2 bites. The final count for the day was over 300 dozen pieces. My brain feels like soup. It's not exactly stimulating work.

Tag's Mini Pastry List (more for my future reference, but read through if you're so inclined):
Strawberry Petit Fours
Raspberry Petit Fours
Lemon Petit Fours
Sacher Petit Fours (chocolate and apricot)
Mocha Petit Fours
Chocolate Petit Fours
Truffle Brownie Petit Fours
Chocolate Orange Truffles
Mini Fruit Tarts
Cream Puffs
Mini Canollis
Mini Cheesecakes

Good news waited at home. There are photos from our truck, and more specifically of my cupcakes, from the Guerrilla Truck Show last night. (Photos 14 and 15, if you're impatient.) The show went off splendidly. Three cheers for people like Amelia who make you think outside the box, who draw you into worlds you might never have known existed.

Take advice from some intelligent dwarfs. Whistle while you work. Especially if you're working as much as I am these days.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Guerrilla Truck Art, Cupcakes, and Coloring

I have gotten involved with a very cool project with my roommate, Amelia. Guerilla Truck Art Show, a part of NeoCon, is on Tuesday night. Artists, designers, and other fun visionaries make posh spaces out of rented trucks. Our truck is in support of SAS, Spectacle of Art and Society, which is an idea that encourages creativity and community in a variety of ways. I'm making a scuplted birdcage cake and a slew of cupcakes that SAS is decorating together.

It's art for art's sake, and cake for cake's sake. If that's not enough, you can also color. When was the last time you colored?

Amelia referred to me as an artist, which made me very happy.

Tuesday from 6:00-9:00 at MORLEN SINOWAY ATELIER, 1052 West Fulton Market. More info here