A flurry of modest snowflakes had taken away the russet splendor of our fall, but yet the blessings were many this past Thanksgiving Day.
Here on the prairie when we can be reaching late November and hear the crunch of leaves more than the crystal of snow, our hearts give thanks for another mild day. For we well know that the resetting of the burnished landscape to winter white will bring snow removal, ice, and chilling winds often served beyond our proficiency.
It is for this reason that I took extra time to enjoy my stroll down University Avenue in Williston after a delicious Thanksgiving meal with Jan's family. It also gave me time to ponder my evening return to Rugby. Jan and Lydia had planned to stay on for a few days, and my return to Rugby, therefore, would be by Amtrak. I cannot think of a better way to end a day that was already so pleasant.
Charles Repnow is a freelance writer who lives in Rugby. His column appears alternate Wednesdays in The Minot Daily News.
The Williston Depot has a twin and that is the Rugby Depot. They are very similar in style both are one-story with maybe walkable attics and both were built out of reddish-brown brick with a steep gable roof and deep eaves which were typical of stations built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These eaves served as a great protection from the elements as passengers and train attendants bustled about. Rugby has the deluxe feature that its interior has never been modernized and today stands in its original beauty with solid oak benches, high ceilings, crown molding, and impressive original stone flooring.
Though the interior of the Williston depot has been modernized, its exterior has maintained its original splendor. In fact, interested parties have started restoring many of the outside elements including adding a grand standing clock and a fine black wrought iron decorative handrail.
As captivating as a single stroke of Shakespeare's pen, or as wonderful as one of Julia Child's turkey recipes, out of the dark and from the west comes the shining light of Amtrak. If you have never stood on a train platform as the train comes roaring in and feel the rumble of its power, you're missing out. This could be Shakespeare's Act One or Julia's leftover chicken I will leave that decision to you.
On Oct. 30, 1971, President Richard Nixon signed the Rail Passenger Service Act. This legislation established the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) to take over the intercity passenger rail service that had previously operated by private railroads. "Amtrak" is a combination of the words "America" and "track." It is headquartered at the striking Union Station in Washington, D.C. Amtrak began service on May 1, 1971.
In honor of the 40th anniversary of Amtrak, we have wanted to take a mini vacation which we call a train ride to Minot. With the recent flooding, our plans had to be put on hold. So getting to return to Rugby via Amtrak on Thanksgiving Day was a deluxe plus.
Traveling on the train has always been a favorite of our family. Mainly, because you get to slow down, relax and enjoy the view. Arriving early at the depot is also a part of the adventure. When you arrive early, you have the privilege of watching the other passengers arrive, and that I so enjoy. When I arrived at the depot, the train was to arrive an hour later than planned. That was perfect for me. There were three passengers waiting for some time and then folks began to arrive.
Each passenger brings forth their own theatrical color. As a people watcher, I naturally have my favorites. Today it was an attractive lady wearing a pair of sporty saddle style shoes in a two-tone tan. As she crossed her leg, I could see that her misty jade green socks matched her slacks perfectly. My sometimes fashion flair was smiling no white socks for her!
As it came time for us to board, I met this lady of matching fashion, and we shared an enjoyable conversation as we waited for the train. We talked about the convenience and the joy of traveling by train. We exchanged names and even shared a thought or two about cooking and our communities.
This is the beauty of globetrotting by Amtrak you get to meet folks right in your backyard like the charming Angie Goldade. Act Two has just ended, or the cubed chicken was blended with celery.
Whether it is a jaunt or a journey on the train, a trip to the dining car is a necessity. Entering the dining car is one the best things in life because you know you're going to receive first-class service. Tables are neatly set with white pristine linens, and the covers of the menus are always attractive. Currently the menu cover features an impressive painting by artist J. Craig Thorpe. It is set in the Glacier National Park as Amtrak curves through one of its picturesque valleys, and high on rocks above a horse and his rider are observing.
I was looking for a cup of coffee, and something light and low. Behold on the menu appears raspberry sorbet the perfect moderator after a Thanksgiving feast.
Upon returning to my seat, Angie has her footrest up and her fashionable shoes once again make a fine appearance. We arrive in Minot where Angie and I bid farewell. Once again I am richer because of an Amtrak conversation, a visit to the diner, and I still have one more hour to enjoy the lull and relaxation of rails before Rugby. Act Three is soon to finish, or place chicken mixture in casserole.
I share with you a fine recipe that Angie and her mother made often for the holiday season. Angie shared with me the joy and delight she had when making these cookies with her mom. Cooking and baking are certainly a fine art, and when they are combined with conversation, you have discovered something very lasting and way beyond special.
Pfeffernusse is a variant of German Lebkuchen or gingerbread. The main way Pfeffernusse cookies differ from regular German gingerbread is that they are rolled into balls and then glazed with powdered sugar after baking. A traditional Pfeffernusse cookie will be too hard to eat without dipping in liquid for the first few days. Holiday cookies in which honey is used need about two weeks for ripening so plan ahead. They improve with age, provided they are stored in covered jars or containers in a cool place. The Romans and Greeks referred to honey as a "food fit for the gods." I like to use honey whenever I can because it has a remarkable lasting quality, and baked foods made with honey will keep moist longer than those made with sugar. Using part honey and part sugar in this recipe gives you the perfect blend.
As soon as cookies are baked, remove them from the baking sheets and with a spatula and cool them on a rack. This allows air to circulate and prevents sweating, which can make cookies tough.
Mom & Angie Pfeffernusse Cookies
By Angie Goldade
3 cups of honey or light syrup
4 cups of sugar
1 cup of lard or butter
1 cups of strong black coffee
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon (or more) anise extract
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon pepper
3 teaspoon baking soda
6 eggs, beaten
Flour enough to roll or drop by teaspoons full.
Put honey, sugar, and butter in a kettle until mixture is hot. Let cool, then mix with coffee, eggs and dry ingredients. When adding the flour, the dough shouldn't be too still. It will set up when chilled. Chill overnight if possible. Don't bake too fast or too long.
After cookies are baked shake them in a plastic bake with a little milk, then place in another bag with powdered sugar. This coating not only improves the flavor but it also helps them to last for a very long time.