Guest commentary: Fair brings back memoriesI wasn’t born in Two Harbors, I wasn’t raised in Two Harbors, but Two Harbors—specifically 410 Third Avenue—was where the heartbeat of my family could be heard.
By: Lisa Guthmiller, Edina, Lake County News Chronicle
I wasn’t born in Two Harbors, I wasn’t raised in Two Harbors, but Two Harbors—specifically 410 Third Avenue—was where the heartbeat of my family could be heard. It’s where my grandma Ann Christensen was born and raised, where her groom joined her to raise their family: my mother MaryAnn and her younger sister Elizabeth. In my childhood, 401 Third Avenue was a destination vacation. It was the place where life’s significant moments were marked. It was the nexus of my world. And some 45 years ago, in its kitchen, it is where my grandpa Charlie (age 62) conspired with my sister Beth (age 9) to launch his homemade fudge into its rightful place of recognition at the Lake County Fair.
Charlie Christensen was a perfectionist, whose commandment “don’t do it at all if can’t to do it right” is seared into my moral core. Two of the things that Charlie bothered to do right in the kitchen were making deep fried cake doughnuts and fudge, which my siblings and I will always remember him for. He approached cooking with precision of a chemist, handling valuable dusts and priceless liquids. The kitchen became his laboratory—no place for children. While much of my memory as a five-year-old has grown dim, the memory of grandpa inviting Beth into the kitchen is sharp and vivid. Mindful of keeping the rubber toe of my sneaker on the dining room side of the metal strip that separated dining-room linoleum from kitchen linoleum, I strained to look on. I could see nothing.
I called Beth this morning to ask her about making fudge with grandpa.
“I was allowed to hand him the ingredients, but I wasn’t allowed to look when he added his secret ingredient. He called it fish juice,” she said.
The fudge was cut into perfect little squares placed carefully on a flimsy paper plate and covered with tin foil. Then we walked to the fairgrounds.
Beth registered “her” entry and we went off to enjoy the fair while judging commenced. I had my first taste of cotton candy. Eating cotton candy required a skill I clearly lacked. I attempted the first bite by positioning my face as if inhaling the aroma of a delicious flower. This was mistake number one, because cotton candy is not actually “bitten.” Result? The sugary whips connected with droplets of sweat on my chin and cheeks. When I tried to pull the pink cloud away, much of it stayed on my face. If a photograph had been taken at that precise moment, it might have looked like a child turning into cotton candy or perhaps the other way around. In any event, I licked my hand and wiped my face to try to remove some of the sticky cotton—an unfortunate choice as the fairgrounds were dusty from a bit of a wind.
With my grubby cotton candy and dust coating, I wandered past the tables of handmade lace, flowers and food in search of the fudge. I was devastated to learn that tasting the food was not permitted, and I was put out by the vigor with which officials shooed me away from the delectable treats. However, Beth’s fudge received a blue ribbon. Not the top prize, but my grandpa thought it was a pretty good showing for a kid.