Saturday, September 11, 2010

Maple sticks and more

I'll start with the "more" and get to the food in a bit.

For Americans, 9/11 symbolizes the strength of the nation and our ever-resilient optimism. When things look bleak, somehow we keep going.

Of course this is also a human characteristic, but all too often we forget it in our everyday lives. Recently, I battled pack rats invading my home. One climbed in through the kitchen chimney, another jumped into my bedroom at 2 a.m. through a hole in my closet (screaming did not make it go away), and others chewed in walls and under floorboards and generally terrorized me.

Setting out bait traps and filling in obvious holes helped a lot. I haven't heard chewing or rampaging across the attic for a couple of weeks now.

I learned a whole lot about what fear does to a person, how friends, even distant friends, can mean the world to you, and that small doesn't mean inconsequential. Yes, pack rats are small -- about the size of a gerbil -- but they can really upset a household.

Today I was thinking about the brave heroes of the 9/11 attacks, and when I got home I saw an ant dragging a huge tuft of what looked like pack rat fur across my porch. (See photo above.) I was astounded at this minuscule creature's tenacity. Wherever it thought it was taking that fur I don't know, but it was willing to cross hell and high water to get there. I salute the ant!

I stopped to take a picture of a flag waving on a ranch (flags were everywhere today) . . .

. . . and when I climbed back into my car, a grasshopper was on the windshield looking as if it were flying.

Hurrah for bright flapping flags and joy!

Which brings me right into the subject of maple sticks, which I learned today is another name for maple bars.

Tanya Clark of Reed Point makes the best. I found her at the Big Timber farmers market and bought several. They are freshly made, chewy, and mapley. Tanya told me her secret might be that she does not use nutmeg, which many recipes call for. She thought that might be what gives store-bought bars that slight "bite."

It also helps that she has been cooking since she was three years old. "And I have the picture to prove it. I'm standing on a chair with flour all over." Tanya has been baking for farmers markets for four years and so has generally learned what sells and what doesn't, although there continues to be some trial and error.

"Sometimes I take home ten loaves of zucchini bread," she said. "I don't like that. Nobody in my family likes zucchini bread."

I know it shouldn't surprise me to learn there are many names for any food, but in Seattle, where I grew up, I always knew my favorite doughnut as a maple bar. Today was the first time I heard them called "sticks." Tanya says her mom, who grew up in central Montana, called them that.

I mentioned that I thought people on the East Coast might know them as Long Johns, and Tanya started laughing. She said a man had come to her table one day and asked what flavor her Long Johns were.

Er, well, in Montana, we wear long johns under our clothes when it gets cold. It took Tanya a moment to realize he was asking about the doughnuts.

Whatever you call them, I think you should get to the Big Timber farmers market and buy some.


  1. Mary, I just found a packrat in my garage, and I'm working on finding a way to blame you for it. Why couldn't I have found a maple stick instead?

  2. No doubt the pack rat is looking for maple sticks, so be careful!