You Can’t Be Mexican

Mendez, Frank S.  You Can’t Be Mexican: You Talk Just Like Me. Kent, Ohio; The Kent State University Press, 2005.

Kent State University Press began the Voices of Diversity series with Mendez’s memoir You Can’t Be Mexican.  One of the purposes of this series is to make available new and previously published memoirs of the immigrant experience in Northeast Ohio.  There should be plenty of material for this series as this part of the state at one time was one of the most diverse areas in the country in regard to first generation immigrants.  My one fear for a series like this is that it will tread to heavy in the sentimental.

Luckily (for me) Mendez does not dwell too much on nostalgia in this brief memoir, which follows his father’s political exodus from Mexico into Post-WWI Texas, to Mendez’s impoverished childhood in Lorain, through his later military and professional career (he spent 30 years working in the Panama Canal Zone).  Mendez, an engineer by trade, has created a compelling narrative that is minimal and stripped of emotion often seen in classic immigrant/coming of age narratives. Continue reading

Ohio Confidential

Boertlein, John. Ohio Confidential. Cincinnati, Ohio: Clerisy Press, 2008.

Read about famous and soon-to-be-famous crimes and criminals from Ohio!  Ohio Confidential compiles over 30 notable crime related stories from the state that brought you Warren Harding.   From infamy with its roots in Ohio (Charlie Manson and the Traci Lords affair) to political scandals to random and serial killings, Ohio Confidential is truly a hodge-podge of the macabre.

Boerlein’s (from Cincinnati) writing style is the complete opposite of Cleveland’s James Renner, whose investigation is half the story.  For the most part, Boerlein has a very third person account the different crimes.  His writing style is very reporter-esque and the whole book can be read quickly without too many complaints (I may have rethought some of the font sizes used).   Ohio Confidential is somewhere between a reference book and something one would read in one sitting.  While many of the articles error on the brief side, some quality storytelling can be found, including the piece on Eliot Ness and the Torso Murders in Cleveland.

There are a few articles where Boerlein has more of a personal connection, which I found to be some of the better reads.  As a retired Cincinnati police officer, he had some personal insight into the cold case murder of Officer Donald Martin (solved over 40 years after the act).  Also, the article about Dolly Mapp (the supreme court case of Mapp v. Ohio) is thorough in discussing the case and the 4th Amendment ramifications.  (Important stuff for law enforcement).

I do not know if I would necessarily recommend Ohio Confidential because most of these stories can be found with more detail elsewhere.  But at the same time, why would one think to look up most of these crimes without one’s curiosity first being piqued.  Boertlein has taken the first step in your study of dark side and I can see Ohio Confidential fitting nicely on a coffee table, leading to discussions of murder in the heartland.

Brewing Beer in the Buckeye State

Musson, Robert A. Brewing Beer in the Buckeye State, Volume 1: A history of the brewing industry in easter Ohio from 1808 to 2004. Medina, Ohio; Zepp Publications, 2005.

Though I like having many books around me, I am a fan of the all-in-one reference guide. With Brewing Been in the Buckeye State, Musson attempts to capture everything about beer history in Ohio. While there have been numerous histories of specific breweries or breweries of a city (which I hope to talk about soon), Musson attempts to capture the history of beer in all of Ohio. Volume 1 features the eastern half of the state (Columbus is not in this volume). From the Introduction, there are plans for Volume 2 covering the westside.

Talking about brewery history is somewhat like talking about the passenger train history in the United States. The business today is nothing like it was 50+ years ago. The brewery industry was essential to most (if not all) industrializing cities from the late 1800’s until Prohibition. On a physical scale, Musson outlines the enormity of the ‘modern’ brewery at the turn of the century. These five-plus story structures populated the landscape of Ohio. With the passing of generations, most of these beer makers have long been forgotten and the actual products is even farther lost on the modern drinker. Continue reading

Farms & Food of Ohio

Suszko, Marilou K. Farms & Foods of Ohio: From Garden Gate to Dinner Plate. New York: Hippocrene Books, 2007.

Are you looking for a travel guide/recipe book/local foods manifesto? Then Farms & Foods of Ohio will not satisfy all of your needs, but it may keep you interested. Published by Hippocrene Books, who sells many travel guides and cookbooks, this creation was listed as part of the American State Series. Other than New Jersey, I have been unable to locate another in this series. Ohio’s gain and the rest of the non-Garden State Union’s loss.

Farms & Foods of Ohio is divided about half-way between recipes and profiles of Ohio farmers. The collection of recipes is eclectic, but I would classify it more towards the fine dining experience as opposed to comfort food cuisine. I find this the logical route for this book as the recipes should be driven by the ingredients. (I am sure comfort can still be taken from eating the many dishes.) The recipes are likewise organized by ingredients, so if you are looking for a specific type of dish, I would recommend using the fine index. (Looking for a Pawpaw Lassi recipe: Go to Drinks or Pawpaw).

I found the farm profiles to be the unique resource in Farms & Foods. Suszko has written feature articles on about 40 food business (produce, meat, wine, and seeds) throughout the state. The majority of the businesses discussed are along the major population corridors. This makes sense regarding consumers frequenting the retail outlets and for products going to market. That said, some of the businesses are in somewhat non-ideal locations: Luers Nut Farm (possible the largest nut-farm in Ohio) is outside of Mansfield and Freshwater Farms of Ohio is located near Urbana (referred to as the driest part of the state). But, as you will learn, the proprietors of the business are doing what they want, where they want to live.

Of personal interest, I enjoyed Suszko’s profiles of Ohio wineries. She does the service of selecting 5 wineries from differing regions of Ohio. I am always looking for books on the Ohio wine industry. One can never have enough Ohio wine.

While many of the articles talk about multi-generational farms, there are also quite a few non-native Ohioans and young people running these businesses.  Is Farms & Foods of Ohio a motivational guide for the gastronomic entrepreneur?  As cited in the Introduction, over 75 percent of Ohio farms are less than 179 acres.