December 2011 Issue
December 2011 Digest
A chef’s new venture, a traditional holiday treat, an expert’s winter forecast.
Michael Symon knew what he was biting off by agreeing to co-host “The Chew.” When ABC-TV announced the live cooking show would replace “All My Children” in the network’s 1 p.m. time slot starting Sept. 26, fans of the iconic daytime drama immediately vowed to boycott it.
“People in my family have watched [the soap opera] and been fans of it,” the Cleveland-based restaurateur — better known as a Food Network Iron Chef — says of the soap. “It’s sad to me that ‘AMC’ went away.”
But, Symon insists, “The Chew” is far more than a less-expensive alternative to daytime drama whipped up by network executives. He truly believes the show can help viewers improve their lives. Segments cover everything from preparing quick, tasty, affordable meals to innovative entertaining on a real person’s budget.
“I’ve been dirt poor, I’ve been in the middle [class], I’ve been successful and everywhere in between over the past 20 years,” Symon says. “And it’s really never changed how I’ve lived my life. A big part of that is because [my wife Liz, son Kyle and I] cooked at home and spent time together as a family. That’s something we can show people how to do.”
While bank-account fluctuations have not affected Symon’s lifestyle, the passage of time has. The 42-year-old confesses that he can no longer endure the rigors of cooking every night in his restaurants — Lola, Lolita and three B Spot burger joints in Cleveland, as well as Roast in Detroit.
“After you get past 30, standing in front of a 700-degree oven for 15 hours takes its toll on your body,” he explains. “When we open a restaurant, I work all the stations for a couple of weeks to get everybody organized. I come home from work, and I can’t even stand up.” — Lynne Thompson
The Spangler Candy Co. makes 1.5 million candy canes every day in its Bryan, Ohio, plant.
That’s a whole lot of lickin’ going on. And more is on the way: This month, the company begins construction of two more production lines to make additional batches of the confectionery delights in time for the 2012 season.
The expansion is the 84th for the northwest Ohio company, founded in 1906. Spangler is known for its mini and large peppermint canes, as well as jumbo candy cane sticks. Branded canes include Jelly Belly, in flavors of Very Cherry, Juicy Pear, cinnamon, blueberry, watermelon and tutti-frutti; Smarties, which taste just like the famous tart candy; and Cinnabon, a nod to the popular sweet roll. A Sour Punch cane — which blends the flavors of strawberry and sweet-and-sour cherry — is a new addition to the line.
Candy cane history is tough to trace. But Spangler President and CEO Kirk Vashaw says the first recorded “sugar sticks” were given to young children in 1670 by a choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral in Germany to keep them occupied. The choirmaster bent the white candy into shepherds’ crooks in honor of the nativity story.
“We are about the only company that still makes a candy cane that bends back on itself,” says Vashaw. “You can always tell our canes by looking at the crook.”
German-Swedish immigrant August Imgard of Wooster, Ohio, gets the credit for decorating a small blue spruce tree in 1847 with candy canes for the first time. Today, half of all candy canes are used as decorations and half are eaten, says Vashaw. Although candy canes are enjoyed around the world, Americans are the biggest consumers.
Does the company president indulge in the red-and-white-striped candy himself?
“Of course,” says Vashaw. “But we have a saying around here: Don’t eat up all the profits.” — Jill Sell
Let It Snow — or Not
If the prevailing winds are correct, Ohioans may use their umbrellas almost as much as their snow shovels this winter. Jeffrey C. Rogers, the State Climatologist for Ohio, predicts a “warmer, wetter winter.” Which means that those possible higher-than-normal temps may mean more rain for the state.
But don’t be fooled into putting away the sleds and snow blowers. Rogers is quick to add that there should be plenty of the white stuff to go around.
“There is no scientific evidence, but it seems we are tending toward more heavy snows,” he says. “Since 2003, Ohio has had three or four big snows of 16 or more inches. In one storm, we had 24 inches.”
The city of Chardon in Geauga County takes the top spot with an average 106 inches of snow a year. The Cincinnati area gets the least (approximately 20 inches annually) because snowfall in Ohio decreases the farther south one travels, explains Rogers, who’s also an Ohio State University geography professor.
So, where should you live in Ohio if you must have a white Christmas (which climatologists define as at least one inch of snow on the ground the morning of December 25)? According to the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, North Carolina, the probability stats for 1- and 5-inch snow depths that day are: Akron: 40 percent and 7 percent respectively; Cincinnati: 11 percent and 4 percent; Cleveland: 50 percent and 17 percent; Columbus: 23 percent and 0 percent; Toledo: 57 percent and 3 percent; and Zanesville: 21 percent and 3 percent.
And in case you’ve always wondered about that handful of new snow your kids eat, Rogers says not to worry. Most freshly fallen snow, he explains, is relatively safe. But the older the snow gets and the longer it says on the ground, he cautions, “its structure changes and it picks up particles.” Yuck. — Jill Sell