Death & Lighthouses of the Great Lakes

Great Lakes Lighthouse: Death, true crime, suicides, and murder.

         Combining an intense interest in both true crime and maritime history, Dianna Higgs Stampfler’s latest book, Death & Lighthouses of the Great Lakes: A History of Misfortune & Murder (History Press 2022), recounts the darker stories of  the fascinating lighthouses lining the shores of the Great Lake states.

         Stampfler, whose previous book was Michigan’s Haunted Lighthouses, first started researching lighthouses 25 years ago while working for the West Michigan Tourist Association and continued after starting her own business, Promote Michigan. But even she made new discoveries

         “Many of the locales, lights, and keepers were new to me, as were their stories,” says Stampfler, who is a member of many maritime and lighthouse organizations. “Some of the stories were so tragic that newspaper coverage was significant. Many stories even appeared in papers throughout the country, which emphasizes their scope.”

         Take the story of head keeper, George Genry, and his assistant, Edward Morrison who both disappeared from their posts on Grand Island in June of 1908.

         “They just vanished,” says Stampfler. “Everything was left at this remote lighthouse including provisions on the dock, coats on the hook, and food on the stove. A month later, what was determined to be Morrison’s battered and decomposed body was found floating in a boat near the shore. A month later, the remains of what they determined to be Genry were found on a nearby beach. There are several theories about how the two men died, some more nefarious or controversial than others, but the exact truth will never be known.”

         The earliest story in her book dates back to the beginning of the 19th century at Gibraltar Point Lighthouse in Toronto – the earliest and longest standing lighthouse on the Great Lakes. In 1809, John Paul “J.P.” Radelmüller, a German immigrant, was appointed as lighthouse keeper for Gibraltar Point. Radelmüller had an interesting history, having worked as a servant for the Duke of Gloucester before moving to Upper Canada.

         “Much of his early history is documented by J.P. himself,” says Stampfler noting that a seven-page handwritten letter he wrote is cataloged at the Library and Archives Canada. “Some believe J.P. was a homebrewer or bootlegger, and that it was through these activities that his murder occurred. Two men from a local military outpost were charged with his 1815 death, but they were acquitted of all charges.”

         Stampfler discovered this story through a chat board where another historic lighthouse enthusiast, Eamonn O’Keeffe has been extensively researching Radelmüller, Indeed, her own research encompassed Googling, old newspaper archives, local libraries, maritime based historical societies, and genealogical sites.

She also visited island lighthouses such as Grand, South Bass, and the many in Door County, Wisconsin.

         “I went not only to do research but also to walk the grounds and see the lights,” she says. “That really helped me connect to them.”

         Autographed copies of Death & Lighthouses on the Great Lakes for $21.99 (plus shipping/handling and tax)are available at PromoteMichigan.com. The book is also available through online booksellers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble as well as in local bookstores.

         For Stampfler’s upcoming book events, visit promotemichigan.com/speakers-bureau

Matchday Menu: Adam Richman’s New Show

“That it is approachable, nonthreatening, and there is something in Straight Up Tasty for everyone, regardless of their level of experience in the kitchen,” says Adam Richman. “I aim to introduce people to flavors, ingredients, and maybe even techniques that they have not used in their kitchens before. “

               Adam Richman,TV personality, culinary traveler, cook and author, travels so much for his shows such as “Secret Eats with Adam Richman,” that I wondered if he ever woke up in the morning and wasn’t sure where he was.

               “Yes I do,” Richman tells me. “In fact, one time, it was the strangest/saddest/weirdest sensation I’ve ever had. I woke up at home and didn’t know where I was. My first thought was, ‘This must be one of those old boutique hotels that they renovated an apartment to make.’ I honestly did not even recognize my own home. It’s a mixed bag of emotions, but I wouldn’t change up the opportunities I have and have been given for anything.”

               Expect him, though, to know what he is demonstrating when he’s in front of a crowd because Richman is totally into making cooking accessible to everyone.  

A while back I caught up with Richman at the KitchenAid Fairway Club where he was doing a cooking demo when Harbor Shores, a Signature Jack Nicklaus golf course on Lake Michigan in Benton Harbor, Michigan was the venue for the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship.

               “The recipes are simple but deeply delicious, and each dish can be used for multiple purposes: the salmon can be by itself, or served a top a salad,” Richman says about what has become almost his mantra and why his cookbooks and shows such as “Secret Eats with Adam Richman” and “Man vs. Food.” He now is starring in Matchday Menus, a brand new series on Facebook where he uses football stadium food to explore some of the coolest places in the world. It started three weeks ago and already has almost 3.5 million followers.

               As for the golfing aspect of the tournament, I asked Richman if he played.

               “I was actually on my high school team,” he says “I have not played in ages, and I cannot imagine how my game has suffered as a result of that. I still enjoy the driving range quite a bit, but most of all, my favorite thing about opportunities like this is to meet the people that watch my shows and enjoy the things I do. Because this way, I can give people more of what they want, and find out what else they are interested in that I have yet to explore.”

From real, authentic poutine and Montreal bagels in Quebec, to unbelievable home cooked Latin meals in El Paso,  Matchday Food is the show for you.

               Exploring—whether it’s the backroads and city streets in the United States or internationally—is what Richman’s shows are all about.  How did he decide where to go for shows such as “Secret Eats with Adam Richman?” 

               “The locations for the international season were decided by the network–at least in terms of the cities,” he explains. “Because my shows have had a significant and very fortunate degree of international success, they wanted to film in cities where my shows already had a foothold. In terms of the establishments with in those cities, I am blessed to work alongside an amazing team of storied producers, and I have a great director and show runner. We all do research for a couple of months and then meet with the places we have for each city. It’s actually quite a bit of fun. Everybody is trying to out-secret each other. Everybody tries to find the coolest place, the coolest hidden dish and so on. Ultimately, we look over everything that everyone has brought in, and then try to figure out what makes the best four location episode that really represents the city.”

               Richman says he’s flattered people call him a chef but says he thinks there’s something academic and studious to the word chef.

“I think of myself—excuse the expression—as a badass cook,” he says.  “I may not be a chef, but I’ve worn clogs a few times and baggy checkered pants.”

            The latter clothing list is a nod to Mario Batali, the embattled restauranteur/TV food star/cookbook author who was known for his orange Crocs, hair pulled back into a ponytail and oversized shorts and patterned pants.

            “It used to be if you had a sheath of tattoos up and down your arm, you were a biker,” he continues. “Now it means you can cook a great pork belly.”

            His cooking demonstrations include a lot of digressions as well as action while he’s talking. Slicing a lemon with a mandolin, he tell us about how to avoid taking a slice out of your hand, sharing the story of an incident where he did just that and then lamenting it was too bad, he wasn’t making marinara sauce in order to cover up the accident.  There’s advice against cooking with wine we wouldn’t drink and adding oil to an unheated pan.

             It’s a science thing about the latter, he says, adding it’s important to heat the pan first. That’s because the longer fats cook, the quicker they’ll break down and start to burn impacting both the taste and even releasing harmful toxins.

            How do you know when the pan is hot enough to add oil? Richman shows how but holding his pan close to the surface—really closed.  

            “My mother hates when I do that,” he says, noting that less perilously, splashing a drop or two of water in the pan and seeing if it sizzles also works.

               There are so many cookbooks on the market, what do you tell me people about why they should buy yours.? I ask.

               “That it is approachable, nonthreatening, and there is something in Straight Up Tasty for everyone, regardless of their level of experience in the kitchen,” he says. “I aim to introduce people to flavors, ingredients, and maybe even techniques that they have not used in their kitchens before. I want people to use my recipes as a point of departure for them to then tweak and customize to make them their own. Above all, I want people to have fun. It’s not just recipes – there are poems, essays, even lists of great restaurants to check out that I have discovered in my travels.”

Miso-roasted veggies

Ingredients

¼ cup olive oil

½ cup miso paste (yellow or mild works well with the vegetables here)

3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

3 beets, peeled and cubed

2 12-ounce bags of broccoli florets

2 Spanish onions, cubed

1 head of garlic, separated into cloves and peeled

¼ cup garlic powder (not granulated garlic) or more to taste

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F

2. In a large bowl, combine the oil and the miso. Add the sweet potatoes, beets, broccoli, onions, and garlic cloves and toss to coat.

3. Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray and add about ¼ inch of water. Add the vegetables to the pan. Dust everything with the garlic powder. Cover the whole dish with aluminum foil.

4. Roast the vegetables for 50 minutes. Remove the foil, stir the veggies, and cook uncovered for an additional 10 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes and beets are fully covered. Serve hot or warm.

Smoked paprika onion rings

Ingredients

3 Vidalia onions (or other sweet onion), peeled

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 large eggs, beaten

2 cups panko breadcrumbs

3 TBS sweet smoked paprika

Vegetable or peanut oil, for deep frying

Kosher salt to taste

1. Using a mandolin or a very sharp knife, slice the onions into ¼-inch-thick rounds. Separate the rounds into rings.

2. Place the flour, beaten eggs, and panko in three separate shallow bowls. Mix a tablespoon of paprika in each bowl.

3. Dredge the onion rings first in the flour, then in the eggs, and finally in the panko. Place the dredged rings on a baking sheet and allow the coating to set for 10 minutes.

4. In a large pot set over medium-high heat, bring about 4 inches of oil to 365 degrees (use a deep-frying or candy thermometer to check the temperature).

5. Line a separate baking sheet with paper towels. Working in batches, fry the onion rings until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side. When done, the rings should float to the surface of the oil. Transfer each batch of fried rings to the prepared baking sheet and season with salt.

6. Keep the finished onion rings warm under layers of paper towels as you cook the remaining batches. Serve hot.

Win-the-bake-sale chocolate cake

Topping ingredients

1 box of Betty Crocker SuperMoist Butter Recipe Chocolate Cake Mix

3 large eggs

½ cup Hellmann’s Light Mayonnaise

1 can of store-bought chocolate frosting

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray.  

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the cake mix, eggs, 1 cup of cold water, and the mayonnaise.

3. Pour the mixture into the greased cake pans and spread with a spatula to smooth. Bake according to package instructions. When done, remove the pans from the oven and place them on wire racks to cool completely.  

4. Invert one of the cake layers onto a plate. Using a rubber spatula, spread a thick layer of frosting over the top. Carefully invert the other cake layer on top and spread the top and sides with the remaining frosting. 

Recipes courtesy of Adam Richman.

The Poisoned City by Anna Clark

Like an accident in slow motion, Anna Clark, a Detroit-based journalist followed the crisis of toxic drinking water in Flint, Michigan.
“I had my head in it for years and it’s still there, I talk about it and I can’t get my head about how it happened,” says Clark, who has written for The New York Times, the Washington Post and Politico.
This obsession with the government’s failure to provide clean water in a once thriving manufacturing city whose population of about 99,000 is largely African American compelled Clark, who was a Fulbright fellow in Nairobi, Kenya and edited A Detroit Anthology, a Michigan Notable Book, compelled her to research and write The Poisoned City: Flint’s Water and the American Urban Tragedy (Metropolitan Books 2018; $30) which was an Amazon Best Book of 2018 . But she didn’t do so as a faraway observer. Clark, who graduated from the University of Michigan’s Residential College with highest honors, double majoring in History of Art and Creative Writing & Literature, and minoring in Crime and Justice and received an MFA from Warren Wilson College, has always been a doer.
For almost two years, citizens of Flint complained about the water, showing up at meetings with jars of the putrid looking liquid that came out of the faucets and talked about how people were getting ill from drinking it. The GM plant in Flint actually changed their water system because the city water was corroding the auto parts they manufactured.
“It wasn’t good enough for the machines, but it was good enough for the people?” Clark asks rhetorically. “I wanted to really dig deep. I loved the research and the long conversations with a lot of people. I traveled to Flint a lot, to attend events, meet people and just hang out. I audited classes at the University of Michigan on metropolitan structures, legal issues and water rights. There was so much information to connect. I really couldn’t stop until my publisher said I had to turn in my manuscript.”
Clark says most of the credit for the crisis being covered by major media sources is due to the city’s residents.
“They would go to Lansing to meet with legislators and attend meetings, the mapped where the symptoms were occurring,” she says, noting their work propelled the story to a national level which is when the state finally started took action. “I really think many people in positions of power didn’t think the people in the city mattered very much. The clear message is we don’t actually care to do anything sizable about it.”
But what happened in Flint could happen anywhere. Clark also sees this as an urgent public health care issue and one that is even more important as the national conversation is about dismantling safety regulations.
“Even people in less disadvantaged cities have lead in their popes,” she says. “At the base level of what a city should do for its citizens, I think safe drinking water is pretty basic.”


Ifyougo:
What: Anna Clark discusses The Poisoned City and then will be joined in conversation with Rick Perlstein, the author of several books. A Q&A will follow the discussion.
When: Thursday, January 24 at 6 pm
Where: The Seminary Co-op Bookstore, 5751 S. Woodlawn Ave., Chicago, IL
Cost: Free
FYI: 773-752-4381; 57th.semcoop.com

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