Tuesday, August 20, 2013

To do, experience, or produce again

Mars and I traveled to western Pennsylvania for (first in chronological order) Mallo Cups, breakfast sausages, and golf. We’ve only been able to find these particular sweets in PA (and of course online – but sometimes that just doesn’t count). Breakfast sausages are available in various forms in various places, but only at this particular location made with this particular recipe. Golf is even more universal – including at least one shot taken by a cosmonaut on the surface of the moon – nonetheless we’ve made the six-hour drive across the Keystone State to play here a half-dozen times now over the past eight years. 

In order of importance, the “Road Scholar (nee Elderhostel) golf school at Penn State University was our primary goal. The breakfast meat is a source of protein nourishment to aid us in our “studies”, and the confection is a habit we acquired four years ago on a previous pilgrimage to the same locale. 

Mallo Cups are candy-shaped cups filled with marshmallow cream and coated with a rich chocolate and coconut topping. (Now say it slowly and let the words linger on your lips, “marshmallow cream coated with a rich chocolate and coconut topping.”) They were created in 1936 by Boyer Brothers of Altoona, PA who claim they are the first cup-candy made in the U.S.A. - although Reese's disputes this. 

Mars and I discovered them on our 2010 golf hajj in a vending machine at a rest stop on I-80. Never having heard of Mallo Cups, and believing in eating like the natives whenever we travel, we deposited $1.00, punched in the appropriate number and letter combination, and waited hopefully for the soft thud of the package dropping. We were not disappointed, quickly finding ourselves transported to that wondrous place that only truly unique and impossibly sweet junk food can send you. We bought another package on our way home and were again delivered to the same state of bon-bon bliss – and we have continued that culinary tradition on each of our annual trips to and from PSU since then. 

Our accommodations for the Road Scholar program are at the Penn Stater Hotel – at which, with one exception, we have our breakfast and our dinner. The morning meal is buffet with fresh fruit, pastries, eggs, home fried potatoes, pancakes/blintzes, bacon and (ta-da!) breakfast sausage. 

Unlike the Mallo Cups, the sausage wrapper doesn’t list its secret ingredients. 

But, according to PA Code 1.404, “’Breakfast Sausage’ is sausage prepared with fresh or frozen meat, or meat and meat byproducts and may be seasoned with condimental substances as permitted in Subchapter I (relating to entry, reinspection and preparation of products). It shall not be made with any lot of product which, in the aggregate, contains more than 50% trimmable fat, that is fat which can be removed by thorough practicable trimming and sorting. To facilitate chopping or mixing, water or ice may be used in an amount not to exceed 3.0% of the total ingredients used. Extenders or binders may be used as permitted in Subchapter I to the extent of 3.5% of the finished sausage.”  

Try saying that slowly. Definitely not as enticing as “marshmallow cream coated with a rich chocolate and coconut topping” – but, when you actually taste it, almost as ecstasy inducing. 

At least one responder to roadfood.com’s question “What is the best Breakfast Sausage?” seems to agree. “I always enjoy the larger size spicy (country) breakfast links while traveling. The NY area supermarkets, offer their own store made fresh, but the spices don't compare, to what I can get in Pennsylvania, at local breakfast joints.”   And, presumably if he had dined at the Penn Stater. 

This was, as mentioned above, the sixth time Mars and I have attended golf school at Penn State. And – now that our original Connecticut-based teacher from twelve years ago has died, and his son who took over has gotten out of the business – our only source of lessons. It is also the one time during the year that we play the game with other people. (Our friends don’t play the game and we don’t want the formality of a league.) 

Some of the other attendees are repeats, but most are first-timers. Ability levels this year varied from a couple of almost “scratch” (zero handicap players), to one total beginner. Mars and I never keep score so we don’t have an official “handicap” – similar to an average but in the obtuse language of golf, which rewards the lowest score, expressed as the number of strokes you are allowed to subtract from your score. 

The faculty is led by the coach of the PSU Women’s Golf Team plus her Assistant Coach and two other professional golf instructors. Coach Denise matches up the afternoon playing foursomes based on what she sees during morning lessons, so we are usually paired with players around our level. This year we played with two very nice couples from PA and VA. 

Very little is new from year to year– but much is forgotten or done improperly even when you remember it. Stand behind the ball and choose your target; select a nearby spot to use for lining up; position the face of the club perpendicular to the target and your shoulders and feet in line with the club face; turn your shoulders; lead with your hips; let the club swing along the target line; follow-through; pose; and enjoy the view. 

How hard can that be? 

Golf is all about repeatability. But, unlike making confections and breakfast meats, it is not always that easy to follow the recipe – many times because our “swing thought” is about something we shouldn’t do (“Don’t go into the water”) rather just doing what we should. During THIS week however we do it right a lot more often than we don’t. Which feels even better than all the joys of special sweets and meats. 

And that’s why we keep coming back. 

No comments: