Blue plate special with a lectureSchool may be out for the summer, but three Northland College professors are providing mini-lectures for the public on their favorite topics in an unconventional setting — the Delta Diner in Bayfield County.
By: For the Superior Telegram, Superior Telegram
School may be out for the summer, but three Northland College professors are providing mini-lectures for the public on their favorite topics in an unconventional setting — the Delta Diner in Bayfield County.
“This is one of the most fun events that I’ve been asked to do,” said Erica Hannickel, professor of environmental history. “It’s exciting to combine stories, food and wine in such a casual, fun setting.”
Hannickel discusses Midwestern wine with a special meal prepared by the Delta Diner. The lecture features highlights from her new book, “Empire of Vines: Wine Culture in America,” which is due out in the fall.
Named the Blue Plate Lecture Series, the talks combined with food are something diner owner Todd Bucher has wanted to offer since he opened the diner a decade ago — and the time is ripe, he said. Bucher now has the customer base to support the experiment.
The name of the series is all in fun, he admitted.
“Blue plate means special of the day, which means using up what is about to go bad,” he said. “For these meals, we’re working from scratch in the kitchen for eight hours.”
The lecture series matches food to a variety of topics being researched by Northland College faculty. Hannickel’s interest in wines matured while surviving a long winter in Iowa, studying for her doctorate. For distraction and fun, she would leaf through old horticultural magazines, where she noticed that horticulturalists talked about grapes differently than they talked about other fruits and vegetables.
“They spoke of empire building and national expansion — and that is how I got into grapes,” she said.
While Hannickel’s lecture explores wine and manifest destiny, Les Alldritt, associate professor of religion and philosophy at Northland, will demonstrate a Zen style of eating, or “oryoki.” Bucher has planned a meal of rice, miso soup and a vegetarian dish for Alldritt’s talk Saturday.
Oryoki is more about the ritual — a meal of silence, mediation and mindfulness — than the actual food, Alldritt said. He has experienced and demonstrated this three-bowl and chopsticks meal several times at Buddhist temples and in the classroom.
“But I’ve never done it like this,” Alldritt said. “It promises to be quite an experience.”
Meanwhile, Derek Ogle, professor of mathematical sciences and natural resources, speaks in July about a long-term fisheries study of Inch Lake in Delta. Seafood gumbo and jambalaya will accompany Ogle’s look at the fishery located just down the road from the Delta Diner.
The equation for a successful lecture series is straightforward, Bucher said.
“A simple meal, a stimulating topic and a diner filled with adventuresome, fun people — all set the stage for a special, memorable meal.”