Friday, Sep 21, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio


New day brings new curiousities


Each morning I tell 23-year-old Geranium, “It’s a new day, let’s jump in and enjoy it.”

That’s when I go out for breakfast, she checks out her food bowl, and the day unwinds with things that could never have been predicted.

As an old-time reporter — and that’s not an exaggeration — when someone or something triggers my news instinct I whip out the notebook, take notes, and snap a picture with my cell phone. Whoever thought that would happen?

That is exactly what happened one day at breakfast when a man who took the table next to mine very carefully leaned a long, curved piece of wood against the empty chair at the table.

Between scrambled eggs and another cup of coffee I had to ask about the stick. Ernest Frye, who he says is better known as J.R., explained that the long stick with several bends is no stick, but the cane that he not only depends on but made himself.

He whittled it during the hours he had to wait after he had received chemotherapy because of bladder cancer. The two hours he spent whittling helped keep his mind off the illness and the treatment. His son suggested the idea of the cane, and said he thought the limb on a nearby tree would be a perfect subject.

“Why don’t you take a limb off that tree and make a cane,” J.R. recalls his son saying.

The cane is a beautiful piece of ash wood that J.R. rightfully uses with pride. It may show the damage borers made to the tree, but the natural wood gleams because of his dedicated rubbing of the wood. The finish is not any commercial product, but, he says, from his body oil and his act of rubbing the cane.

J.R. lives in Toledo, but he got accustomed to coming to Grand Rapids on his motorcycle with friends. He still visits the village about 10 times a year and says “My truck knows the way.”

Punch and Ice Cream

Once a recipe scout, always a recipe scout is a motto that has served me well most of my life. This time the hunt was successful at the home of Chef Robb and Patty Parmelee and their four sons near Swanton.

It was no surprise that the Parmelees featured an outstanding menu that included quinoa salad. But it was the punch and ice cream dessert that caught my attention.

I went to get my portion of the layered ice cream creation, and the man next to me admitted it was his third trip. As for the punch, it went so fast that second and third batches had to be made.

Don’t lose the punch recipe because we will never get it again.

Chef Robb apologetically said it is a secret that he doesn’t share. He explained that in the 1990s, when he and Patty operated Parmelees’ American Bistro on Dussel Drive, he spent hours developing the recipe. The restaurant was a no-alcohol business, and the punch was developed as a popular alternative.

He remembers the night he stayed up until 3 a.m. working with at least 12 juices until he came up with this recipe that he finally agreed to share.

The occasion for the party was son Lucas’ graduation from home school, taught by Patty. She also taught the oldest son Drew, a student at the University of Toledo. Home school classes will be under way soon for the two younger sons Seth and Toby.

Food preparation is a family affair at the Parmelee home. They all pitch in to make it happen.

That Chef Robb is the culinary arts instructor at Clay High School and that he grew up at Toledo’s old Par 4, owned by his parents, were definite influences.

Patty grew up in Williams County, a northwest Ohio region strong in Mennonites who raise their children to be excellent cooks and bakers.

These recipes for the secret punch and an ice cream dessert fit nicely into the late August and fall entertaining scene. Before we know it, we will be searching for pumpkin recipes and the best buy on Thanksgiving turkeys.

Ice Cream Trifle

Layer a 9-by-13-inch pan with ice cream bars. If needed cut them to fit into the pan.

Spread with a layer of whipped topping. Cover with a second layer of ice cream bars and, again, cover those with a second layer of whipped topping.

Drizzle with chocolate syrup and sprinkle generously with Heath candy bar bits. Cover and freeze until hard. It will keep in the freezer for a long time, but before serving remove from the freezer and cut into portions using a sharp knife. A serrated knife works well. Serves 15 to 20.

Parmelee’s Secret Punch for 50

The recipe is in three steps: a fruit ring, punch base, and the finish at serving time.


3 quarts cold tap water

⅔ cup cranberry juice concentrate

½ cup frozen grape juice concentrate

4 packets Kool-Aid lemonade drink mix

4 cups sugar

Fruit slices leftover from fruit ring (directions below)

To make the base, pour cold tap water into container and add juice concentrates, Kool-Aid, and sugar. Rinse out cans and stir base well to dissolve sugar and Kool-Aid. Add fruit slices.

This base can be chilled or frozen until needed.

To make a fruit ring, slice halves of orange, lemon, and lime very thin. Slice other halves thicker. Overlap the slices in a ring mold, arranging so that they protrude up the side. Partially freeze fruit ring while preparing the blue water to fill the ring.

To make blue water, add a few drops of blue food color to the water, or choose another color.

When the fruit ring is partially frozen, cover it halfway with blue water. Return to freezer for one to two hours to freeze solid before adding the remaining blue water to fill and returning to freezer overnight.

To unmold the fruit ring to float in the punch run hot water over the bottom of the mold until it loosens.


1 gallon ice water

1 quart rainbow sherbet

1 2-liter bottle lemon-lime beverage

½ of 2 liter Canada Dry ginger ale (not Vernors)

Add water with lots of ice. Add sherbet in small pieces, and when it is half thawed add beverages.

Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor. Contact her at:

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