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Cleveland Food Adventures with Mr and Mrs Hanson

On Tuesday night our friends Ms. Debbie Hanson and Mr. Dan Hanson organized a Cleveland Food AdIMG_8301venturers at the Lithuanian Club on East 185th Street in Cleveland.First, we took a tour of the upstairs bakery and witnessed a demonstration of Lithuanian Tree Cake baking by Mr. Dainius Zalensas who ships his products all over the world. We learned that the Tree Cake (best described as a Lithuanian pound cake) originated in the Lithuanian/Polish Commonwealth in the 16th century and is still particularly popular on Christmas and Easter IMG_8295and at weddings.

Then we went downstairs and listened as Ms. Ruta Degutus, Managing Director of the Lithuanian Club, and Mr. Linas Johansonas talked to us about the history of Lithuania which dates back over 1,000 years and whose language is one of the oldest spoken on earth. It was particularly moving as they described how Lithuania declared its independence in 1918 only to lose it at the outset of World War II when it was occupied by the Soviet Union then briefly Germany and the Soviet Union again for nearly 50 years before it finally regained its independence in 1990-1991. Through all of the troubled times, Lithuania struggled and ultimately succeeded in keeping its culture alive largely through its music, dances and festivals.

Pulling for it all the way, were the "displaced persons" who had immigrated to the United States but were determined to hang onto their roots partially by the establishment of such get-together places as the Lithuanian Club which has been here (in different locations) since 1923. It was said during the course of the evening, several times that characteristics that defined Lithuania and its people were "striving for independence and freedom" and "preserving spirituality and religion."

Afterwards, we enjoyed an excellent buffet dinner. As Ms. Degutis said, "we do with potatoes much more than an Irishman," and we believe she just might be right because included in our possible choices were at three different items made from potatoes including some particularly delicious potato sausages.

As we ate, Ms. Virginia Rubinski entertained us by playing several Lithuanian songs on the "kankles"IMG_8300 which Wikipedia defines as "a Lithuanian plucked string musical instrument (chordophone) of the zither family."

When we were finished with our meal we were treated to some more Lithuanian history by Mr. Joseph Meissner who told us about Jadwiga, the first female monarch of the Kingdom of Poland (which included Lithuania) back in the late 1300's. Mr. Meissner also talked about the Hill of Crosses created in the 1800's and still standing to this day.

We really liked it when Mr. Dan Hanson told us the inspiring story of how IMG_8284the Lithuanian basketball team wanted to compete in the 1992 Olympics (this was right after Lithuania finally achieved its independence) but couldn't afford to go so the Grateful Dead stepped in and donated some money and assisted in the creation of the now-classic "Lithuanian Tie Dye Basketball t-shirts" which were sold to raise the necessary travel funding. Thus, the Lithuanian basketball team got to participate in the Olympics after all and won a bronze medal!

Written by:

Michael Patterson 

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC.

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