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County Agent Guy

By Staff | Dec 11, 2009

Every so often I’ll hear of an issue that deeply affects our lives, so I’ll put on my investigative journalist hat and, well, investigate. The most recent example of this involves a dangerously addictive substance known hereabouts by its street name of “kuchen.”

Word had it that Scotland, S.D., is the epicenter of a vast kuchen distribution network, so I journeyed there to investigate.

Scotland is a clean and quiet little town. Its main claim to fame is that it’s the hometown of astronaut Sam Gemar. But looks can be deceiving.

My first stop was The Main Hideout, a bar/ restaurant situated on – surprise! – Main Street. I strolled inside and perched on an empty barstool.

The joint was bustling with a clientele that consisted mainly of leather-faced farmers. Spirited conversation and jokes filled the air. A pair of harried waitresses seemed to know everyone on a first name basis.

I ordered the noon special, a roast beef sandwich and a cup of soup. As soon as the soup arrived, I knew I was hot on the trail. The soup’s main ingredient was cream.

Hoping to gain the confidence of the regulars, I began to complain loudly about the weather and the government. I was soon accepted as one of them.

A few innocent questions gave me some crucial information. The place I was seeking was just a few blocks away. Blue house. Red doors. The kuchen connection.

As I drove up to the ordinary-looking ranch home, I espied an obvious clue. The house had an attached garage, but both of the owners’ vehicles sat in the driveway.

I strode up to the door and rang the bell. My heart pounded at the thought of confronting a gang of hardened kuchen pushers.

A pleasant middle-aged couple answered the door and introduced themselves as Roger and Linda Pietz. They seemed like ordinary Midwesterners save for one telltale sign: they wore matching red shirts! Their “colors,” if you will.

We sat down and began to chat. I found the Pietzes to be surprisingly willing to answer questions about their business and the process wherein they turn commonplace items – things that can be purchased at any supermarket – into addictive kuchen.

I posed my toughest question first. “I’ve heard that ‘kuchen’ is pronounced as ‘kooken’. Why isn’t it pronounced as ‘koochen’ or ‘kuken’?”

“Actually,” replied Roger, “in my family it was pronounced as ‘koogen.'”

After making a mental note that “koogen” sounds like a term that could be used to describe mountain lion hunting, I asked about the history of kuchen.

“Kuchen originated in the Russia-Germany region,” said Linda, who voluntarily divulged that she is part German and part Czech. “There are dozens of different recipes for making kuchen. We use a modified version of Roger’s mother’s recipe.”

Good Lord! So the Russians, the Germans and the Czechs are all involved. Who would have guessed that the sleepy little town of Scotland is the hub of an international kuchen syndicate?

Feigning interest in becoming a kuchen dealer, I asked to see a sample. The Pietzes were happy to oblige.

One glance at the kuchen container’s label told me I’d hit pay dirt. The first ingredient listed was cream. The most powerful dairy product known to man. Wisconsin white. Minnesota manna.

The Pietzes informed me that kuchen is South Dakota’s Official State Dessert. Whoa! This means kuchen interests have penetrated our highest levels of government! Kuchen must indeed be a potent substance.

During our chat, the Pietzes made allusions to such things as “dough” and “getting baked.” I could no longer stand it. Perhaps I should try a chunk of this kuchen stuff. I was aware of the dangers, but figured that all those years of consuming lutefisk had immunized me against the affects of kuchen.

A wedge of kuchen soon sat before me, along with a cup of steaming hot coffee. This, I gathered, was the preferred method for kuchen addicts to obtain their “fix.”

I put an experimental sliver of kuchen into my mouth and my eyes rolled back into my head. A sip of the coffee “chaser” brought things back into focus, but that just enabled me to quickly scarf down more kuchen.

The Pietzes took me on a tour of their kuchen production facilities, which are hidden away in the basement of their home. Roger then showed me their garage. It was filled with freezers.

“This is our kuchen storage area,” he said matter-of-factly.

That was one humungous kuchen cache. My mouth watered as I contemplated all the deliciousness contained in that otherwise unremarkable garage.

The time came to bid the Pietzes adieu. I was sent on my way with a couple of kuchens and a newly-acquired addiction.

It was a dirty job, but someone had to do it.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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