The International Vinegar Museum (Roslyn,
like to visit small, quirky, out-of-the-way places when I travel and,
fortunately, there are a lot of quirky places in the Midwest.
After I left Fort Sisseton State Park, I drove a few miles south and stopped by the small town of
Roslyn, South Dakota, one of the quirkiest towns that I’ve ever been to.
Or rather, based on its small size, I should say that Roslyn has one of
the highest “quirk-per-capita” ratios of any town in the U.S. -- and for three
this is one of only two towns I know with the name of Roslyn, the other Roslyn
being in Washington, a bit east of Seattle. Roslyn, Washington, as you may
know, was where they filmed the quirky television show, “Northern Exposure,” though
it was supposedly set in the fictional town of Cicely, Alaska.
Remember seeing the Roslyn Bar (which the show’s producers changed to
“Roslyn’s Bar”) on each week’s opening clip where the moose casually strolls down
the street? They had to import the
moose, but the Roslyn Bar is the real thing.
second quirk (I’ve listed the quirk facts in ascending order to build tension,
just as my 7th Grade English teacher, Mrs. Fields, taught me) is that Roslyn is
the hometown of accordionist Myron Floren. If you’re a fan of Lawrence Welk or
polkas, you know who Myron Floren is. If you’re not a fan, you probably make fun
of Myron Floren. As I found out, though, you don’t make fun of Myron Floren in
South Dakota because he’s hot stuff here... and he’s also, as I would discover,
a pretty nice guy.
Third, and quirkiest of all, Roslyn is the home of the International Vinegar
Museum. It’s actually the only Vinegar Museum in the world (hence the
“International” part) and, Myron Floren notwithstanding, was the main reason
that I decided to drive to Roslyn. The museum is in the former Town Hall, the
most impressive building in Roslyn, which in itself should be enough to draw
huge crowds. Seriously, though, as I entered the museum, I wasn’t sure if this
was a spoof or if it was for real.
It’s the real deal, folks, and the sole operator, a jovial guy named Lawrence
Diggs, really knows his vinegar. Although he doesn’t brag about it, Lawrence has
a Ph.D. in something (Food Science, I think) and goes by the nickname “Vinegar
Man." I dare say that Lawrence Diggs, who in his spare time works as a “Vinegar
Consultant” (don’t ask), probably knows more about vinegar than perhaps anyone
on the planet.
Above left: Roslyn is proud of its most famous native, accordionist Myron
Above center: Bustling (?) downtown Roslyn. That's the
Museum on the right.
Above right: The world's only Vinegar Museum.
I walked in, the museum was empty except for the Vinegar Man, who greeted me
with a smile and a handshake. I
spent the next 30 minutes walking around and reading the various displays on
vinegar and I actually learned a lot of interesting things.
For instance, people have been making vinegar for thousands of years
using whatever fermentable food product happened to be on hand, including rice
in the Orient, grapes in Greece, wheat in England (for the “malt vinegar”
they put on Fish & Chips), and corn or apples in the U.S.
Some other vinegar trivia: It kills bacteria so it’s widely used as
a food preservative, it cleans windows, and it’s a handy antidote if you
happen to get stung by a deadly Australian Box Jellyfish. I’ll keep that in
mind when I go swimming at the Great Barrier Reef next year.
a while, two couples entered the museum and Lawrence gave the five of us an
interesting tour, complete with a “vinegar tasting” at the end.
I tried to suppress a smile as Lawrence very seriously told me to swirl
the vinegar in the glass and let the aroma “waft” (a term he used) up to my
nose. After a few tastes, though, I
was really getting into it.
know I poked fun of the International Vinegar Festival on one of my funny photos
(see Humor), but Lawrence Diggs takes his vinegar seriously.
He’s also one of the nicest, most intelligent, and most interesting
persons that I’ve met on this trip. After
a three-hour visit to the museum, including a long discussion with Lawrence, I
decided that vinegar is cool.
can reach Lawrence at his website,
Above left: On a vinegar tour. This is the vinegar "wall of fame."
Above right: Dr. Lawrence Diggs, the Vinegar Man, showing us how to
properly taste vinegar.
Above left: After the tour you can purchase all sorts of vinegar
products. I bought a spray bottle of vinegar room deodorizer as a gift...
but for whom?
Yes, there's even an International Vinegar
Festival. Not only can you hear Pastor Wilson singing "his
hits" (as only the Pastor can sing them) and see the Hutterite
Choir, but you can also hear "the Polish singer," Tony Wika.
Yep, only in the Midwest...
Travels (2001-02) >
Story List >
U.S. Stories >
The International Vinegar Museum