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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Tales from the old-timer

Wisconsin Foodie

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,

daughter of the Old-Timer



**********

I’ve lived in Oklahoma for 14 years now. I’ve adapted to many of the local foods and especially the local produce. There’s a fantastic blackberry farm close to my house and I put the native pecans in almost everything I make. Still I continue to miss some Wisconsin foods and I share with you this week some of the key differences between Wisconsin and Oklahoma foods.

Of course the cheese here just can’t hold a candle to what you can find everywhere in Wisconsin. Chili here NEVER has hamburger in it (blasphemy!) and is more like a stew than the soupy kind from Wisconsin that I make. While you can find brats here now (that’s relatively new) most people don’t know what to make of them. Potato salad is very different from what is made up north. And there is no coleslaw with the vinegar dressing my Mother always called “grass.” They all make the creamy type coleslaw, which I also like, but they put WAY too much sugar in it. (Why would anyone put sugar in coleslaw?)

I don’t like the local use of heavy garlic in the pizzas, and I have yet to see anyone make “Sloppy Joes,” which are one of my husband’s favorites.

After we moved here we were invited to a church potluck. After thinking through some options of what to bring, I went with something that was a sure winner at the Marinette Knights of Columbus potlucks we used to attend - sauerkraut with sliced smoked sausage in a casserole. As I reheated it in the church kitchen several women remarked about the “bad smell” in the kitchen. Took me a while to figure out they were talking about my casserole - and I went home with a nearly full dish. THAT never happened in Marinette. I almost had my feelings hurt, but then I thought about the scorn I heap on the passion for catfish here, and realized I was being pretty rude when I ridiculed the “dirt taste” of the fish everyone else liked.

The aversion the church group had for my stinky sauerkraut reminded me of the story my father tells about him taking out his lunch in the lunchroom where he worked. Some nice Limburger cheese and crackers. Now, if you have never smelled this cheese (you are lucky) think about a nice, aged deer carcass rotting away on a hot day in August. It’s about twice as bad as that. One of the women at work objected to my Dad’s use of the shared silverware, claiming the “stink” would never come off the stainless steel implements.

That also raises a Wisconsin fact, that the only remaining cheese factory in the U.S. that makes Limburger is in the state. Once in a while, my Uncle Bill, who is a guru of all things cheese, will get my husband a piece of Limburger because he likes it. Uncle Bill will wrap it in two or three layers of plastic, secure it tightly, and then put it in a glass Mason jar with a tight-fitting lid. I kid you not, it still makes the car smell bad as we drive back home. If we have the dogs with us, they take a dynamic interest in the Mason jar, but they love to roll in dead fish, too, so that tells you something. Mike said it tastes great once you “get past the smell.” I’m thinking it’s not worth trying to do so.

I have adapted to local tastes when I make dishes for potlucks at church now. But maybe my very last month here, before we retire and head back home, I’ll cook up a delightful casserole featuring nothing but sauerkraut and Limburger cheese. I’ll take it to the church kitchen, slide it into the oven, and see what happens next.


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