Good Beer

February 25, 2011

I’ll start by acknowledging that Wisconsin is getting some extra attention this week. I’m wondering how this is going to change our image? In the future, what will people around the country think of when they think of Wisconsin? Will we be known for more than cheese and beer?

Kitchy maps I’ve seen of the United State plop an archetypical wedge down in the middle of our mitten-shaped state, which simply corroborates what we put on both our license plates and our quarters.

Shifting gears here to the more personal, I’ll say that I love these kinds of maps. Maps of all kinds, really, from subway maps to treasure maps to Rand McNally. I do own a GPS for car trips, but it routinely frustrates me and I swear I’ll teach my daughter to read a map just as soon as she learns to tie her shoes.

I also love beer. I’m a good Wisconsinite in that way. I recently saw an American map of good beer. I’d say that it’s more of a treasure map than a food map. It’s not scientifically based, but instead is just representing graphically what readers of like to drink.

I also love cheese and find the “Tasters Guide to Wisconsin” far more useful, though here, too, there are omissions. The Wisconsin Cheese Tour on the Department of Tourism’s Website offers suggestions for many days worth of cheese tasting, but you’ll need your own road map. In portalwisconsin’s own “Eat @ Wisconsin” section you can broaden the menu with Mary Bergin’s culinary tour, but I know Mary wouldn’t leave out the important beer and cheese food groups.

If you, like me, enjoy a back-road car trip with your Rand McNally (or GPS) and are curious to learn more about our state’s food traditions beyond cheese and beer, I recommend seeing “Key Ingredients: America by Food” at one of the stops on the Wisconsin Tour. In Brodhead, where the exhibition will be on display May 6 – June 17, the local flavors include pickles, popcorn, and potato chips. And that’s in Green County, an area of Wisconsin that advertises itself on its Website as a place famous for “tasty brews perfectly paired with award-winning cheese.”

Speaking of travel and potatoes, I have a trip to Idaho scheduled for this summer. The Good Beer map has me more than a little concerned. Of course, Idaho equals potato to me, but there must be something to drink there, right?

by Jessica Becker, Director of Public Programs, Wisconsin Humanities Council

Green County is SO Green!

July 16, 2009

I don’t say that lightly. Green is all the rage. Businesses are green (or they are not), travel is green (or it’s not), schools, people, intentions, habits, on and on….But Green County is literally really bright green.

Green County Stirring the Pot 016

Green County farmland. Photo by Jessica Becker

I drove from Madison to Monroe yesterday afternoon to attend the second in a series of community picnics on the lawn of the Monroe Art Center. The series is called “Stirring the Pot,” and was funded in part with a grant from the Wisconsin Humanities Council. It was a gorgeous summer evening, and the drive there was delightful. Cara Carper, a Green County Extension Agent, told me on the phone before hand to turn right at the cheese factory onto County Road N. There were more cheese factories than I could count. Green County could also rightly be called Cheese County.

Families were gathered on blankets enjoying dinner in the glow of sunshine. I settled in to watch a guest chef from Blackhawk Tech’s culinary program demonstrate how to make a balsamic reduction sauce, which she suggested could be drizzled over whatever is in season at your local farmers market. A couple tables were piled high with fresh produce and the farmers were there to tell you about. I brought home some blue potatoes and the season’s early broccoli.

Representative Brett Davis serving samples of salad prepared by Peppercorn Catering. Photo by Jessica Becker

Representative Brett Davis serving samples of salad prepared by Peppercorn Catering. Photo by Jessica Becker

The gathering drew together an inspiring, and inspired, community that is growing more organized in its regional efforts to promote better nutrition in school lunchrooms, fight Wisconsin’s obesity problem, and break up the rural food deserts by connecting farmers with consumers. I was happy to meet Representative Brett Davis, who was also there to show his support and give his own cooking demo.

The event’s organizers hope to get people thinking more about the food they eat and to make more “sustainable” choices. Sustainable, at this point, being sort of another word for green. Which is what I was thinking about as I drove home. The sun was just on the horizon and as I headed north, back into Dane County, the fields were a fire of green. It was breathtaking.

I pulled over at the crest of one hill to marvel. A farm dog ran toward my car as I stepped out to take a picture. “He’s friendly,” the dog’s owner assured me from a distance. “It’s just so pretty, I couldn’t help myself,” I explained as I lifted my camera to capture the moment.

Barn in Green County. Photo by Jessica Becker

Barn in Green County. Photo by Jessica Becker

The farmer nodded and smiled.

By Jessica Becker
Director of Public Programs
Wisconsin Humanities Council