Inquisitive Eating

March 17, 2009

Foodways are living tradition—diverse, meaningful and enduring—for those who pause to understand and appreciate them. ~Terese Allen

I just had the luxury of spending three weeks in Thailand and Laos. The excuse for the indulgence was my honeymoon. The purpose of the trip, or at least a strong driving force, was to eat. My husband and I love the fresh and exotic flavor combinations of southeast Asia, and we did our best to sample everything!

One of the reasons I enjoy traveling is trying new food. I know others share this passion. I noticed in a recent issue of Wisconsin Trails magazine that many of the destinations around the state were highlighted for their regional food specialties. In Wisconsin, where our farms, forests, lakes, bogs, and rivers provide edible products year round, there is always something to try if you ask the locals for recommendations. I also keep a copy of Mary Bergin’s book, “Hungry for Wisconsin: A Tasty Guide for Travelers,” nearby so I can find those exceptional and tasty treats when I’m on the road!

Happily, I am going to be spending lots of time thinking about food, and the foodways unique to Wisconsin, in the coming year. For the Wisconsin Humanities Council, I will be directing the tour of Key Ingredients: America by Food. This is an exhibition, produced by the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street program, that traces the history of food production, consumption, and culinary traditions throughout the United States. Six small, rural communities in Wisconsin will host the exhibition, starting in October of 2010, and will take the opportunity to explore these ideas in their own region. Along with the host communities, I will learn a lot about the foods of Wisconsin, and undoubtedly get to taste some new and interesting dishes. One thing I know already: I don’t have to fly half way across the world every time I want fresh and exotic flavors!

photo of the author by Mark Scalf

photo of the author by Mark Scalf

Heads up for fellow Wisconsin food fans: “The Flavor of Wisconsin: An Informal History of Food and Eating in the Badger State” comes out (revised and updated!) in May of this year from the Wisconsin Historical Society Press.

P.S. The Wisconsin Humanities Council is accepting applications from rural communities with populations under 10,000 to host Key Ingredients. Applications are due April 15, 2009.