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Touring Wisconsin Food

Tag: buy-local movement

Wisconsin Food Trends: Buy Local From Farmers; Substitute Sauerkraut For The Coconut

I’ve been reading about food trends. Now, if you’re like me, you don’t think of Wisconsin as being a particularly trendy place. What worked for us Wisconsinites yesterday, we go ahead and do again today. You can see this best in the ways we raise and prepare food. Our artisanal cheeses, meats, and beers have always been popular. But if we haven’t been boasting about them it’s because we here in this frigid northern clime don’t like jumping up and down calling attention to ourselves, unless of course we need to thaw our toes. Our state’s never had a reputation for fancy food, just food that tastes awesome.

So it made sense to read in Mary Bergin’s February article in Madison Magazine that Illinois chefs are supplying their restaurants with Wisconsin foods. The article focuses on the buy-local movement which I guess to Chicagoans means buying from Wisconsin. Because chefs are raving about the superiority of Wisconsin food, it’s now trendy to dine at upscale Chicago-area restaurants serving food from Wisconsin farms. But really, what’s the shocker? – that food picked yesterday tastes better than food picked two weeks ago in California? Perhaps the surprise is that people are willing to pay a little extra for better food. Mary’s article points out that urban Wisconsinites are increasingly fed up with eating old food  trucked in from 1000 miles away. Membership is surging in Community Supported Agriculture groups through which Wisconsinites weekly buy large boxes of fresh produce directly from farmers.

But eating Wisconsin farm food is not a new trend. It’s more like something Wisconsinites always used to do and then stopped for a while. Most of the Wisconsin senior citizens I know grew up on farms. For them, eating farm food is old hat.

And it’s to these old farmers that younger Wisconsinites such as myself now turn when I want to participate in a new national food trend. You see, I also recently read a list predicting 2010’s trendiest foods. Wisconsin produces some of them, – such as the artisanal goat cheese and buffalo meat. But how can I eat the newly trendy tropical fruits such as coconut and pomegranates while also being trendy by buying local? What to do? Click on “Continue reading…” for my solution and a Wisconsin farm woman’s recipe for chocolate sauerkraut cake.


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Buy-local Movement Rooted In Wisconsin State Pride And Celebrated At The Bounty Of Green County Feast

In the few places I’ve lived, Illinois, Colorado, New England, and Wisconsin, each place had a special feel of its own. A region’s particular impression may be vague in my mind, but it’s there none the less. For example, my impression of Illinois is that it’s a backdrop for Chicago. All of the many Chicagoans I know “LOVE Chicago!” City corruption and inefficiencies?, – they just shrug at those, after all, nothing special about those, every cities got them. During my 5-year stay in Colorado I never met so many people who originated from somewhere else. The descendants of Colorado pioneers were a fiercely independent lot and a few were pretty vocal about wishing the rest of us would go home. I lived in New England during college and at that time I was pretty clueless about everything, including about the states I inhabited. Yet, folks in Vermont and New Hampshire impressed me as being pretty low-key, never showy or boastful. Each had his or her own way of doing things. They called it “the Yankee way”, and openly admitted that to them it meant “the right way”. But it was in Wisconsin where I first encountered an overwhelmingly strong exuberance of state pride.

I’ve lived in Wisconsin for 18 years now, but my status as a “Wisconsinite” is still pending. Most of the people I know here are 3rd and 4th generation Wisconsinites. They are rooted in the hard-working, family-committed, pioneer ethos of their farming ancestors. In pioneer times, settlers were typically generous with each other because to forge a life in such a harsh climate meant never knowing when you’d have to call on your neighbor for aid. This friendliness persists today. Beyond the neighborhood and into the workplace, farmers, producers, manufacturers, and consumers seem particularly aware of their inter-reliance. They economically support each other by preferentially buying from each other. No, this economic mutualism does not originate from snobby or exclusive sentiments. It’s grounded in a sincere value for the quality of goods made in Wisconsin. Folks here know their neighbors; they see how they make their products and run their businesses. They like what they see, and they tell their friends about it. If ever there was a grass-roots, buy-local movement, it’s vibrantly alive here in Wisconsin.

Wisconsinites’ state pride was on display Saturday night at the Bounty of Green County Feast. On the picturesque hilltop of the New Glarus Brewing Company, overlooking the hills, fields, and town of New Glarus, about 100 people gathered to share a 5-course dinner showcasing the gourmet meats, cheeses, and produce grown, raised, processed, and cooked in Green County. We dined on lean sausages of elk and emu, emmentaler and butter kase cheeses, beer-braised, pasteurized pork with Wisconsin-grown apples, roast tenderloin served with Wisconsin potatoes mashed with Roth Kase gruyere cheese. The green beans and salad were grown in local gardens. The apples on the apple tart grew in a Green County orchard; the Green County fudges and toffees were made with Wisconsin milk. And accompanying each course was a New Glarus, micro-brewed beer especially selected to bring out the flavors of the gourmet foods. I never knew beer could taste so unbelievably delicious with braised pork and roast tenderloin. The New Glarus Golden Ale served with the final cheese course was a genius pairing and made me re-think drinking wine with cheese.

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