Here in Wisconsin, we are fortunate enough to have some very awesome simple pleasures in life. Let’s see, we have food, beer and, well, more food and beer. In addition, Wisconsin’s countryside and cities are covered in products that are local and becoming more and more sustainable. With our abundance of intelligence-driven people here, the University of Wisconsin Press has released some interesting books that highlight our cultural history and magnificent talent that we house in our modest state of Wisconsin.
To begin, I would like to get right to what we are most famous for—that is of course, beer and cheese! Of course there are the Packers, too, but let’s turn the page to a great book, Cheese: The Making of a Wisconsin Tradition by Jerry Apps. Journey with him as he covers the history of the cheese-making industry fromits humble beginnings in 1840 to the present, where Wisconsin is the number one cheese producer in the nation. The stories and the lives of early cheese makers unfold with the trials of dealing with snow-blocked roads, fish in the milk cans and the day-to-day processing of some of the nation’s finest cheeses.
Who can talk about Wisconsin without getting on the subject of beer, most likely over a pint of fresh brewed ale at one of our local breweries? If you look up the street you will see at least one bar and at this bar you will find no less than three kinds of Wisconsin beer chilling in the cooler or pouring right from the tap. Wisconsin boasts more than sixty breweries and brewpubs with over 600 types of beer to from which to choose. Which brings me to Robin Shepard’s book Wisconsin’s Best Breweries and Brewpubs: Searching for the Perfect Pint. In these pages you will find many breweries and brew pubs with recommendations on food, directions on how to get there, closeby attractions and, of course, researched knowledge about the beer. With the one to five mug rating anyone can search and find a place to belly up and indulge in this Wisconsin tradition. There is even a space for you to mark your own rating next to each beer so you can do your own extensive brew research. With directions, contact info and GPS coordinates of the establishments, you have a great guide to help you discover your own perfect brew.
When discovering some of our breweries, you may be carried as far north as Dallas, Wisconsin, home of the Viking Brewing Company. Here a married couple started a brewery in 1995 with traditional techniques and community mindedness. This is a theme in the book Renewing the Countryside: Wisconsin. It takes a look at many organizations—from farms to schools—who care about each other and the preservation of our resources. Many of the people in this book are not just offering us products, but they are stewards of the land and the community. As you peruse the pages, your eye catches many smiling faces and beautiful landscapes that make up our great countryside of Wisconsin. Reading the stories of different companies, often started from the ground up, inspires pride and hope for our future. There are many people out there who are working to make a world that is sustainable attainable. Many of these very people pack up their trucks and cars during the warmer months and head on over to our very own Dane County Farmer’s Market on the Capitol Square.
One of our biggest tourist attractions in Wisconsin is the Saturday Farmers’ Market up on the Capital Square. Here you can see the products that family, hard work and community bring to share. In the book The Dane County Farmers’ Market: A Personal History, Mary and Quentin Carpenter give a personal outlook on the Farmers’ Market’s growth. Vendors new and old come to the square and offer a colorful array of products and stories to share, rich with Wisconsin tradition and alive with color and life. You will find ideas for the future as well as great recipes from local vendors among the pages of this well documented book.
We are very fortunate to live in such a busy place with so much to offer and where many of our residents are hard working, driven, resourceful people. We all benefit from this wealth of goods and should be thankful for its bounty. I wonder if it’s the long harsh winters that create such passion to seize the gifts of nature in the warmer months and share them with each other. There are so many local products to choose from with more appearing every year. It makes it easier to think and live locally.