On, Wisconsin!

On, Wisconsin!

For week two of my Junior League project, I decided to go with another oldie, but goodie from my collection, Be Milwaukee’s Guest, published in 1959.  Though the Junior League of Milwaukee has since published many fine cookbooks, this one has a particularly lovely theme, which the book’s editors explain in an introductory note:  “The abundance of good food, which is Wisconsin’s heritage, is nowhere more fulgently described than in the extravagant folk tales of Paul Bunyan.”

Fulgently.  Who says that?  And why don’t they say it more often?

Each chapter begins with a quotation from Louis Untermeyer’s The Wonderful Adventures of Paul Bunyan.  Like Milwaukee’s long-serving mayor, Daniel Hoan, Untermeyer was a good Marxist.  He would later be persecuted by HUAC, Joseph McCarthy (Wisconsin’s least favorite son), and their angry, letter-writing supporters in the 1950s, though he would go on to serve as Poet Laureate during the Kennedy administration.

Untermeyer’s passages speak to the bounty of a Wisconsin harvest:  “tomatoes as big as pumpkins, cabbages so large that two men had to saw them in half before they could bring them in…,” and to the general hardiness of Wisconsinites:

If you can say one thing for Wisconsinites, it's that they eat with great joy and gusto.

This also happens with beer.

I've been here.  It's ghastly.

I've been here. It's ghastly.

The book also includes an introduction by Edward Harris Heth, native Milwaukeean and author of The Wonderful World of Cooking.  Heth rhapsodizes the delights of Wisconsin cookery, saying he doubts any Paris confiseur‘s shop window has ever held a trifle “to outsavor my Aunt Minnie’s blitz torte,” and has a downright Proustian moment over the memory of his mother’s sauerbraten mit kartoffel-kloesse.

Between the introduction and the Paul Bunyan yarns, it’s unsurprising that the cohesive theme of recipes in Be Milwaukee’s Guest is abundance, and plates piled high with soul-warming, starchy German and Scandanavian foods, local game, and farm-fresh vegetables.

Come on in, and make yourself at home.  It’s cozy here.  As long as you’re not too attached to your girlish figure.

The images of historic Wisconsin travel brochures were found in See the USA:  The Art of the American Travel Brochure by John Margolies and Eric Baker.

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