Read it and Eat: Books with Local Flavor
Good Seeds: A Menominee Food Memoir
By Thomas Pecore Weso (Wisconsin Historical Society Press)
“This is how I understand cooking, as part of a family process that includes spirit, the forest environment and fuel for cooking— all before the meal can be prepared.” Sentences like this, from a lovely new regional food memoir, elegantly express the author’s multiple perspectives as anthropologist, artist, Menominee Indian, family member, cook.
Raised in the big, multi-generational home of his matriarch grandmother and medicineman grandfather, Tom Weso grew up eating (and hunting, gathering and growing) labor-intensive traditional foods along with modern, open-a-can fare. Everyone, even children, for example, drank ko-peh (coffee), to battle the ever-present Northeastern Wisconsin cold. But breakfast was an enormous meal his grandmother started before dawn each day by “making fire” in the wood stove. Hot cereal was typically cornmeal mush, not the oatmeal white people ate. The morning meal could also include fish, game, bacon, eggs, potatoes, cornbread, fruit pies and cottage cheese from a nearby dairy that delivered to the home.
The book is organized by ingredient— beaver, wild rice, corn, maple syrup, etc.— with chapters, too, on German beer, Wisconsin diner meals and the concession foods at county and tribal fairs. Each section ends with one or more recipes, some familiar (baked walleye), some exotic (roast porcupine). But Weso’s stories are much more than culinary tales or instruction; plain-spoken and occasionally hilarious, they open doors of appetite, understanding and connection.
A contemporary of Weso who grew up less than an hour away from the Menominee reservation, I learned more about tribal food, culture and family life reading this single slender book than I did in more than two decades as his regional neighbor. Good Seeds is a poignant, important book.
Wisconsin Supper Clubs: Another Round
by Ron Faiola (Agate)
One of my fondest memories of supper clubs is an early one, when several high school friends and I drove in a borrowed green Ford Mustang “up the coast” from Green Bay to the Club Chalet, an A-framed structure that sat on a rise near the intersection of Highways 57 and A, and boasted beautiful views of the bay. It was a rite-of-passage kind of adventure that included a swanky, out-of-town destination, Alaskan king crab legs and heavy-on-the-booze brandy old-fashioneds. Countless supper club experiences later, I still get that grown-up, I-belong feeling, and I still relish the classic fare served up with heartland graciousness at such places as the ones in Ron Faiola’s new hardcover.
The book, as with his first tour of Wisconsin supper clubs, features fifty establishments arranged in geographic sections with big, colorful local-flavor photos on every page. Faiola’s tone is easy-going and personal, and his stories blend supper club and family history with culinary and architectural description.
I got a kick out of the “My Take” sidebars, in which he covers extras like local folk legends (Rhinelander’s Hodag monster); house specialties (jaeger schnitzel and sauerkraut bread at Gib’s on the Lake, Kewaunee); and “it’s a small world” coincidences (overhearing a group at a nearby table discussing his fi rst book).
Northeastern Wisconsin supper clubs covered in Another Round include Club Chalet, Gib’s on the Lake, Nightingale Supper Club (Sturgeon Bay), River’s Edge (Marinette) and The Boarding House (Suring).
Soil Sisters: A Toolkit for Women Farmers
by Lisa Kivirist (New Society Publishers)
Lisa Kivirist has done it again. Coauthor of four books related to food and sustainability, she knocks it out of the park with a comprehensive, first-of-its-kind guide to farming that’s geared to the fastest growing group in agriculture—women. As founder/director of an award-winning resource center for rural women, and a farmer herself, Kivirist is well placed to instruct on the full spectrum of resources that today’s female growers need. She covers everything from risk management and raising livestock to business planning and body care. Along the way, she shares the stories of more than 100 very cool women who are transforming our food system. Soil Sisters is engaging, inspiring and practical. Damn, she’s good.