For Local Food We Go to Wisconsin to Woodman’s
Eat Local Finds
Since we became a Local Family, we’ve traveled a lot to Wisconsin. Rather, I should say, we have traveled a lot to Wisconsin to be a Local Family. Was this in my head. I asked the Local Kid if Wisconsin had the local food bona fides I imagined it did. Yes, she said. OK, explain, I went on. She gave a great answer, and one that caused me to rip up the first draft I had of this post. It was all about the cheese. She pointed out the dominant role that cheese and dairy played in Wisconsin’s state agriculture and the subsequent pride Sconnie’s took in the resulting product. This created local pride and that local pride then extended to other area foods, the summer sausages, bratwurst, and cherry pies also associated with the state. It made even more sense when I contrasted it to Illinois. Why do we have less of a sense of local food here. Why do I feel the need all the time to travel north for my fix? Our state’s crops are corn-soy, and corn-soy especially grown for industrial use not food. Mmmm, pride in a steaming bowl of enthanol for breakfast?
Pride in their eat local culture means there’s plenty of ways to pad our our locavore lifestyle with Wisconsin products. More importantly, pride in their food means we have plenty of ways to access foods to live our locavore lives. There have been times were trips to Wisconsin were all that stood between us and nadir of Peruvian asparagus (or something like that). Long before Green City Market met sporadically year-round, the Dane County Farmer’s Market in Madison stuck to a full season schedule. In fact, with a rare Saturday off forthcoming for the Condiment Queen, we’re planning a Madison market visit. We know there is no better way to fill the local coffers in April than a visit to this market. Still, this was March and a Sunday. How else could we take advantage of that state’s bounty? How about stop at Woodman’s.
Woodman’s is a grocery store chain based in Janesville, Wisconsin, with outlets around the state (with a few encroachments into Illinois actually). If you have never shopped there, it is a cross between Aldi and Costco, except without the samples. Or the airy warehouse feel, instead this huge store can feel very much the rat maze; you must change orientations at least four times to walk this store. It can wear you out before you even get to your New Glarus beer, which must be purchased in a separated walled off area. You cannot pay with credit card. The shopping carts are vintage 1978. It takes work but the endless aisles you will find all sorts of deals. For instance, we found Yogi herbal teas for only $2.99 a box. We are not, however, going to Woodman’s for the tea. We are going there because it is in Wisconsin. Woodman’s is not locally focused the way, say most of these places are. It does not hit you over the head with Bucky Badger horseradish. Like everything else at Woodman’s, it’s takes work.
Of course, our shopping for Wisconsin foods must include things cherry. The pop selection is one of the better areas of Woodman’s. The delicious Blummer’s sodas made in Monroe, Wisconsin are just some of the “craft” soft drinks. Believe me, the black cherry stuff is very good. Other things we look for at Woodman’s are mustards, smoked fish, and jams. Given the intro to this post, what you will not find at Woodman’s are excellent examples of Wisconsin cheese. At best, there’s decent versions of commercial cheddar, like Hennings. In the past, we’ve found locally made Sugar River yogurt that we like, but we did not find that this time, so we really came home with no dairy. On the other hand, not all our eat local finds came from Wisconsin.
What a treat to find these packets of indoor grown, Michigan herbs. We have Passover a-comin’, and a dish I love to have at the Sedar table is salsa verde or herb sauce. Nothing goes better with the hard boiled eggs we have to eat, and it goes very well, too, with the chopped liver no one’s making us eat. I’m really glad to be able to make this year’s batch from local herbs. The Cookbook Addict has way more patience for all the nooks and crannies of Woodman’s. It was her diligence that found us these herbs. I finally corraled her to end our visit with one six pack of Spotted Cow, one of Cabin Fever Honey Bock (yes!), and a tankful 50 cents a gallon cheaper than in Oak Park. It’s good to shop Wisconsin.