Cheese Curd Weekend

This weekend I was reminded of the definition of "isthmus," because I was on one in Wisconsin, for the Ohio State versus Wisconsin game. Madison, as it turns out, is on an isthmus - the narrow strip of land between two bodies of water. (I had to mentally sort out the difference between isthmus, archipelago, and peninsula.) The two bodies of water are Lake Monona and Lake Mendota...which I quickly just started collectively calling Lake Menomena. Close enough.
It was a gorgeous fall football weekend for strolling around the streets of Madison with two friends who are badger grads. We stopped by the State Capitol, and planned the day's pre-game itinerary to hit the favorite college stops, like the student union terrace. I confessed to never having tasted cheese curds, so that became an early menu item at our first stop for the favorite tomato mushroom bisque soup friend Andrea remembered from her undergrad days. As I reflected on how nice it was to be in a new town with folks who knew the best places to be she quickly interjected, "Keep in mind, this is the soup I liked when I was 19 years old...when I had no money, had just left little Kimberly, Wisconsin and wore green boots thinking they were grunge." Look at those golden fried cheese curds!

Before heading out to watch the game at a bar (we didn't have tickets) we stopped at Madison's Tornado Room for Old-Fashioneds. In a very Mad Men setting with leather booths and retro lighting, I learned that parts of Wisconsin never really left the brown liquor era, and ordering an Old Fashioned correctly can make you look like you belong. "Call" your alcohol first (brandy or whiskey) followed by your mixer (sweet or sour) and your garnish (cherries, olives, onion...) For me it was Brandy Old Fashioned, sweet with cherries. This weekend reminded me that even across state lines and between families, our cultures can be very distinct, and it's fun to get to know other traditions, foods and drinks.

The evening continued with more cheese curds, and decidedly lower brow beer choices. It was here that I watched the end of the game that didn't go so well for the Buckeyes. I told Jason that there had been a lot of Buckeye fans in town and he matter-of-factly replied, "There are a lot of Buckeye fans everywhere." Here I am watching the game come to its sad end...but an outcome that made a lot of people in Wisconsin pretty happy. Since I chose to primarily wear neutral red, I fit right in and avoided too many hecklers. (The guy at the bar did notice my OSU t-shirt and kept on shooting me smug looks over his shoulder as the minutes ticked down. Whatever.)

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