Food memories are one of the easiest ways to trigger nostalgia. Those smells and tastes can take us back to a point in our past in a moment. Here in Wisconsin, we’ve got some pretty amazing food. If you ever have to leave here, one of the biggest things you miss is the food. For better or worse, a lot of our identity as a state is tied into food. We’re known for beer and brats, Racing Sausages and cheese. Sure, they’re stereotypes, but they also have basis in fact. If you grew up in Wisconsin, you’ve had ready access to these foods that are classic Wisconsin:
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. A fish fry
In Wisconsin, the fish fry is ubiquitous and it's one of the things that people around the world identify as being purely Wisconsin. Sure, it's got origins in Lenten Fridays, but we've taken it far beyond that. A fish fry is a way of life here.
Someone once told me they view kringle like potato chips - you never never eat just one (piece). Kringle is always out a family functions or work parties and every time you walk past, you take another slice until you realize you've eaten half that delicious pastry ring. It's perfect for breakfast with your morning coffee or as a sweet end to your meal.
3. Butter burgers
These delicious, melty burgers are so good Culver's has built a nationwide chain on them. It's unsurprising that here in Wisconsin we found a way to add more dairy to something like a burger, honestly.
One of the best signs of spring is the smell of bratwurst cooking on the grill permeating the air. It hovers like a delicious fog over the Miller Park parking lots. It wafts through neighborhoods and welcomes in the warmer weather and grilling season.
5. Cheese curds
Who here hasn't just made a meal of these wonderful, squeaky little bits of love? They come in that non-resealable bag that's probably too much for a snack but then you get near the end and you think it would be silly to save that little bit, so you just devour the whole thing. Oops?
6. Square cut, thin crust pizza
Folks south of our state love a big, deep, doughy pizza, but here in Wisconsin we love this cracker-thin, crispy, crumbly deliciousness. We spread those toppings all the way to the edges and fight for the best bits when it finally gets served.
7. Fish boil
These staples of Door County came about as an economical way to feed large groups of workers. Now the whitefish boils are a staple of life up here and each person or place has a slightly different way of doing it.
Wisconsin produces more than half of the world's cranberries. I never realized growing up that our access to cranberries was unusual. My mom made fresh breads and muffins using them all the time. They're kind of wrapped into the fabric of life here and we don't even realize how lucky we are.
9. Beer cheese soup
This one feels pretty self-explanatory, right? We love beer. We love cheese. It gets cold. Beer cheese soup is born. Cozy, comforting and containing all our very favorite things, there might not be a more Wisconsin dish to warm you up on a cold winter day.
Obviously these aren't native to the area, but with a large number of Polish immigrants that settled in the area, these Fat Tuesday delicacies became a part of the way of life in Wisconsin. Nearly every culture has a food tradition tied to clearing the cupboards of "bad" things before Lent, but few are as tasty as paczki.
11. Fried cheese curds
How to improve on our favorite, delicious cheese treat? Deep fry them til they're melty and gooey and then dip them in sauce! The curds' properties make them great for frying - they get a little soft and gooey, but don't melt totally or lose their shape.
12. Pickled herring
This classic Wisconsin treat combines Norwegian roots with the sensibilities of life in the early 20th century. Herring was cheap, abundant and could be preserved. During the Depression years, it gained in popularity and now one of the most well-known makers of the treat has been located in Milwaukee for going on 90 years.
13. Door County Cherries
These always felt like a special delicacy to me. Getting them was a big treat in my family, life we were really being allowed to have something special. These days, I make sure to pick up some dried cherries as well as other items from their booth at the State Fair. Baking with them is a special treat.
14. Frozen custard
No one seems to know how or why frozen custard became such a big deal with southeastern Wisconsin. But the egg-rich frozen delicacy is basically synonymous with our state now and you'll find shops in spots all across the state. The rich, smooth, creamy custard is a Wisconsin staple.
These Cornish hand pies were introduced in Wisconsin by the men from Cornwall who came to the area to work in the mines. They're actually the folks responsible for our "Badger" nickname.
What other foods do you associate with growing up in Wisconsin? Let us know in the comments!