More Culinary Traditions

Eat me.

Last night Julie and I ate pasties, a traditional dish in the Northeast Wisconsin/Upper Michigan area. The version seen above is basically ground meat, potato, and rutabaga baked in a pocket of crust. It’s a dense meal. In fact all the pasty needs is a light salad to make it complete. In this part of the country the pasty is traditionally eaten with ketchup or gravy.

The pasty has an interesting history. It apparently originated in Cornwall and spread to various places around the world. Eventually Cornish miners found their way to NE Wisconsin/Upper Michigan and brought the meat pie recipe with them. Finnish miners apparently followed after them, became enamored with the pasty, and adopted it as their own.

Anyway, it’s good.

Julie went with the gravy...

But wait, there’s more! Julie and I spent the day in Door County, Wisconsin, which is basically the thumb of the state’s proverbial hand. After a day of shoppin’, walkin’, and mini-golfin’, we participated in another culinary tradition of the area: the fish boil. The proper Door County fish boil involves boiling small red potatoes in water and salt for a few minutes before adding onions of similar size. Then comes the fish. In this case we were treated to whitefish caught fresh in Lake Michigan only hours earlier.

After the fish cooks for about 8 minutes or so, the chef dumps a coffee can of kerosene onto the fire (it’s cooked outside) that creates an enormous ball of heat. A rapid boil ensues and excess nasties roll out the top of the pot, onto the ground, and therefore out of our food.

Fresh!

Fresh!

As I watched this process I couldn’t help but worry about the flavor. It seemed as though we were headed for a bland dinner. I was wrong! The flavor was perfect. The dish somehow retained all of the good aspects of a fishy flavor while remaining moist and delicious. Awesome stuff. For dessert, homemade cherry pie made from Door County’s famous cherries.

We concluded the day by driving from Ephraim back to Sturgeon Bay. The sun was low on the horizon, giving a golden touch to the green, yellow, blue, and red hues of the Door County landscape. As we drove through the fields of corn and the barns of hay and dairy cows, I couldn’t help but think of something Edward Abbey once wrote:

“This is the most beautiful place on earth. There are many such places.”

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