Taylor County Journal

In light of the Green Bay Packers' once again being the WORLD CHAMPIONS!!!! of American (but not Canadian) football, I think it's important to share a celebratory recipe.

Before I get to the pineapple cheese salad recipe I found in a 1973 cookbook published by Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Whittlesey, Wisconsin (duh), I thought I'd indulge in a bit of aimless pontification on culture. It's like how my favorite cookbook (a tome on Texas cooking that some company in Cambridge, MA published) tells me that the people who put beans in chili are the ones who shot JR. (spoiler alert!)

That pontification shit is what sells cookbooks, BTW. It's a shame that folks at Our Lady of Perpetual Help didn't know that.

Even though I'm a Minnesotan, I've got deep roots in Wisconsin. (I've also got ties to Pittsburgh, which that made choosing sides in yesterday's ballsport contest a bit stressful.) And yes, for the record, Minnesota and Wisconsin, are, in fact, two different places. Indeed, they're two different places that each contain a multitude of non-identical places (set theory, bitchez!). For example, Milwaukee is not Madison, which in turn is most certainly not Waupaca.

My people, as the kids say, are God-acknowledging German-Wisconsinites from Taylor County (it's up north, right above Clark county). I remember making the three-hour (really, that was it?) trip to visit my great grandmother, always making the turn off at the strip club at 94 and US-53, always passing the brewery in Chippewa Falls.

Taylor County is in the heart of German-Wisconsinite logging country. Granted, I'm not so sure how much logging the German immigrants used to do. By the time I was visiting, not only was the logging gone, but the Germans' descendants had gone on to do great things, running window factories, selling frozen pizzas, real American dream kinda stuff.

My ancestors were certainly no exception. My late great grandfather (Herman Jacobs; go ahead, try to find a more Germanic name-- I dare you.) was an important businessman in the county. Well, I assume he was. It's a small county, so presumably all the businessmen were important. During the Depression, he ran the local sweet shop with help from my grandmother and and great-uncle. They were well enough off to not really notice the not-so-greatness of the depression; not that I blame them. If I grew up with a dad who sold ice cream (dairy FTW!), I'd probably not pay so much attention to global economic crises, either.

Herman was also the local postmaster. Well, he was until FDR took office and appointed one of his cronies to the spot. I'm assuming FDR didn't actually know anyone in Taylor County, but I'm also pretty sure that part of my family tree voted Republican for decades because of this grave slight.

A while back, someone opened a logging-camp themed restaurant on the site of the old logging camp, cluttered with local memorabilia, including the letter appointing some guy, through no fault of his own, to replace my great grandfather as postmaster. If that plus a rusty circular saw blade doesn't say kitsch, I don't know what does. The whole place is sorta like Applebee's, only with more coffee and less margarine.

After Herman died, my great grandmother (Mildred) eventually remarried a local banker. All I know about their union is that one of my relatives briefly contemplated wearing a red dress to the ceremony, which deeply offended my great grandma and her conviction that the devil was both real and interested in fashion. My step great grandfather (or as I like to call him, my great grandpa) was the kinda guy who 1) loved sports (mercifully, he passed away shortly before his Brewers lost the World Series) and 2) bought a ginormous Oldsmobile every three years.

I like to think that Oldsmobile part is telling. He didn't go in for the Buick or Cadillac (quite possibly for financial reasons). His last purchase wasn't even a Delta 98-- he went with the 88. Perhaps that too says something about being a success in Northern Wisconsin. When one is a success in the region that brought the world McCarthy, it's best to be low key. My great grandfather's 88 was my first car, BTW-- I drove that thing for years.

Anyhow, Northern Wisconsin is the sort of place where they still play polka on public radio and the world runs on hotdish. Mildred knew hotdish, BTW. She was a cook for the Taylor County School District.

I managed to inherit one of her cookbooks, this one from a local Catholic church, which perhaps says something about where I sit in the family hierarchy. In any case, it's all the same-- my people are all sisters in Jell-o.

In preparing for a Super Bowl party (which I ultimately ended up staying home from-- sniffles), I wanted to make something suitable for my fellow Packer fans. But what? Five spice casserole? (That's oregano, garlic powder, thyme, a bay leaf, and salt, if you're playing at home.) Easy chili? Mexicali chili? (It's also pretty easy, and includes chili power “to taste.”)

In the end, I decided to go with the green-and-gold colored pineapple cheese salad. To make it, you'll need to grab the following ingredients from the IGA:

[I ate all of these things-- at the same time!]

1 pkg. Lime Jell-o
1 C. crushed pineapple
1/2 C. “nuts”
2 C. small marshmallows
1 C. cottage cheese
1 C. whipped cream

As you can see, Jell-o is sorta the universal culinary solvent of rural Wisconsin. Basically, (actually, exactly) what you do is mix up the Jell-o with a cup of boiling water, and stick it in the fridge until it starts to get syrupy (maybe about an hour). Then you mix in the other things. If you're planning something fancy, like a wedding or a funeral, you can dump the whole mess into a mold. If it's just a PTA meeting, you can probably get away with tupperware.

You should end up with something like this:

[Ghostbusters: great movie, or the greatest movie?]

It's delicious in it's own nostalgic way, BTW. Okay, I admit it, I liked it. I'll probably make it again, especially since my daughter seems to like it. As much of a foodie as I am, there really is space in my world for my cultural heritage, no matter how bland it is.

Where's David Brooks to make a non-sequitur about bootstraps when you need him? Anyways, yes, bootstraps, they taste like cottage cheese and lime jell-o. Which is not to say that the people of Wisconsin should have elected Scott Walker, but merely to point out that if I can be a huge 'mo and still get my Jell-o salad on, perhaps there's hope for all of us yet. There, is that a sufficient moral for the story? 'Cause that's all I got.

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