Chapter 9: Nice People, Black Cats, Brandy Old Fashioned Sour

Every person and every culture has their own way of being nice. Switching between norms of Niceties can be difficult. There are always exceptions to the rule, and there really are no rules, but if Hucklberry had to define a norm about the people here he would have to say, “Really nice”.

When he is walking down a hill after watching a pack of sheep mosey on down the zigzaggity road, he just might run into sheep cheese maker Jesus. He claims that his homemade artisenal Torta del Casar knocks the industrialized Extremaduran flag-ship cheese out of the ring – no holds barred. The reason Huckleberry finds him to be nice has little to do with the fact that they just shot the shit for 20 minutes over small-town-talk.  A classic not-what-but-how.

Friends here have no mercy. If they think you do something stupid, they tell you. They get all awkward and stuff and you know kinda like a kid who just told a lie when they try and hold back a really funny and astute observation or joke at your expense. It´s unnatural. They really want to tell you, and laugh at you, because hey – you´re friends.

When you look a little under the weather or stuffy, people get all up in your mucous. “When did it start?””Have you seen a doctor?””I had a crazy bout of diarrhea the other day, too””You don´t say? What was it like?” When did it become natural for Huckleberry to get into other peoples´business, especially all the juicy and bare assed details? Somewhere, sometime, this became friendly and often a nice bout of small talk.

To make a contextually comprehensive list of details that defines the Nicety of a people would be impossible. Just thinking about it racked his brain and he stumbled into the newly organized shelves of Appropriate Behaviours catalogued in the library of the small mindedness that housed his massive ego. One just simply gets a feel for it, he supposed.

Friendships and acquaintances were very different indeed here, but he could no longer specifically reference how. Guess he just wasn´t fresh enough off the press to make analytical comparisons. At this point that didn´t really matter anyhow, he felt welcome and at home among the Nice particular to this place. The world has a way of sneaking up on you; somewhere, somehow – Huckleberry could feel that the norms of interaction had come to a much more snug syncronization than before. He had hardly noticed.

And, now, he had been getting plenty of practice sneaking up on the black cats on the mountain. When he found them, he wondered if they thought he was bad luck.

After all, since his first success of haphazardly sneaking up on them, it had been raining almost everyday in Cáceres. It never really gets that cold there, and certainly never colder than his poorly insulated bedroom, but the cool damp temperatures were enough to put the lights out of the city´s activity for a while.

Two of his friends, Manolo and his girlfriend Francis, decided they were going to make a food day out of this rainy Sunday. What a splendid idea. Nothing like a rainy day to excuse making yourself some extraordinarily fancy food. Something that did link the Nice of Cáceres to the Nice of Wisconsin was that very human love of food. However, like behavioural norms, the type of ingredients one might use to express the culture of your Sincerity or Taste will always be distinct and impossible to reproduce. This is not to say, however, that it is impossible to acclimate to new tastes and understandings.

People keep asking him what typical American food is.

Oof. Should a priveledged white boy speak for the entire USA? No. Nonetheless, for certain parts of Wisconsin, he could surely muster up some answers. Of course, there are a lot of contradictory movements, ideologically opposing establishments, local product limitations (and potentials!) on one hand and corporate crutches on the other. Wisconsin is, at times, quite clearly a homogenized people. However, this in no way makes it a homogenous people. Just like any other place in the world, everyone is different from everyone and the radius of inclusion changes on the dime depending on the topic at hand. The populace can´t be represented, and as we see in more radical (both “left” and “right”) communities – some refuse to be represented, and others refuse to represent. The overwhelming majority of people are of European immigrant descent. African, Asian, Middle-Eastern, Native American (North-Central-South, all of it), and other bloodline descent makes up a smaller population of Wisconsin. Further, segregation -most heavily marked by the African American segregated neighborhoods in Milwaukee- is terrible. People came to Wisconsin for many reasons: cheap land (while Wisconsin was the frontier), jobs in a state of growing industry, political freedom (many a liberal German moved to America following failed revolutions during the 1800´s), and the idea of being far away from the rest of the nation to be simply left alone. 

The only thing he can offer is recollection. If asked what traditional Wisconsin foods are, what would he recall? Where Huckleberry is from, he´s not a foodie. There are sooo many people more qualified to express what food culture in Wisconsin was like.  To be frank, maybe it wasn´t appropriate for someone like Huckleberry to speak for Wisconsin foods.

So, Huckleberry took a moment to think of what he personally identified with, in a food and drink sense, even though his is sometimes senseless. The unorganized list goes as such:

Friday Night Fish Fry; Corned beef and cabbage; Dumplings from every corner of the world; Chinese hot-pot; Coleslaw; Meatloaf; Beer Brats; Frozen Custard joints, Dill Pickles, pickled anything, Venison steak, Venison sausage, Turkey stuffing, German potato salad, Italian Deli´s, Butcher Shops, Burger joints (MickyD´s is just their cancerous monopolist mutation), Egg salad, Milkshakes, Goat cheese, Sheep cheese, Cow cheese, 12 YEAR OLD CHEDDAR, Brandy Old Fahioned´s (sour), pumpkin cheesecake, anything cheesecake, farm pork roasts, Rhubarb, Maple syrup, Cornish pasties, morel mushrooms, all things cranberries, orchard apples, cabbage, heirloom tomatoes, wild rice, fundraiser dinners, organic and local produce (I want to verify this quote, “Vernon County has more organic farms than any other in the nation and is home to Organic Valley, the country’s largest organic farmers cooperative. Madison boasts the nation’s largest and highest-rated producer-only farmers’ market, and is home to such sustainability-geared organizations as Slow Food Wisconsin and REAP Food Group.” source), Pretzel bread with hot-spicy mustard!, playing euchre or sheepshead on a pontoon boat while drinking beer and eating SQUEAKY CHEESE CURDS, we have Booyah! Local Craft Microbreweries with just about every beer style the liver has ever known, and pumpkin pie.

The general Wisconsin Food list goes on but stops for now. If someone asked him to describe Madison´s food scene, his head would explode into a thousand green nettle gnocchi´s under the embarrassing pressure of his inexpertise.

So, to pay back some of these super nice friends of his, he´s been thinking of what he should cook up for them. They keep asking him for traditional Wisconsin food..how could he choose? Where would he get the most important thing: the ingredients? He´d figure it out, eventually.

Chapter 10: Acquaintances

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1 thought on “Chapter 9: Nice People, Black Cats, Brandy Old Fashioned Sour”

  1. So delicious.

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