In my last essay, I talked about all the things I’m doing that take up big chunks of my time. I neglected to mention that I’ve also had to go to Wisconsin to prepare our house for a new renter. I’m not going to talk about the things the old renter did, like taking down a wall between two bedrooms. I prefer to focus on the good things related to this trip. Making lemonade is one of my favorite tools, a subset of positive thinking.
Before I left, I heard all the jokes about how much I was going to freeze…and I have! Yet the first thing I did on landing in Milwaukee was indulge in some excellent ice cream at the airport. If I was going to freeze, I might as well be cold from the inside out. All the flavors looked so colorful and creamy. I had to ask for a taste or two before I could make up my mind. I finally settled on caramel sea salt and pink grapefruit, though the interface was a bit strange.
When I get back here, I tend to indulge, especially as I travel alone and feel sorry for myself. So I go to all my old haunts and order my favorite foods. Like a perch plate at the Yardarm Bar and Grill in Racine: deep fried lake perch with parmesan cheese sprinkled sand dollars (potato slices), a choice of slaw or cottage cheese, and a buttered slice of rye bread (hold the bread). Reminds me of the perch plates my family would get at the Eagles’ Club back home on Friday nights. This meal goes best with a Spotted Cow Beer from New Glarus. But I’m exercising it off with all the work on the house.
And when I travel up to Manitowoc to see my sisters over the weekend, I can indulge in a very old family food tradition of ice cream at Beerntsen’s Confectionary. It’s been there since 1932 and still operates in the same way, making candy with wooden paddles and copper kettles. Everyone in town pronounces it Bernsteins; I remember my shock when I realized we’d been mispronouncing it for decades.
The treat at the end was a stop at Beerntsen’s. With wildly flying snowflakes falling on faces and frozen to the bone, we’d pile into a black walnut booth at the old fashioned parlor, and shuck mittens, hats, scarves and coats. We always ordered hot fudge sundaes. I’m sure it wasn’t the hot fudge, but we’d warm up none-the-less.
Little has changed. They still have home-made chocolates, cream filled confections, brittles, toffees, truffles, chocolate covered nuts, and my favorite, Angel food. Their solid chocolates come in a myriad of shapes, some new, like high heels, computers, and cell phones, and long time favorites like pianos, bowling balls and pins, golf balls, moose (chocolate moose!), pigs, acorns and mice.
Grace is always game to go there with me. So we indulged. These days I get the chocolate malt, as it’s hard to find a place that makes malts in Hawai‘i except at the 50’s Cafe. It was so good.
The other indulgence I enjoyed in Manitowoc was a trip to the Pine River Dairy in the country south of town. It’s a small dairy that now makes butter, though the six generations that began with the sons of a civil war veteran did make cheese in the past. The little retail store stocks over 250 kinds of cheese, as well as sausage, ice cream, herring and pickled turkey gizzards (not something I’d go out of my way to eat).
They also had clothing novelties. I liked the cow hat, but don’t have enough room in my suitcase. After looking at everything, I bought a lunch of cheese curds and summer sausage, and ate it on a slab of Grace’s homemade gluten-free Pumpernickel bread with mustard. I have missed good bread on my wheat-free diet.
All these little pleasures make up a little bit for leaving my family and home. And they let me use one of my other favorite tools, honoring family traditions.
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