Monday, August 4, 2008

Hometown Scenes

First - it seems there's a little shortage in postings around the innerwebs... GLAD IT'S NOT JUST ME! 'Nough said.

It may be evident: I love Madison. Over the last few days (when I wasn't blogging) I've been enjoying a few local wonders. The first is the Memorial Union Terrace, which is a Must-See for visitors. The Terrace is right on Lake Mendota, and strolling past the tables you can hear conversations about art, music, quantum physics, contemplative religion, who made it with whom....typical campus fare. I met an old friend there (in town for the day). When he'd gone, I stayed on enjoying the view for a while. I believe there's WiFi there, but I didn't have Daisy along. See those starburst-backed chairs? They're facsimiles of the chairs on the Terrace when the Union opened in 1928! (It was the first student union in the country and has a fascinating history which, if you want to know more, e-mail me.) I used to work at the Union (as Secretary to the Director), but almost everyone in town has worked at the Union in some capacity, it's sort of a rite of passage.

There's a beautiful Rathskeller on the first floor which has great food and is the best place in town to hang out if the weather's crummy and you don't want to sit on the Terrace. NOTE: that implies that we have crummy weather in Madison. We don't. SOME folks might not care for the bitter, frigid cold cooler days of winter or the blasting mosquito-ridden milder days of summer, but none of our weather is "crummy".

This is the exterior of the Rathskeller (which opens onto the Terrace). It really is a beautiful building, and a mainstay on campus. If you happen to be in Madison during the warm months, allow me to buy you a delicious grilled brat smothered in sauerkraut and mustard and an icy beer on the Terrace. It's a ritual (and besides that, I never miss the opportunity for a brat smothered in 'kraut.) I pay for it for days, but {burp} it is SO worth it! There are two theatres in the Union, a craft shop with darkroom, ceramics studio, &c; several reading rooms, two eateries offering all manner of comestibles and an ice cream counter serving famous Babcock Hall ice cream. (Babcock's the Dairy Sciences branch of the Ag School). See, they make this ice cream, "Orange Custard Chocolate Chip" which used to be available only at Halloween but on account of everyone in the world loving it to pieces they have it all the time now. NOTE: now I want me some. And it's late at night and they're not open. Durn.

Because you're not here at the moment (neener neener), here's what you'd see if we were sitting out on the Terrace checkin' out the dudes and chowin' down. Union members can take sailing lessons and then use one of the numerous small sailboats, for free!

Another joy of living in Madison in the summertime is going to the Farmers' Market on Saturday morning (you've already seen some pix of the Concerts on the Square). There are actually a few farmers' markets, but THE Farmers Market is the one around the Square. We mean to go every week, but usually only make it two or three times, unfortunately. As well as being a source of really fine produce, still warm from the fields, there are all manner of entertainments, special interest groups,'s a downright social event. Have you ever seen brussel sprouts "on the hoof"? They grow on enormous stalks and look like little green knitted bobbles all over them. They also tend to be waaaaay delicious, much better than even the fresh ones from the grocery.

The arrangements of the vegetables for sale is downright artistic, and the sun shining through bottles of honey, the discussions going on around one, the variety of things offered (which change seasonally, of course). In the spring there are a lot more flowers in the form of cut bouquets, seedlings and bulbs; midsummer (like now) brings out the hearty vegetables and fruits. I am glad to say that, these days, I can go to the Farmers' Market and buy me some zucchini ....yes, you saw that right. BUY ZUCCHINI! They never mention, at the retirement party, that besides not working you are cutting yourself off from the endless supply of Girl Sprout cookies, mammoth tins of popcorn and tubes of gift wrap at Christmas...and ZUCCHINI!! In case you're interested: I steam them, cut them lengthwise, scoop out the inside and mix it with beaten egg, seasoned breadcrumbs, and cheese. Did I mention cheese? LOTS of cheese. Grated cheeses, and then on top, parmesan. Then I bake them until the CHEESE melts (did I mention cheese?) and serve them with extra (all together now....) CHEESE!

And THAT is why I buy melted cheese delivery units fresh zucchini.

Our annual big purchase is our case of maple syrup. We have a favorite sugar bush, and if they don't have a full case of quart jars at the Market, Mr Dearling goes out on his motorcycle to pick it up. To conclude my Don't You Wish You Lived In Madison/Wisconsin rant, let me tell you about Maple Syrup. (But Dale-Harriet, what the heck does it have to do with knitting? don't give THAT to your cats!!)

Nope. Don't eat maple candy while knitting, and I don't need to tell you why. And SHEESH! Of COURSE you don't give maple syrup to cats. (They don't like it anyway. Nevermind.)

I, on the other hand, like maple syrup. I like cooking with it (glazes for meats, mixed with sweet potatoes, blended with balsamic vinegar over asparagus....). I like using it straight up, like over ice cream. ("Maple-sugar delivery system".) Because maple syrup and sugar tends to come from our climate (I hear they sugar in New England too) it tends to be very expensive and rare in other parts of the country. So when we travel, like to historical encampments, in other areas - we like to take jars of maple syrup as guesting gifts, and they're always well received.

These hot summer days are not going to last forever (!). When the Wheel turns and it becomes freezing cold again (oh yeah, don't delude yourselves, Wisconsinites)....when it DOES, let me share an old Shawnee recipe with y'all: Heat water. Add maple syrup until it's the color of strong tea. Stir gently and drink. (Yes, you there in the back, question? *imagine me cupping my ear* NO! Sorry, Mrs Butterworth doesn't cut it, has to be the real deal.) While you might think it would taste like watery syrup, I am here to tell you, NOPE!! Furthermore, you won't find another beverage, with or without alcohol, that warms you up faster or is more restorative. The Shawnee call this "Melasaneppe", and when you see the first flakes falling (won't be as long as you might think, people), remember it.

You may now resume your regulary scheduled knitting.


kmkat said...

Andrew brought maple syrup back to a family he knew in Chiapas. They of course had never seen it before but the wife/mother/cook figured out what to do with it right quick.

MX said...

Dale-Harriet, you're killing me. I love Madison too and it's been too long since I've been.
When and if I make another trip, I hope we can meet up for one of those brats.
You sold me on Madison and I wish I were packing this minute!

cheesehead with sticks said...

I cannot believe you just referenced "that time of year which shall remain unspoken of" so many times in this post! It's a good thing I love your blog so much that I am willing to overlook such atrocious behavior.


Nora said...

Aww. I got married at the Union, 20 years ago today! Wedding in Tripp Commons, reception in Great Hall, champaign on the Terrace... Thanks for the great photos!!

Hyacinth said...

Oh my goodness! I found my way here through the IBKC site and was just overwhelmed with all the memories of my beloved Madison! It's been almost 15 years since I left Madison but it's still one of my favorite places on earth...the Memorial Union terrace, the Rathskeller, Lake Mendota, the farmers! So many amazing memories (most involve skipping classes)...and you had to mention Babcock ice cream!!!!! Thanks for putting a huge smile on my face :)

Lee said...

If I am over the most hellacious head cold of summer, I will be headed to WI this weekend. Therein lies a huge decision: do we start the day at the Lands' End Warehouse sale or Farmers' Market on the Square? We're talking basic needs here, food vs. clothing. I fear I may be overruled in favor of LE but nothing can match that Market!

yarndork said...

The kids are after me to make those maple syrup candies like they did in the Little House books that I read them. Can you tell me a "real" brand that I can get here in Kansas that would work for those? If you haven't read it in a while, it's where after it snows, they heat up the syrup and then drizzle it in little swirls in the snow and let it cool and eat it. Dang it, now I'm hungry again.

Alwen said...

Mmmm, that sounds good, I'll have to remember it when the snow flies!

MollyBeees said...

I love this post. Have to try me some o' that maple syrup tea stuff. Yum!