Swedish Lake George, Wisconsin’s need for a phonics textbook, and that time I wanted to can all the things in the entire universe that could possibly be tasty

We’re currently in Door County, Wisconsin’s pinky-finger peninsula that sticks out into Lake Michigan and subsequently forms Green Bay. It’s like Wisconsin’s Cape Cod, if Cape Cod were on a lake. So it’s like Wisconsin’s Lake George area. With Swedes. We’re talking a pitched roof BONANZA. And little wood carvings. And Lutherans EVERYWHERE. And goats. Not real goats, but pictures of them (Swedes like goats, apparently).

So anyway, Door County is absolutely beautiful. David and I are staying with David’s dad, Paul, and Paul’s girlfriend, Mary, in this little cabin in a town called Ephraim right along Green Bay.

We interrupt this scenic tourism commercial for a fun little game. Close your eyes and imagine–just imagine–that you’re not from Wisconsin. Hell, go as far out of reality as to imagine that you’re not even Midwestern, but you also just happened to get married and your husband, who actually is Midwestern, gets a job out in a state that didn’t help fight the Revolutionary War, and really likes cheese (no correlation, as far as you can tell). So you move to this state where there are overheated cows and dying corn and lots of friendly, tall blonde people. So you study the state map and decide to learn the names of some of the towns. Towns like Prarie du Chien, or Berlin, or Ephraim. And you think, “Oh! I took a year of French in high school and 15 years of ballet, I bet I can pronounce that.” Or “I know that one! It’s the capital of Germany!” Or “Isn’t that name in the Bible?” If nothing else, you presume you can just rely on your time learning the International Phonetic Alphabet. But then, you’d be wrong. So very, very wrong.

Prarie du Chien: French etymology, translated to “Dog Prarie.” In French, it’d be Prarie duh shiehn). In Wisconsin-ese, it’s Prarie-doo-sheen. Classy, right? 

Berlin: We all know this city. Deutschland! But the emPHAsis is on the wrong sylLAble here. In Wisconsin-ese, it’s BER-lin. Yup. If the Fourth Reich ever rises and the Germans attack, and it’s not because of anything Euro-related, we’ll know why.

Ephraim: To those familiar with phonics, or speech classes, or, well, reading, one sees the ‘ai’ sound and thinks, “Ai! Like ‘day’!” If nothing else, channel your inner Eliza Doolittle and proclaim the Iberian flatland’s proclivity for precipitation. But, well, then you wouldn’t be speaking Wisconsin-ese. Because, here, that there city’s called EE-fram.

Even if I could get a job teaching English here, my poor students still wouldn’t be able to understand their neighbors.

Right! Ephraim! That’s where we are! And so, this morning we traversed some of the nearby shops, where there were all the standard “Buy our edible pride! This food is from here!” foods. Candies, chocolates, fruits, beer and wine galore, and ALL THE CANNED FOOD IN THE WORLD. Or, more exactly, ALL THE FOODS THAT COULD EVER BE CANNED EVER IN ALL THE TASTY WAYS. Jams? Yes. Peach. Raspberry. Raspberry Peach. Cherry Amaretto. Blackberry. Apple Cinnamon. Watermelon Kiwi. Jalopeño Tequila. (I dare you to think of a jam flavor they didn’t have. I double-dog dare you.) Butters? Yes. Apple, Pumpkin, Sweet potato. (imagine the fall tastiness!) Pie fillings? Of course! Cherry, Strawberry Rhubarb, Apple Cinnamon Cranberry. Not one for sweets? Salsa! Pickles! Mustards! Salad Dressings! Funky flavors of every vegetable imaginable!

I was like a dog surrounded by all the bacon in the world (they had a bacon salad dressing, too). It didn’t matter that in the past two months I’ve made upwards of 200 jars of jelly. I now live in a place where other people can things, too! And it’s normal! Jars in cupboards aren’t always strange! And everyone–seriously, everyone–I’ve talked to recently has a garden.

But, of course, normal is a little too calm for me. Why just can small amounts of things sporadically? I want to can ALL THE THINGS. But, you see, food costs money. So I’m hereby accepting donations–food, grocery store gift certificates, or friendships with farmers–so that I get more food. Free food. To can, and then make all the tasty things. Coming soon under a Christmas tree near you! Or maybe sold at a farmers market. Who said unemployment is about job-searching and eating bonbons? It’s about piano-playing and making pie filling. Please.


One thought on “Swedish Lake George, Wisconsin’s need for a phonics textbook, and that time I wanted to can all the things in the entire universe that could possibly be tasty

  1. While I don’t usually take it upon myself to defend Wisconsin’s honor (with David around the post would be redundant), Maine, which is on the East Coast and did take part in the revolutionary war (albeit as part of Massachusetts, a relationship everyone involved finds awkward) has the same philosophy with pronunciations, which is ‘this is our town/island/mountain/fjord, we pronounce it our way’. The most obvious example not of the Bah Habah variety would be the town of Calais, which is decidedly not pronounced with the French Cal-ay, but the more Klingon Kalas.

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