When the Boffin and I took the road trip to pick up the Sprog we decided to make it an overnight getaway. Madison, Wisconsin is one of our favorite places to take jaunt.
U.K. readers, if you watched the 7 Up documentary series, you might remember Prof. Nick Hitchen, the Yorkshire professor who expatted to the States to establish his academic career. He ended up in Madison and is tenured at the University of Wisconsin. I cannot overemphasized how much the university permeates every pore of this place. It’s the Home of the Badgers, and the mascot is Bucky Badger. Now in some parts of the U.K., “badger” can be replaced with “beaver,” as far as naughty slang is concerned, so we can get some great giggle potential here. For example, the local businesses like to use “badger” in their names, so we have places like Badger Bowl and Badger Self-Storage. The possibilities are endless.
Juvenile humor aside, our first stop when we got to Madison was the Dane County Farmers’ Market. This market is set up around the square of the state capitol building, which gives it a lovely setting and offers much more than your standard fruit, veg, and flowers. Of course, a market this good leads to crowds, so you find yourself mincing through rather than walking, so patience is definitely necessary.
So what can you get there that’s out of the ordinary? It’s Wisconsin, so you can buy cheese, specifically fresh cheese curds. Since this is America, forget about just buying plain old cheese curds. How about buying chive and onion? Pepper? Garlic?
We also had to stock up on local maple syrup, and several maple farms run stands at the market. The U.K. isn’t a maple syrup nation because they don’t really make the things that we do, so there isn’t as much of a call for it. Actually, I need to correct myself. I originally stated in this spot that there aren’t a lot of maple trees in the U.K. The Boffin’s uncle told me that there are plenty, but they are of the wrong variety. My point being is that maple syrup is ludicrously expensive over there because they import it from Canada. The half-gallon that we bought cost $28.00 (£18.00). In the U.K., it would have cost $66.00 (£42.00). Keep this in mind, Americans, in your moving to England fantasies.
Now, being that this is a college town, there is a lot of environmental awareness and focus on sustainability. As good as it can be, things can go into the ridiculous, so give me a chance to make a point. This sign was just an example of many that I saw around the market.
“No chemicals used.” Well, that’s a surprise to me. How did this honey come about, if no chemicals were used?
The whole process of making honey is obviously chemical. The flavors formed are chemical. Chemicals are part of everyday life, and living in the modern world means knowing the differences amongst the chemicals, and people like this are using the word to scare the people who panic when faced with the possibility that dihydrogen monoxide could be in their food, i.e. the ones who fell asleep in their science classes.
I have no issue with any farming practice that the person wants to use, but they owe the customer to be just as transparent as they want the Big Corporations to be. They have to walk the walk, and saying “no chemicals used” is just as disingenuous as any other marketing ploy. The opposite of Big Business is not always virtue. At the very least, I don’t want to buy a product from someone who thinks I am an idiot.
Off the soapbox and back to the good stuff and that good stuff has to be a donut…potato buttermilk…fried in lard. No, we don’t keep kosher, and I think we would have broken down, if we did. It just felt right to have a donut at the farmers’ market because hot, fresh donuts are very much a staple at the U.K. ones. It was that bit of a treat when you picked up your produce and a nice bouquet. My favorite was the one in Cambridge because they had the funky clothing booths and the soaps too. Ah…memories.
Donut review…It had lovely denser texture than your standard wheat donut, and the buttermilk gave it a wholesome quality. I liked it, but it definitely needs to be eaten right away. I tried a bit of one later, and the lard flavor really came through. Maybe they should keep with certain trends and wrap bacon around it. Just don’t ask me to eat it.
Wrapping up, you also had your share of the unusual.
As much as I love Chicagoland, it is great to get away and visit Madison. I wish we had a farmers’ market of this caliber close by. Of course, while we were gone, I have a couple of restaurant reviews under my belt too. Don’t worry, I didn’t eat the chicken.