?Que hora es?

Hace frio, dude!


I have to tell you guys the ?Que Hora Es? story before I can tell you the vata story.

Don’t worry. It will all make sense.

My co-worker, Carlos, is from Mexico. He got his master’s degree at Texas A&M and ended up working for a company in Wisconsin, a move that did not make his wife, also Mexican, happy, as – well, it’s obvious, isn’t it? IT’S TOO COLD HERE.

Plus, Paula has a master’s degree in industrial engineering but could not work because Carlos’ immigration status gave work permissions to him only, so she was super bored doing nothing. They have a little girl, but she was in school and there is only so much piddling around a person can do.


So I had this Mexican co-worker (they have since moved to our Austin office and are much happier), which meant I had someone to practice my Spanish with.

Not a lot of Spanish speakers in Milwaukee. Just saying. Not compared to Texas or Miami.

And we would joke about bad Spanish and then we found this video – you have watched it, right?

And then, Carlos came to work in January and put something on his wall.

“This came from my bank in Mexico,” he explained.

It was a calendar with an image of a clock.

The clock was made with that substrate that looks different depending on the angle you are seeing it from.

And above the clock was a title.

And the title read, “?QUE HORA ES?”

Which I still, three years later, think is hilarious, and each time we email each other, we open with, “?QUE HORA ES?”


The Tribe of We Who Do Not Waste

wisconsin 19
You re-use your ziplock bags, right? And the bags the kolaches came in?

I have yet to reach my grandmother’s level of thrift. She put out a small bag of trash about once every three years.

She re-used plastic containers. I learned that the Cool Whip container in the basement freezer contained not Cool Whip  but raspberries, so it was still a win.

When she bought frozen vegetables instead of using the ones she had grown in her garden, she carefully cut the bag open and then re-used it for other thingies in the freezer.

She canned her own fruit and veg – I tried to follow her crabapple example, but mine didn’t work so well (they are so ugly!) and she would have been appalled at the idea that I actually paid for crabapples instead of picking them myself, but I don’t have a crabapple tree, so I can’t.

Wisconsin 9

She didn’t throw food away. Bones were saved for stock (OK, that’s not unusual – everyone does that, right?). Bacon grease was saved because bacon. Any leftovers a human wouldn’t eat went to the neighbor’s dog, who knew a good deal when he saw one and hung around my grandma’s back door every evening.

Coffee grounds went to the roses. Recycling to the recycling.

And coffee cans and Crisco cans were saved for important things like cookies.

As in, she sent me home once with a can of cookies. But did you know that a Crisco can will not fit into your luggage? So you have to carry it? As you change plans at O’Hare? And people are wondering why you are carrying a can of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil through an airport?

Which is weird.

It is weird to be stared at for carrying Crisco or what people think is Crisco but then I remembered I was carrying cookies and if my plane got stuck on the tarmac, everyone would want to be my friend.



Texas Forever

Or, “I don’t want to watch some dumb TV show about Texas and football,” AKA Marido’s Famous Last Words



Friday Night Lights, which might be the Best TV Show That Has Ever Been Made, is –

Wait. That’s not where I meant to start.

I meant to start with, “Who knew there was a podcast all about ‘Friday Night Lights?'”

There is. It’s called, “Texas Forever” and it’s by two women who are not from Texas and in the first episode, the one says how she didn’t want to watch a show about Texas and football but after the first episode, she was hooked.

Two things.

  1. That was Marido’s reaction (more on that) and
  2. She and the other woman spent a lot of time talking about how much they didn’t like the character of Julie Taylor and I thought, “Yes! I, TOO, FOUND HER ANNOYING!”
  3. Wait. Three things. The other great thing about FNL is that after FNL, Connie Britton went on to star in Nashville, which might be the Second Best Show Ever On TV.

But back to Marido. Who went to college in Texas. Who worked in Austin after college. Who has some Texas in him.

When I read the reviews about Friday Night Lights, I got the DVD for season 1 from the library. My conversation with Marido went like this:

Me: Want to watch this TV show? It has rave reviews. One guy even wrote that it might be the best TV show he has ever seen.

Marido: I don’t want to watch a Stupid TV Show About Football And About Texas.

Me: But it’s supposed to be really good!

Marido: I do not want.

Me: OK. Whatever.

Then I watched the first five minutes of the show. I turned it off and went back upstairs.

If you don’t know what happens in the first few minutes, well – I won’t spoil it for you, but – it’s pretty dramatic.

Me: I want you to watch the first few minutes of the show with me later. If you don’t want to watch any more after that, that’s fine.

Marido: OK.


I turn on the TV. I turn on the DVD player. We watch the first few minutes.

I turn the DVD off.

Marido: Wait!

Me: What?


Me: I told you I wouldn’t make you watch more than a few minutes. A few minutes is over.

Marido: But maybe we could watch a few minutes more.

Me: You said you didn’t want to watch – and I quote, “A stupid TV show about football and about Texas.”

Marido: Well.

Me: So – I am not going to make you watch it.

Marido: But I want to see what happens.

Me: Nope.

Marido: You’re mean!

Me: You said you didn’t want to watch.

Marido: Maybe I want to watch.

Me: OK.

Reader, not only did we watch that entire episode, we watched the entire season. And the season after that. And the three seasons after that. Which required that we buy seasons four and five, as the library didn’t have them.

BTW, this was more or less the process we went through for Lonesome Dove (“I don’t want to watch some dumb western!”)

A Kolache Update

I’m afraid Texas wins this one, Wisconsin

Poppyseed kolaches on the left are from Weikel’s Bakery in Texas.

Bakery on the right is what Marido and I procured at the festival.

You guys. I am sad to write this, because I really wanted Wisconsin to win this one, by virtue of my Slovak grandmother and her kolaches, etc, etc., and because I helped to make the beehives (I wasn’t trusted with the kolaches) for the festival.

But Marido and I went to the festival on Friday and bought some of the kolaches (and a beehive – bottom left corner of the right-hand photo).

The Texas kolaches are better.

The Wisconsin kolaches taste like the ones my grandmother made.

Had I never tasted Texas kolaches, I would think Wisconsin kolaches are great.

But I have had Texas kolaches, and, as always, Texas takes it to 11.

Wisconsin kolaches use a regular bread dough – or just something rather plain – as a base.

Texas kolaches say, “We’ll see your plain bread dough and raise you some egg yolks, some shortening, and a stick of butter.”

And you know what? Wisconsin and Grandma, I love you, but I love rich dough even more.

An update to the update

There is more! Look what I just found in Garden and Gun! A recipe for sausage kolaches, which have their own name.

But the truly significant part of this is the recipe, which calls for almost two sticks of butter for four cups of flour vs the Texas Monthly recipe with half a cup of shortening and one stick of butter for six cups of flour.

People. We are talking fat here. I don’t understand why Wisconsin is so far behind on this. We are not shy about using lard and bacon grease and butter in our food here. Indeed, we are proud of it, although you will never hear anyone say that out loud because we (they) are also modest. But yes – Wisconsinites are shocked when they learn that some people throw bacon grease away. That’s a sin.

We need to up our kolache game, Wisconsin!

Ole and Lena, y’all!

The subject of rhubarb will be addressed later


You guys. I heard the best podcast today. A podcast where worlds collided.

OK. Where two worlds I have already mashed together or sort of set on a collision course met.

But they met. They met indeed.

It was the Texas Monthly Talk Like A Texan podcast. You have to hear it. It’s all about Texas sayings. The host interviewed Anne Dingus, who wrote the book More Texas Sayings Than You Can Shake A Stick At, and, more importantly, went to my college (I guess she could say I went to hers) so I am quite proud.

In the middle of the podcast (have you listened yet?), the host mentions something about Czech jokes – remember there are kolache-baking Czechs and Slovaks in Texas and why don’t they send some of those kolaches here? – and they segue into Ole and Lena jokes.

Ole and Lena jokes. I didn’t think those moved south of the Illinois border!

My favorite part – and I am not saying this to embarrass anyone – I thought it was very cute – is when Anne refers to “Olé!” and Lena jokes. 

If you live in Texas and have never heard an Ole and Lena joke told out loud and/or if your grandfather’s nickname wasn’t “Ole” (my grandpa Ernest’s nickname was “Ole” and so is my uncle Bill’s), then of course you are going to think that “Ole” is pronounced “Olé!”

Kind of like I didn’t know who this Gerta character was that my English 251 prof kept talking about and why isn’t he saying anything about the “Go-ee-thee” I see in the book?

So I have to tell you my favorite Ole and Lena joke.

Ole is on his deathbed. Pastor Inqvist has been to visit Ole and to give him the last rites. After a cup of coffee with Lena, the pastor left.

Ole is upstairs. He is waiting to die. Which is boring. But what else does he have to do?

Then he smells this delicious aroma from the kitchen.

It’s rhubarb bars – his favorite.

“Lena!” he calls. “Lena!”

But she does not hear him.

He calls again.

No Lena.

He has to take action. He tries to sit up, but he is too weak. So he rolls out of bed, falls to the floor, rests, and then starts crawling: out of the bedroom, down the hall, to the stairs, down the stairs, one by one, to the kitchen.

He gets to the kitchen and slowly and painfully pulls himself up to the counter.

As he is reaching for a warm rhubarb bar, Lena walks in with a basket of clothes. She sees what he’s doing, drops the basket, and runs to him.

Ole looks at her in gratitude.

She slaps his hand and says, “Ach, Ole! For shame! Dose are for after da funeral!”

And I have to tell you one of my favorite Texas sayings, which did not make the cut for the podcast:

When stupid gets to $80 a barrel, I want drilling rights on his head.


We’re not Baptist, we’re German


So yeah my husband and I (I need a name to call him here – I don’t like “DH” because even though I am not a big baseball fan, I am pretty sure “DH” means “designated hitter” and he is not a baseball player) –

Man. I need a name for him. He just volunteered that his stepdaughters called him “Butthead” and I told him we are not doing that.

For now, he will be my marido until the day I am hit with inspiration.

Anyways. Marido and I went to see James McMurtry when we was in Milwaukee and he was great, as I knew he would be.

I was annoyed at Marido. He had asked me if I even knew who McMurtry was and I answered that I was the one who had lived in Austin when McMurtry first became popular while Marido was already in California and what did he even know?

I have had that cassette since the late ’80s! I told him. Ever since I lived with Rebecca in the house on Indian Trail!


Aside from the fact that the bar sold more tickets than they had seats – we are not Aggies we are lazy we do not stand for the whole game we sit – and aside from the fact that there was a lady using one of the few available chairs as a place to put her foot, which, in a state where people refuse to zipper merge even when instructed by the DOT because it seems so darn rude, was shocking to me, it was fabulous.

But – I don’t think Mr. McMurtry understands The Ways of Wisconsin.

We sat (or stood) politely and listened politely. We were quiet. We were still.

He finally asked, “Is everyone in Wisconsin Baptist? There’s a dance floor but nobody’s on it.”

We’re not Baptist but we are funny.

A random audience person answered – without wasting words, which is a skill I have yet to master, “German.”

To which McMurtry replied, “You know, Baptists can impersonate Methodists (on the dance floor). I can’t tell the difference.”


The kolache wars

Or, why are there almost no kolaches in Milwaukee, even though there are Slovaks here?



Do you see that photo on the left? That is a plea for kolache makers.

I have two stories about that.

The first is about how I went to make kolaches with the kolache ladies because my grandmother used to make kolaches and I had not had a kolache in Wisconsin since my grandmother was alive.


Wait. Let’s focus on the second question.

Seriously people. I know we are modest up here and we keep our light under a bushel, but I really think Wisconsin should win over Texas in the kolache division.

Again with the Texas Monthly, I know, but why do I have to read about

  • kolaches
  • gourmet kolaches

in a magazine that isn’t about Wisconsin?

I mean, besides the fact that Texas has the largest Czech population in the US. (I gather from the wikipedia article – don’t judge – that they use “Czech” to include “Slovak.” My Slovak grandmother was adamant that the two had nothing to do with each other.)

But Wisconsin has the third-largest Czech population. Where are our kolache bakeries? Where? Look at what’s possible! Read it for yourself. Look at those images and drool.

(NB These are klobasniky, not kolache, but the question remains the same.)

We should have kolaches here. Someone do something about this.

Back to the first story.

I went to bake with the Slovak ladies. I wanted to make kolaches. But when I got there, they put me on beehives. I am sure beehives are important and require a degree of skill and finesse that kolaches do not need. I am sure of that.

But maybe it’s that they didn’t think I was good enough for kolaches.

So I am a bit hurt.

Hunting in Texas vs hunting in Wisconsin

My grandfather and my uncle with their deer. They hunted for food.
So this story in Texas Monthly intrigued me. (Texas Monthly is the magazine that made me wonder, Where is Wisconsin Monthly?) It’s all about how people spend a lot of money to hunt in Texas and that it’s a rich person’s game.

Which is completely bizarre to me. My family hunts. My uncles and my cousins hunt every fall. And my best cousin Angie, who is nine days older than I am and is the friend I have had the longest, runs a deer-processing business that my uncle, who was a third-generation butcher (he invented the Tombstone sausage stick!) started.

Angie makes amazing sausage, by the way. Anytime my husband and I have dinner guests, we argue about whether they are venison-sausage worthy. That is, if you are an out of state guest in my home and I have never offered you venison brats or venison summer sausage – well, you might be on the C list.

Anyhow. It never occurred to me that hunting was something for rich people. At least, regular hunting like deer and turkey hunting. Trophy hunting in Africa? That’s just show-offy, although if you are paying $10,000 for the license and otherwise spending money in a poor country, good for you.

Except if you are hunting elephants. If you shoot an elephant, I will give you the cut direct.

But if you want to prove your hunter bona fides, sit in a deer stand in northern Wisconsin in November. Then we’ll talk.

Here are the stats: For the 2017 hunting season (there may be 2018 data but I am not going to hunt for it), Wisconsin sold 700,843 licenses. Divided by a population of 5.795MM, that gives us 12% of the population with a hunting license.

For that same period, Texas sold 1,148,765 hunting licenses. For a population of 28.3 million, that’s about four percent of the population.

The way they break their data out in the table I reference is a little bit odd, but again – not going to spend time digging into it because I am kind of lazy but also because the scale of the difference is significant enough that we can draw the conclusions I want you to draw, which is that hunting is a lot more common in Wisconsin than it is in Texas.

Hunting here is something people do as a hobby but also do for food. It’s not a rich person’s game. You don’t hear of the rich folks in Milwaukee taking off to go hunting. I don’t, anyhow. So what’s the deal? Do the people you know hunt? Are they rich? Are they regular people? When did it become a rich person thing?

Hey dere, y’all!

Thanks for joining me!

Wisconsin stories for the modest

Making Strudel

Hey dere y’all! My family roots are deep in Wisconsin. My dad’s family is from Milwaukee and my mom grew up on a dairy farm in northern Wisconsin. My dad’s family moved nort’ when he was little. He and my mom met at the bar at the bowling alley in Dorchester and the rest is history.

My dad was in the air force, so we moved all over. I lived most of my childhood outside of the US. When we were in the States, we were in Texas.

I live in Milwaukee now, completely by coincidence. My husband and I met at our 20-year college reunion in Houston. (I was in the market for a used husband and I found a great one with relatively low mileage.) He is from Pittsburgh but had discovered Milwaukee via the old County Stadium and Summerfest.

When I moved to the 414 to marry him, I wondered where the Wisconsin Monthly magazine was. I wondered where the Wisconsin Foodways group was. I wondered where all the great Wisconsin stories were being told. I know these stories are out there.

Then I realized that up here? We are very modest. But I am a Twisconsinite (Wexan?), so I can do some bragging. Besides, it ain’t bragging if you done it.

We have great stories to tell in Wisconsin. I want to tell some of them here.

PS That photo is of my grandma making strudel.