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Late Night: Cheeseheads Unite

Hi, I’m Allison and I’m a cheesehead.

I may live in Illinois now, but I was born a cheesehead and a cheesehead I remain. I cheer for the Packers. I eat protein and carbs. I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, one of my pet ferrets is named Buckingham U. Badger, and I have been known to sing On Wisconsin in the shower. I breathe a sigh of relief when I hit the border and am once again among my own people. You can take the girl out of the frozen tundra, but you can’t take the frozen tundra out of the girl.

The national press discovered Wisconsin this month, thanks in part to the Packers winning the Super Bowl, but mostly due to tens of thousands of people who told the governor where to stick his union-busting bill and his crappy attitude and his contempt for working people. Since then it’s been an onslaught of satellite trucks and protest tourists, who want to be where the action is but may be perplexed by the local customs. So I’ve put together some information and advice about my native state that those blowing into town to bigfoot local reporters would do best to heed.

The food is not a joke. Sure, show headless shots of fat people walking around and talk shit about bratwurst if you want, but that stuff is delicious. Until you’ve had one, charred on the grill and full of hot juicy goodness, don’t knock it. Beef sticks are the food of the gods. Summer sausage is a reason to live. People still hunt and fish just to feed their families. And we’re serious about our cheese. Don’t come around with any of that Velveeta or that supermarket “sharp” cheddar that looks and tastes like cardboard. We’re so serious about cheese we give people a degree in it. We want the good stuff. More than that, we want to share it with you, so dig in with both hands.

You know what else isn’t a joke? Madison. Hee hee, liberal college town, hee hee, bastion of activisim, 30 square miles surrounded by reality, isn’t it just so cute? Let me tell you something: There are a lot worse things in the world than people who care about others enough to protest their ill-treatment, be those union workers, AIDS survivors, pot smokers, the people of Tibet, and any other group on behalf of which college students and others organize. There’s a lot to criticize when it comes to activism, but the very spirit of activism is something our state takes great pride in, so take your ironic detachment someplace else.

Yes, there’s a lot of drinking in Wisconsin. It’s cold. Something Wisconsinites drink a lot of that I’ve never noticed being particularly prevalent elsewhere? Brandy. Brandy and Coke, brandy old fashioneds, brandy in a fancy glass that you can sniff before you chug it, brandy everywhere. Looking for a warm-up on a chilly late winter night? Brandy. My great-uncle Chris used to make it in his basement with cherries. Yum.

It’s Packers, Brewers, Badgers, Bucks. In that order, pretty much, though it rotates with the seasons. The Packers we all know are awesome, the Brewers have sucked for 20 years but are due, the Badgers have good football, excellent hockey and just beat the #1 team in the nation in basketball. The Bucks … they’re fun to watch. Once you get past those four teams, it’s whatever tavern league softball team you’re on, and after that it’s golf or something. We will cheer for anything that has our state’s name on it. ANYTHING.

While driving through our fair state, feel free to play Wisconsin Highway Bingo: Cheese, Fireworks, Porn. It usually progresses in that order though the occasional store will combine the fireworks and the cheese. I have yet to see an emporium for all three but I’m on the watch for it.

When people say, “It must be warming up. It’s started snowing” they ARE NOT KIDDING.

Speaking of winter temperatures, anything over 40 is cause for shirtless shorts-wearing guys to begin walking around outside. Don’t be alarmed. They’re fine.

They’ve had a lot of brandy and probably some cheese.

All kidding aside, what is going on in Wisconsin right now is inspiring and deadly serious. I was there this past weekend and people are fighting the good fight. My natural inclination is to be a pessimist (that way I’ve never surprised) but watching things like this and this and this makes it hard not to hope for the future, even just a little.


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Allison Hantschel

Allison Hantschel

Allison Hantschel is a 10-year veteran of the newspaper business. She publishes First Draft, a writing and politics blog, with her partners Holden, Jude and Scout. She is the author of the books Chicago's Historic Irish Pubs (2011, Arcadia Publishing, with Mike Danahey) and It Doesn’t End With Us: The Story of the Daily Cardinal, about a great liberal journalism institution (2007, Heritage Books). She also edited the anthology “Special Plans: The Blogs on Douglas Feith and the Faulty Intelligence That Led to War” (2005, William, James & Co.) Her work has appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the Daily Southtown, Sirens Magazine, and Alternet. She lives in Chicago with her husband, two ferrets, and approximately 60 tons of books.