Badger Food and the Like

It’s possible that I am genetically predisposed to be a Badger. A Cheesehead. That is, a Wisconsinite. That thought found its way back into my brain by way of an article on Wisconsin Public Radio‘s web site. In months and years past, I’ve sensed that I had a connection to Wisconsin at the cellular level, thanks to my affection for pickled herring and liverwurst. Today’s resurrection of that impression was sparked by an article about a Milwaukee tradition, Cannibal sandwiches. Cannibal sandwiches, to my way of thinking, must be related to steak tartare, which comprises ground meat, onions, capers, pepper, and various other seasonings. Some recipes call for raw egg yolks to be thrown into the mix. Generally, I think, it is served with rye bread. Cannibal sandwiches are not as elaborate. They consist of very lean ground beef smeared on rye bread and topped with raw onion. I am confident my taste for Cannibal sandwiches will mirror my appreciation for steak tartare. I absolutely love steak tartare.

Now that I’ve read about Cannibal sandwiches, I feel compelled to give them a try. According to the WPR article, the safest way to enjoy Cannibal sandwiches is to purchase a fresh, very lean cut of beef from a good butcher and ask for it to be freshly ground with a clean grinder. It would help, the article suggests, to let the butcher know you plan to eat the beef raw. Then, make your Cannibal sandwiches the same day you buy the freshly-ground beef. I think the appropriate way to explore this taste sensation would be to get plenty of beef to make several Cannibal sandwiches and enough to make a nice helping of steak tartare.

I once began an endeavor (back in November 2013) which would involve making and tasting a number of regional cuisines from all over the U.S. and Canada. Though I didn’t complete the undertaking, I did investigate several regional dishes and actually made some of them (noted by an asterisk below):

  1. Minorcan Clam Chowder (Northeast Florida)
  2. American Chop Suey (Connecticut/New England) [AKA “Goulash” in the U.S. Midwest]
  3. Sseafood Gumbo (Creole/Coastal Louisiana)
  4. Rappie Pie (Acadian/Nova Scotian)
  5. Sausage/Chicken Gumbo (Cajun/Louisiana)
  6. *Philly Cheesesteak (Philadelphia)
  7. Chicken Booyah (Northeastern Wisconsin)
  8. Smoked Salmon Tartare (Pacific Northwest)
  9. *Arroz con Camarones (South Texas Coast, AKA John’s kitchen)
  10. Succotash (New England)
  11. Jiggs Dinner (Newfoundland/Labrador)
  12. Pan-Seared Grouper (Southeast/”Floribbean”)
  13. *Tourtiere du Shack (Quebec)
  14. Cincinnati Chile (Cincinnati)
  15. Spiedie Sandwiches (Binghamton, New York)
  16. Muffuletta Sandwiches (New Orleans)
  17. *Cornish Pasties (Michigan)
  18. Chicken with Tamarind Ginger Sauce (Southeast/”Floribbean”)
  19. *King Ranch Chicken (Southwest)
  20. Fish Tacos (West Coast)
  21. Oyster Pie (Northeast-NY)
  22. Grilled Pacific Halibut w/ Rhubarb Compote & Balsamic Strawberries (Pacific Northwest)
  23. Cannibal Sandwiches (a Milwaukee/Wisconsin add-on as of March 30, 2019)

I’ve actually made a few others, as well, but not as part of the abandoned endeavor. I abandoned it, by the way, because I was unable to spark enough enthusiasm among others (namely, my wife) to warrant going to the trouble. Sure, I could have made the dishes and we could have eaten them, but without the drumbeat of excitement…it just wasn’t worth the effort. But, now, thanks to my introduction to the concept of Cannibal sandwiches, I may revisit the idea. Perhaps I can find some adventurous Wisconsinites in the Village who might also be willing to explore Jiggs Dinner and others. Here’s a link to a Jiggs Dinner recipe, by the way.

The list above was only to have been a start. I created it to serve as a kick in the rear; a means of sparking my enthusiasm. As I suggested above, it worked for me, but not sufficiently well for my entire wife.

Until my esophageal brokenness is repaired, though, many of these dishes are apt to be too troublesome for my gut to tolerate. So, I will wait. I will plan. And I will rejoice when, finally, I can embark again on a culinary adventure (perhaps with a small cheering section alongside, anxious to enjoy the meals with me).

Somewhere along the way, in years past, I became enamored of Hidden Kitchens, a radio program created and produced by Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva. I’d like to find recordings of those programs and select some of the dishes they discussed, adding to my list of regional dishes. It would be great fun, I think, to prepare dishes unique to every state/province/region. And perhaps write about them. Ah, we shall see. If my body would only cooperate. And, of course, the larder would have to cooperate, too. Getting the ingredients for many of the dishes on my list is apt to be difficult. But I can adapt and adjust, using available ingredients. Can’t I?

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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