Friday, October 06, 2006

for lili, wherever you may find her

One of my fairly regular commenters, lili, the lili of Massachusetts, took one look at my post on soybeans a few days back and asked – but where are the cranberries? (Massachusetts is in great competition with Wisconsin over cranberries. Those darn coastal states – first California goes after our top cheese ranking, then Mass. tries to pop our berry success!)

Lili, this post is for you.

We are heading north, Ed and I. Up up, close to Lake Superior but not quite, up where our famous cross country skiers race each winter, up where the trees are already shaking off past season’s foliage.

But first, a search (en route) for the berries.

On the map, the cranberry bogs of central Wisconsin are clearly marked. Getting to them – oh, now wait, how do you do that? Dirt roads and packed sand hit the bottom of the car. I brace myself, knowing that any minute I will lose the floorboard. Ed dozes.

Far, far easier to find are... the vineyards. Burr Oak wines are made here. At the sight of the vines, I am flooded with nostalgia. We stop.

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So how would I rate the wines? Don’t know. (Thankfully?) the proprietors posted an "out to lunch" sign when we stopped by.

Perseverance is a good thing A lone farmer finally directs us to the bogs (straight ahead… can’t miss ‘em… both sides of the road…)

So these are they: strips of boggie field. Visited now by me and a crane or two.

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Still, the fields do not display the colors I had hoped for. . Beautiful indeed. Heather-like. But not the plump red you would find at your Thanksgiving table.

We continue our drive north.

I had picked our week-end destination of Cable, some six hours due northwest of Madison -- and that’s if you take roads that actually have pavement. I had some opposition, sure (how far did you say??), but I got stubborn. I like the idea of being north of north. North of Minneapolis, north of Poland. No, that’s wrong. Nothing in the U.S. is north of Poland. Only Alaska, and we’re talking the Arctic circle there.

The sun is getting terribly close to the horizon and we are still quite a number of miles from our stopping point.

And right there, off our backroad, we see the pickers.

Cranberry harvest. I can smell it. Indeed, a flooded cranberry bog…

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…and a hardy crew, corralling the berries toward the conveyor that will carry them to a tractor and then maybe to an Ocean Spray juice container or a baggie stamped “organic,” to be sold at Whole Foods – who knows.

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Before reaching our B&B, we stop at a micro brewery (the Angry Minnow). I'm told they cook well there.

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I order the Wisconsin northwoods Friday special – bottomless fish (the bottomless referring to the amount of fish you can request, all for $10.99) accompanied by "Polish potatoes." Yes, in the village of Hayward, starch from my old country.

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It’s dark when we pull into Cable. There’s a moon, sure, but I haven’t the inclination to linger and stare at it. It’s just a moon and the air is a month ahead of us there in Madison.

Tomorrow, I’ll look around more. Tonight – a bottle of rosé from the Languedoc and the warm laptop picking up the brilliant signals of the Internet.