Riding through Wisconsin is a visual journey through luscious greenery. My husband and I recently experienced this delight on our way to a vacation at my sister’s home. In fact, by getting lost listening to two navigation systems try to get us there and taking us out of our way, we got an extra few hours of staring at those tree canopies, rolling hills, barns and fields, charming small towns and numerous snowmobile bars that make up the roadways of Wisconsin.
After fifteen minutes of the kind of tenseness that being a couple pulled off to the side of road to “discuss” a map can create (yes, we graduated to the paper kind), we finally arrived in Rhinelander, glad that if we were going to get misdirected, at least it was in a beautiful state (Maybe Siri and Droid know more than we thought!).
I was on crutches from a foot injury followed by a bad bout of gout; but I was determined not to let that get in the way of enjoying the local flavor. So I limped around a giant flea market with my new friend Carol in the rain (thanks for the great shopping excursion Carol) learning how impolite some people can be while others go out of their way to be accommodating. And I practiced perfecting getting around tables in busy restaurants, but was rewarded with the most mouth wateringly perfect omelet the downtown Rhinelander Pub has to offer, along with cheerful local flavor of Judy’s outside of downtown. By the second day, I had graduated to a cane to help me board my brother-in-law’s awesome pontoon, which zipped and bounced along the waves of the lake-connected-to-lake-connected-to-even more-lakes that the Wisconsin landscape offers water lovers. I have to say that by the time we graduated to small town shopping (the towns surrounding the Rhinelander area of Wisconsin has the most awesome gifts shops, antique shops and art shops I’ve ever experienced in one place), I accepted the pain of gout as fair payment for the experience I was having. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a more relaxing vacation in my life (okay, okay, it probably had something to do with the fact that my sister and her husband are awesome cooks and experienced hosts. Being waited on hand and sore foot does a lot for the reduction of stress!)
When I was in the car on my way home, fondly remembering the week and wondering why I felt it was such a great experience, I realized it had nothing to do with Wisconsin’s beauty, the wonders of sun and water, the treasures I found or even the mouth-watering donuts of Lumberjacks and the perfectly cooked steaks and Asian cabbage salad we were served.
It was being with people who laugh at me, with me, even for me when I’m feeling upset at getting lost or reporting on the complications of my everyday life. I don’t know what my mom and my dad did to create the strings that grew into a family and an extended family tapestry, but it’s a skill beyond anything writing will ever accomplish for me. We’ve had the usual ups and downs that being related and opinionated, strong people creates within a family; but we’ve gotten through those and learned to just enjoy each other. I loved being with you, sisters.
In the tradition of my mom, here is an awesome recipe my hostess served.
Asian Cabbage Slaw (serves four)
Brown 2 pkgs broken-up Ramen noodles (throw away seasoning pkt) in ½ cup butter, along with 2 TB sesame seeds and 1 cup slivered almonds. Cool. Shred 1 head Napa cabbage and mix together with 4 to 5 slivered green onions. Chill cabbage mix.
Before serving, combine the cabbage mix with the Ramen noodle mixture and add this dressing:
Boil ¼ cup rice vinegar, 2 TB soy sauce, ½ cup sugar and ¾ cup oil. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes until sugar is dissolved. Cool.
Note to all our diabetic friends: the recipe is great with sugar substitute, but eliminate the step of boiling the vinegar. Just combine and let sit.
Genilee Swope Parente