Monday, December 3, 2007

Rhymes With Nasty

My boyfriend and I spent a stormy weekend in Mineral Point, a quaint historic town located amidst dairy farms and cheese factories in southwestern Wisconsin.

This town has all sorts of charm.

Historically preserved sandstone buildings from the 1840s and 1850s (including our little cottage!), a thriving artist enclave, several art galleries and antique stores, and colorful locals - mainly chatty gallery owners and fun drunks.

Lest you get the impression that everyone gets smashed all the time (although our B&B was called Brewery Creek), we found a closeknit community of friends who knew each other by name and gathered in large groups over coffee each morning.

We stumbled into one of the coffee shops on Saturday morning as a big winter storm rolled in. Snow was already falling rapidly and horizontally, but we were interested in making fresh tracks. The owners recommended a short hiking trail down the street from our cottage called, no joke, the Merry Christmas Mine Hill.

This place has a proud, well-documented history as a mining town. My companion, who read Mineral Point: A History from cover to cover over the weekend, could tell you more. But as I understand it, the discovery of lead brought a number of immigrants from Cornwall, England, to settle in the area. The Cornish influenced the architecture, culture, and particularly, the food.

So after our hike, and shortly before the snow turned to hail, then sleet, then freezing rain, we wandered into the Red Rooster Cafe to get ourselves some Cornish treats - pasty and figgyhobbin.

Pasty, which rhymes with nasty - as a newspaper headline screamed from the wall of the restaurant - is basically meatloaf with rutabega and onions wrapped up tight in a pastry crust.

The miners used to take pasty for lunch. The idea, as I learned from reading the menu, was that pasty could withstand a fall in case it was accidentally dropped into the mines.


It was actually quite good. With ketchup or chili sauce it made a nice meatloaf sandwich.

Next we ate figgyhobbin.

We had been fantasizing about figgyhobbin for days. What was figgyhobbin? And why could we not stop giggling everytime we said it?

Figgyhobbin turned out to be a sweet dessert with raisins, nuts, brown sugar, and cinnamon wrapped inside a pastry crust and bathed in caramel with whipped cream on top.

Double yum.

The town has such a strong sense of history with old buildings and photos everywhere that I almost felt transported back in time as I ate that food. I easily shy away from food that isn't familiar to me, but this meal reminded me how much you can learn about another culture or place by eating its traditional cuisine.

The next day we dug out the car and hit the road to explore the kitsch that is southwestern Wisconsin. If you don't believe me, click here to see one of the highlights.

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