Why I love Wisconsin

Thanks to Google Analytics and other widgets and whistles I can see where the visitors to my blog come from. On days when I have too much time on my hands (like when the Red Sox don’t advance in the playoffs, for example) I can entertain myself by analyzing the patterns of visits.

The state with the most visits is, as one might expect, Massachusetts, where I live and move and have my being, as do many of my friends and family. Other states with good representation include some of the adjacent New England states, Maine, especially, where my brother and his family live.

But one demographic that has been a surprise is the number of visitors I get from Wisconsin. Now I do have some family in Wisconsin, and a number of friends, which might account for some of it. But I have another theory about why I get so many visits from Wisconsin. My blog is mostly about theology and secondarily about food, and Wisconsinites apparently like both theology and food.

Here’s the evidence. I first noticed a big spike in Wisconsin traffic after I posted my first recipe (for chicken enchiladas) and I figured this was because it was laden with cheese. I don’t think of Wisconsin as a hotbed of Tex-Mex cusine, but apparently the cheese carries the day, for the same thing happened when I posted my shrimp saganaki recipe (also laden with cheese.) Two of my Facebook friends reposted the saganaki recipe, both from Wisconsin. Coincidence? I don’t think so. So food in general and cheese in particular seem to be a factor. Not much Wisconsin traffic on my mussels recipe, but then again, not many mussels there either.

Now I know that Wisconsin folks like their chow, and they have some good chow to like. And it is not just the cheese, although that is a wonderful thing. They have a whole pork fat love thing going for them, too. I once went to Mader’s, a German restaurant in Milwaukee, and ate a pork shank that could be barely contained on a platter nearly as big as home plate. And for Christmas my Wisconsin in-laws sent us this applewood smoked bacon from Nueske’s that makes it hard to eat any other bacon ever again (but I force myself.)

I’ve been visiting Wisconsin since my college days in the sixties when I went to Coe College in nearby Iowa. My first trip was with the Coe choir, when we did a concert in Janesville. We stayed with host families, and my roommate and I stayed with some lovely people of modest means, and it was clear that the bed we shared was our hosts’ and they had slept on a couch to extend us hospitality. That kind of hospitality impressed me, and I still think of Wisconsin as a hospitable place.

I’ve been back there several times since college days. When my brother-in-law went to Badger U to get his law degree I returned to Madison to visit for his graduation (he reminds me that I commented that I didn’t recognize the place without the smell of tear gas in the air) and I came back a few years later for his marriage as he settled down there to stay. I had my first beer and brats dinner there with him. He’s become such a Wisconsinite that he’s even abandoned his once beloved Patriots for the Packers, but I guess “when in Rome” and all that.

Anyway, I think my theory about food and theology makes a certain sense. First of all, Wisconsin is a farming state, and so good food is an important part of it’s life. To celebrate this they have lots of “fests” in Wisconsin: Oktoberfest, Summerfest, German Fest, Irish Fest, Festa Italiana, not to mention Cheese Days, and the ever-popular Brat Days in Sheboygan.

And the interest in theology makes sense, too, as 85% of the population are Christian, of which 55% are Protestant and 29% are Roman Catholic. And the Christians in Wisconsin aren’t theologically lazy latitudinarians like so many of us here in New England, but folks who approach doctrine with a certain rigor, like the Lutherans, who make up 23% of the population. Lutherans care enough about doctrine to split over it sometimes, so there are three good-sized Lutheran tribes there.

Even my own United Church of Christ, which comprises but 2% of the population of Wisconsin, displays significantly more interest in theology there than in most places I know.

So to all my Wisconsin blog readers who enjoy good food and good theology, thank you for your support, and keep up the good work. On Wisconsin!

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