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Odd Wisconsin Archive

Beer and Sweet Corn

Required ingredients for a July weekend, aren't they? And both have a proud heritage in Wisconsin.

Corn was grown in fields like this for hundreds of years and stored by Indians in ceramic pots such as this one. Indians put it into stews, or dried and ground it to make "sagamite," described here by Fr. Jacques Marquette in 1673:

"The first course was a great wooden platter full of Sagamite, - that is to say, meal of Indian corn boiled in water, and seasoned with fat. The Master of Ceremonies filled a spoon with Sagamite three or four times, and put it to my mouth as if I were a little child. He did the same to Monsieur Joliet." (From his journal of the famous exploration of the Mississippi).

Corn was the staple of life in Wisconsin for about 1,000 years until settlers from the East brought with them a preference for wheat.

Beer is of more recent origin in Wisconsin. It doesn't appear to be mentioned in early French accounts, nor by the earliest English-speaking visitors. It was mid-19th-century German immigrants, of course, who brought a rich tradition of brewing into the heartland of North America. See advertising booklets from Schlitz, Miller, and Pabst, photos of beer gardens, and much more at our page on "Brewing and Prohibition" at Turning Points in Wisconsin History.

And as you toss back your next cold one and crunch the last golden kernels off the cob, think of your place in the long line of generations that did the same things on hot summer days in Wisconsin.

:: Posted in Curiosities on July 14, 2009

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