Saturday, August 1, 2009

Mandy Mae Miller Jr.

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The Pooch spends a day inside resting from a tumultuous week culminating in being locked in the barn for 24 hours. I venture off to a town on the Wisconsin River, St. Vincent De Paul and a cheese company. There's more trash than treasure at the resale store. The cheese factory is located in an industrial park on the south side of town. We pull up to a conveniently large parking lot and the outlet store. Next to the front door is a 4 foot high wooden carving of a morel mushroom. The town's motto is Morel Capital of the World.

Inside the large L shaped room, there's a bank of coolers at your left, a door to the cheese making area directly ahead and off to the right is a sample display. A box of toothpicks and a sign directs folks to use the toothpicks to sample varieties of cheese like a morel combo, 3 alarm cheese, pesto flavor cheese, horseradish, jalapeno, habanero and a few other kinds that have slipped my mind. At the cheese prep area suds flow under the door to the showroom. Large picture windows at the back of the sample station allow visitors to watch as workmen in hairnets, beardnets and white togs test one long rectangular stainless steel vat. Another vat is full of curds and a huge Mixmaster beater traveling on an overhead track stirs the curd. The Amish patriarch asks if they have more bulk packaged cut ends than the single variety on a shelf in the cooler. A young woman volunteers to get more and trails off to a storage area with a rolling cart. While the patriarch confers with his wife, he sets aside different flavors already mentioned. The woman weighs and prices the shrink wrapped cheese.

I look at one of the labels for the bruchetta. It weighs nearly eight pounds. The price is $7.94. The bargain is phenomenal. The drawback is that you get what's left over from bulk packaging. If you're not fond of three alarm cheese, jalapeno or horseradish cheese you're out of luck. Simple varieties-the staple of most households-such as Colby, cheddar or mozzarella are for sale in the cooler at regular market prices. I mention to Titus that he should raise goats. Goat cheese sells for $6.99 / pound.

We take a different route home noting the time and distance. Either way to Muscoda, the time elapsed is a little over 34 minutes. By buggy, this would have been an all day trip. I drop the folks off at the farm telling them I'll return in a couple of hours. They have a viewing to attend at noon. The girls are packing up bread, rolls and pies for sale along the highway. They have a newly made sandwich sign-Locally Grown Produce and Bake Sale.

As I pull up to the garage, the Pooch walks out from behind the hedges and greets me with his version of cat hello. He follows me inside. I feed him some chicken liver and he retreats to the back of the couch for a nap. For the next two hours I prepare the back entrance. With old windows I'd stored in the lawn shed, I partition of the entire space we use as a canning prep area. I hinge one of the windows for a gate. Dawn wouldn't appreciate having to climb over a 36 inch barrier. With the Pooch snoozing inside, I return to the Amish farm for my portion of the cheese and our new addition. Two of the daughters open the shrink wrapped cheese and cut portion for me. They've been directed by the Patriarch to not accept money for the cheese in return for driving to Muscoda. I tell one of the daughters to tell Dad I threatened them with bodily harm if they didn't take my money. I lay ten dollars on the counter, pack a cooler full of pungent cheese, grab Mandy Mae and head back home. As I pass two of the daughters on the highway, I open the car window and wave heartily. If I hadn't spent all my money on cheese, I would have stopped for cinnamon rolls.

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