WBEZ | Joanne Stuttgen http://www.wbez.org/tags/joanne-stuttgen Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en A folklorist eats her way through the Midwest, one café at a time http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range/folklorist-eats-her-way-through-midwest-one-caf%C3%A9-time-99306 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/oasis%20cafe%20flickr%20chuck%20p.jpg" style="height: 402px; width: 620px;" title="The Oasis Café in Arena, Wis. circa 1981. Folklorist Joanne Stuttgen catalogued hundreds of small restaurants like this one in her trek across the state. (Flickr/Chuck Patch)" /></div><p>Joanne Stuttgen&rsquo;s culinary adventures started with a simple pie ride. That&rsquo;s what the Wisconsin-based folklorist, her husband and their friends called their weekly bicycling treks in search of the best homemade desserts. They&rsquo;d ride to a café 45 miles or so from home, enjoy a slice of pie and ride back.</p><p>One Sunday Stuttgen and company rode their bikes from their homes in Eau Claire to a spot called Angela&rsquo;s Truck Stop in Cadott, only to discover the restaurant had closed. Instead of the tasty pie they&rsquo;d come for, they were forced to snack on pre-packaged doughnuts from a nearby gas station.</p><p>&ldquo;My friend Mark groaned and moaned,&rdquo; Stuttgen recalls. &ldquo;He said someone should write a book about where the good places are so we don&rsquo;t waste our time &mdash; and our miles.&rdquo;</p><p>Stuttgen decided that someone should be her. She&rsquo;s spent the nearly two decades since visiting, cataloguing and writing about hundreds of tiny mom-and-pop establishments all across the Midwest. She documented the fruits of her labor in a pair of books, <em>Café Wisconsin</em> and <em>Café Indiana, </em>plus a follow-up pair of cookbooks. For her Wisconsin book, she stopped counting after she hit 500 cafes. &ldquo;I really didn&rsquo;t want to know after that,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;It was getting frightening how many I was visiting.&rdquo;</p><p>Her visits were sometimes awkward. She&rsquo;d take one step into a place and know immediately it would make neither her list of recommendations nor her list of &ldquo;next best bet alternatives.&rdquo; When that happened, sometimes she&rsquo;d pretend she was merely looking for the post office when asked if she needed help. But other times she struck gold. To tell if a place is worth it, she says, &ldquo;Really you only need one good bite. You don&rsquo;t need that whole slice of pie or plate of hot beef.&rdquo;</p><p>The surprises were the best part of her mission, the places that weren&rsquo;t initially on her radar, but would then jump into view. That&rsquo;s what happened when she first noticed a luncheonette in LaCrosse, Ind. &ldquo;You never know what&rsquo;s inside until you walk in the door,&rdquo; Stuttgen says. Take a listen to what she found in the audio above.</p><p><a href="../../series/dynamic-range"><em>Dynamic Range</em></a><em> showcases hidden gems unearthed from Chicago Amplified&rsquo;s vast archive of public events and appears on weekends. Joanne Stuttgen spoke at an event presented by Culinary Historians of Chicago in April. Click </em><a href="../../amplified/ethnographic-food-writing-or-how-i-ate-my-way-across-wisconsin-and-indiana-and-lived-write"><em>here </em></a><em>to hear the event in its entirety.</em></p></p> Sat, 19 May 2012 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range/folklorist-eats-her-way-through-midwest-one-caf%C3%A9-time-99306