Category Wisconsin

“I don’t care what you say, I can taste the newspaper.”

While in Wisconsin, Jason and I paid a visit to the Jelly Belly factory, which isn’t so much a factory (as nothing is made there) but a warehouse distribution center with a tour and tastings. As a person who enjoys both tours and tastings, I felt it was a worthwhile stop. Jason and I arrived just as a tour was starting, and so we rushed to the back to hop on the tiny train that drove us around the warehouse (already a thrilling adventure, to be certain). We were also handed ridiculous paper hats and told to wear them. The people in the car in front of us were too cool to do such a thing, and just before we were to drive off on the wee train, the conductor said that if they didn’t wear their hats, we couldn’t go anywhere. Given that all of the candy in this warehouse is already packaged AND hats like this are useless in terms of food safety, I can only assume that the train is fueled by public humiliation and reduced sex appeal. Can you ever truly desire someone again after seeing them wear a paper hat? Also, we were not allowed to take photographs on the tour itself, as photography apparently causes mini trains to burst into flames.

Pre-tour, no tiny trains were put at risk by the snapping of this photograph.

The tour consisted of riding in the train around the perimeter of the warehouse and watching three videos about Jelly Belly brand beans: their rise to popularity (beloved of Ronald Reagan! First jellybean in space!), the production process (which is astoundingly long for something you can eat in a second, 7-21 days!), and other products made by the parent company (candy corn! taffy!). After the tour, we were given a bag of complimentary beans, a poster, and sent out into the place where I’m a Viking: the gift shop and tasting bar. We visited in the middle of the day on a weekday, so aside from the other family on the train, there was no one else there, we were the only people at the tasting bar, and the employee there was eager to give us whatever we wanted. After trying their new candy corn bean, I was on the lookout for other flavors I hadn’t tried, and I spied with my little eye a sausage flavor bean. “Sausage? It doesn’t really taste like sausage, does it?” Lickety-split, the employee handed over a bean, which I dutifully popped in my mouth. “Oh my god, it does taste like sausage! I assumed they’d just called it sausage to make it fit in with the Bertie Botts’ Every Flavor Bean theme but that it would actually taste like a more normal bean flavor.” Rambling on, I made a terrible error: “Well, if the sausage tastes like sausage…what does the centipede flavor taste like?” Quick as a flash, a centipede flavor bean was in my hand before I could protest. And once it was cradled in my palm, it was like a bean-based gauntlet had been thrown. I couldn’t throw it away: that would be wasteful. No. The bean bar woman had dared me and thus I must put it in my mouth. As I chewed, Jason asked “So how does one decide what a centipede tastes like, anyway?” “Our chemists start with the smell and work backward.” I can believe they started with a smell…the smell of Hell. When I say to you that this was the most foul thing I’ve ever had in my mouth, I would hate for you to think I was exaggerating. My dog has emitted farts so pungent that I could actually taste the air and this was worse. Much worse. If pressed to describe the flavor, the best description I can conceive is “dirty curdled blood”–it was an strong earthy base with a sharp metallic tang and an awful creamy something tying it all together. The only way they could have made it worse is if there was a thick liquid core and it popped like a zit in your mouth…and that would only be barely worse. Still, I tried to swallow. I chewed and chewed and chewed, but my pharynx said “NO, MA’AM”. That wretched bean lady smiled and offered me a napkin in which to spit the horrid thing out. What did she give me as a chaser? A mouthwash flavor jelly bean. Oh HA HA, bean lady. After the bean incident, we walked out onto the front lawn to take Jason’s picture in front of the Jelly Belly sign, but all the while, I thought of the flavor of centipede. Even through the mouthwash, I could still taste it, crawling over my tastebuds with its awful rancid legs. My stomach roiled, and I thrust my camera and bag at Jason while desperately trying to will myself to remain calm. Calm isn’t my thing, and this is the story of how I ended up vomiting in front of the Jelly Belly warehouse in plain sight of a highway. Even though he had my camera, Jason didn’t document me chundering into a bush because he doesn’t understand anything about posterity. He is, however, a man who has seen me in a paper hat AND throwing up a mixture of jellybeans and chinese food in the same day and somehow still wants to marry me, so I’ll cut him some slack. I probably wouldn’t have posted a picture of me vomiting online, anyway: it probably wouldn’t have been a very flattering shot of my butt.

Wisconsin Day Three: Tomfoolery and Boozehardiness


After House on the Rock, Nicki and I went to New Glarus, tiny Wisconsin Swiss town, home of the Glarner Stube and a supposedly awesome brewery that was closed by the time we got there, in line with my family’s tradition of being a day late and a dollar short for everything, particularly themed towns. I’d originally intended on visiting Dr. Evermore’s Forevertron on the same day as The House on the Rock, but Roadside America lied to me when it indicated that Baraboo was anywhere near Spring Green, which I should’ve cottoned onto when they said that after visiting the Forevertron, it was only a short jaunt to Wisconsin Dells for their torture exhibit. Wisconsin Dells!? That’s FAR away from Spring Green! However, Nicki told me there was something I needed to see in New Glarus, and that I would be suitably impressed.

After some delicious Swiss cheese fondue with wine, garlic, and kirsch, I decided that I should probably order the Schublig, which was billed as a mild spiced beef sausage made by Ruef’s Meat Market, and sure to please a true sausage lover. Who could possibly love sausage in their face hole more than me? I was NOT prepared for the scale of the Glarner Stube’s sausage, however. Laid out onto a plate and brought into the light, it looked almost obscene. The green beans seem like almost an afterthought compared to the sheer amount of sausage majesty* set in front of me. 2980926017_30ab9617e0

I couldn’t even make a sizeable dent in the sausage–it was no meal, it was a task! A challenge! A trial! The waitress seemed appalled that I asked for a box after about two bites, but I wasn’t there to impress her, I was there for something else. Are you ready to find out what that something else was? That something else happened to be none other than the midwest’s largest urinal. 344_33501128939_340_n I was a little disappointed that the Glarner Stube doesn’t really promote that they have the midwest’s largest urinal, nor is it in a sizeable room with tasteful lighting. Rather, it’s crammed into a one-man bathroom, where you can hardly appreciate its massive scale. That still didn’t stop me from opening the men’s room door to snap a photo, giggling so hard at the absurdity that I could hardly hold the camera up, whilst the people at the bar had a good laugh at the girl busting up while taking a picture of a urinal with no fewer than four pink cakes inside. …I suppose when you’ve got a big sausage, you need a big urinal. Yes/no? *’Sausage Majesty’ would be an awesome band name.

Wisconsin: Gastronomic Journey Day

On Thursday, I didn’t go to House on the Rock and the Forevertron, because Nicki had decided to accompany me to the House that Spite Built on Friday instead. She left me her car to tool around, and I decided to drive down to Kenosha and drop in on my grandparents. My first stop was the legendary MARS CHEESE CASTLE.

Although the castle is somewhat lacking in battlements and, in fact, is neither made of cheese nor is on the planet mars, it contains many meaty, cheesy delights inside, along with a bunch of ridiculous tourist crap, like Brett Favre action figures. In this House o’ Cheese near Bong Recreation Area (hee hee!), I purchased some chudge (a questionable portmanteau of “chocolate cheese fudge”, creamy and delicious), a piece of cheddar shaped like Wisconsin, a cheese kringle for breakfasting, and some butterscotch root beer. During this time, I was hit on by a skeezy man with about three teeth who looked me up and down and said that everything in the store looked ‘deee-licious’. You can’t see it, but I’m shuddering.

After my cheese purchase, I saw a sign indicating that the Jelly Belly factory in Pleasant Prairie gives tours, and I was all over that like a fat kid on a…jelly belly. Things I learned:

  • Jelly Belly’s national prominence is due to Ronald Reagan, who was quite a fan of the beans while legislating.
  • The blueberry bean was invented for Reagan’s presidential inauguration, so that the company could give out red, white, and blue packs.
  • Reagan’s favorite flavor was licorice. *liquid jelly bean mixture is called ‘slurry’, made from 100% recycled animals.
  • The jelly-bean making process takes a couple of weeks and a hell of a lot of equipment.
  • The location I was in stores 2.5 billion jelly beans, and they ship out over a million jelly beans a day.
  • They take suggestions for flavors, and even as much as I like pickles, I am a little appalled that someone suggested pickle-flavored jelly beans. WHYYYY?
  • The company makes other candies, like taffy–you know taffy that comes with tiny pictures inside? That started as a 100 pound roll of taffy and they make something like 10,000 pieces from that one roll.

After I left Jelly Belly, I swung by China House in Pershing Plaza, where I used to have lunch once a week when I worked at Music Center on Green Bay Road–so many of us were regulars there that we could call in an order and they’d deliver to us, even though they don’t DO delivery. 10 years later and I recognized most of the people working there, which blows my mind a little because I’m such a job-hopper.