Why the Packers Win

Happy NFC Championship Day!

Today I have an op-ed in the Wisconsin State Journal, Why the Packers Win. It’s about reconciling my distaste for the NFL with my love of the Green Bay Packers. 

Here’s an excerpt:

For this die-hard Green Bay Packers fan, there’s no time like the eve of the NFC Championship Game to start questioning my interest in the NFL.
The questions emerged last weekend, when I tried to watch my first non-Packers game of the season, the Panthers-Seahawks divisional playoff. Never mind that the outcome would directly impact the Packers’ postseason future. With nobody on the field wearing my beloved green and gold, I had a hard time caring. I found myself rolling my eyes at the stupidity of beer commercials, getting angry about the objectification of women, feeling insulted by the absurd amount of time given to commercials versus football.

Read more: http://host.madison.com/news/opinion/column/guest/lauren-koshere-why-the-packers-win/article_abeea6f6-a147-566f-a519-a98da31920db.html#ixzz3PBVSoUWt

Check out the rest here: Why the Packers Win.

And Go Pack Go!

Montana: The Ron Swanson of States

MT - The RS of States

Montana author William Kittredge was the first to call it the last best place.

John Steinbeck wrote, “I am in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection, but with Montana it is love, and it’s difficult to analyze love when you’re in it.”

For my part, I’d like to go on the record with the observation, and allusion to the show Parks and Recreation, that Montana is the Ron Swanson of states. Here’s how:

(jeffreyw Flickr)

(jeffreyw Flickr)

Meat – Meat, especially beef, trumps all. Whether RS’s or MT’s, you’ve never met a higher standard for a burger. Beef and bacon in the same meal? Heaven on earth.

Low Tolerance of Bullshit – Interacting with either RS or MT? So cut the crap already.  Just be authentic; they are.

Loyalty – You’re not going to find a lot of effusive sentimental expression from either RS or MT. But don’t let that fool ya. The second you need something, anything, any time, know who’s got your back? These guys.

(Attribution: Internet via someone via someone via someone. Ultimate thanks to writers of Parks and Recreation.)

(Attribution: Internet via someone via someone via someone. Ultimate thanks to writers of Parks and Recreation.)

Manhood Matters – There are many ways to express your manhood. But to both MT and RS, the baseline standard of manhood is strong character. Character counts.

Gold – RS stores his wealth as gold buried throughout Pawnee, Indiana; MT’s wealth of underground gold, and other precious metals, are naturally occurring. (MT’s state motto is oro y plata – gold and silver.)

Affinity for Outdoor Sports that Involve Deadly Weapons – They fish, they trap, they hunt. They care about the value of the skills required to safely use a gun. They know their Constitutional rights. And, at the end of the day, they know how to procure their own local, cage-free, biodynamic, hormone-/antibiotic-free, sustainable, organic, all natural protein. (Do you?)

From Montana Outfitter Journal

From Montana Outfitter Journal

Pretty Anti-Government, yet Just as Reliant on the Government as the Rest of Us – More jobs, less government, promises a sign I saw recently for a Montana politician. And we all know Ron Swanson hates the government. So it’s a good thing his paycheck comes directly from the good taxpayers of Pawnee, just as government laws and subsidies directly support the agriculture, extraction, and tourism industries that keep Montana goin’ strong. We’re all in this together, MT/RS.

Skills that Double as Work – Woodcarving, meat-procuring, building stuff? If it involves resourcefulness and physical work, it’s a skill you can find with RS, or with MT.

Well-Rounded in Surprising Ways – RS can come across so masculine it’s scary (hey people, what about the values of more traditionally feminine traits, like Leslie Knope’s?), and the myth of the rugged cowboy often leads to the same impression for a state like MT. But you’d be surprised by the range of experience, thoughtfulness, and perspective it’s possible to find in seemingly unlikely corners of both.

The time RS became a princess.

The time RS became a princess.

In fact, far as I can tell, there are only a few ways Montana and Ron Swanson are not similar:

  • Every ex-wife in Montana is not named Tammy, though I’m sure a few are.
  • And don’t get me wrong, RS is a stud. But I think we all know who’s more handsome…

One scoop or two? (A quick bite of the manuscript)

Wilcoxson's logo
In Livingston, Montana, we find the slice of heaven where Wilcoxson’s ice cream is made—a nondescript building in a residential neighborhood. When we enter, the receptionist apologizes that tours are not allowed, for health reasons. But from her desk she answers our questions with kindness. Wilcoxson’s is and always has been a Montana product, made only here in Livingston, as well as in Billings—different products at different production facilities. The company was founded in 1912, and the luscious curls of cursive font on its trademark red and white red  logo have never changed. The ice cream is made with only the best ingredients, some local, some ordered from sources on the East Coast. It can only be found in and around Yellowstone, in parts of Montana—but not all of Montana—and northwestern Wyoming.

We thank her and leave. We return to our car, parked out front, and eat lunch. After a few minutes the receptionist runs out. She leans down to the open driver’s side window.

“Here.” She lifts a box containing three Wilcoxson’s Frosty Malt Cups, chocolate flavored. Mr. Wilcoxson, son of the company’s founder and an octogenarian who still comes to work every day to oversee for quality, wanted us to have these.



Since high school

Here’s one inspired by my recent ten-year high school class reunion. 

For anyone who didn’t graduate with us, a little context: our public high school is in western Wisconsin. Our class was quite white, mostly Christian, and more middle class than not.

Our public high school is in western Wisconsin. Our class was quite white, mostly Christian, and more middle class than not. Our mascot? The Wildcat.

Since high school we’ve grown out our hair. Or we’ve chopped it all off or gone bald or shaved our head for childrens’ cancer research. We’ve lost weight and gained weight and gained weight and lost weight and gained weight and.

We’ve slept with the same person since high school. We’ve come out. We’ve left our virginity Up North, Out West, overseas. We’ve hooked up with a bunch of different people. We’ve followed women and men to the coasts and across oceans, seriously considered converting to Judaism. We’ve had our hearts toasted by love. We’ve divorced and we’ve married—sometimes, each other. We’ve found the love of our life, no doubt. We’ve committed in spite of the questions in the back of our mind. We’ve tried to make it work out. We haven’t found a partner, have often relished that freedom—sometimes ached that loneliness. We’ve watched Facebook and longed for bits and pieces of each other’s lives. We’ve remembered the grass is always greener.

Since high school we’ve kept pretty close to home. We’ve lived, volunteered, and studied abroad. We’ve hopped around a lot for school and work and love. We’ve moved to cities and bought farms. We’ve built houses, moved back in with our parents, and shared more rentals, with more roommates, than we can count on our fingers and toes. We’ve settled. We’ve drifted. We’ve started to take root.

We’ve finished our PhD, master’s, JD, DC, associate’s, bachelor’s. We’ve completed apprenticeships and transferred and dropped out and decided to go back to school and started a certificate program online. We’ve served our country. We’ve been awarded scholarships and internships and grants and fellowships and assistantships. We’ve come to owe the government and the banks thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars in student loans.

We’ve taught your children in elementary school, in college. We’ve nursed your grandmother. We’ve installed the electrical wiring in your home. We’ve been in charge of the venue where you had your wedding, landscaped your yard, served as your neighbor’s public defender. We’ve counseled the people you know are addicts and the people you don’t know are addicts, and the prospective students, and we’ve cleaned your teeth. We’ve fixed your software and sold you a thing or two. We’ve made art you’ve hung in your living room. We’ve written an article you’ve read. We’ve adjusted your spine.

Since high school we’ve lost our moms and our dads. We’ve become people’s moms and dads. We’ve had babies that were born and babies that were lost. We’ve hurt unimaginably. We’ve throbbed and sobbed and kept silent and cried out. We’ve learned how permanent loss usually is. We’ve started to heal, but we’ve come to understand that we can never go back, not quite.

In five smiley minutes of catch-up questions—How are you? What are you doing these days?—we’ve told each other the shiny side of our stories. We’ve withheld what cracks our sleep. But, look: since high school we’ve learned the truth, we’ve all been in the real world. We’ve had our pain and our failures.

We’ve been knocked down a few pegs since high school.

Sooner or later, we all get leveled by what’s beyond our control. Against what’s inevitable we’ve tried to convince ourselves that people remember how good we used to be at chemistry, volleyball, hockey. Nobody cares. We’ve learned how to laugh at ourselves—much better than at each other.

Since high school we’ve lived common experiences across very different lives. In the local paper we’ve read each other’s engagement and wedding and birth announcements. And obituaries. We’ve grieved our friends. Their deaths have punched us in the heart and the gut, reminding us how few somedays could remain, cutting deep down to where we hold all the dreams we’ve deferred.

We’ve tried to take those lessons to heart, or we’ve realized we really should get on with taking those lessons to heart. We’ve decided to head in new directions. We’ve watched ourselves and each other become someone different from what we once were. We’ve grown wise enough to know we can change course, and that’s OK, and what people think doesn’t matter, so long as we’re improving and growing (seriously, finally—fuck what people think).

So we guess you could say that, yeah, we’ve come a long way, since high school. And we still get to choose just where it is we’re headed now, next.

The best part? We’re not as stupid as we used to be, but we’re almost as young.

From our senior yearbook.

From our senior yearbook.

If I had a blog all about butter…

This is butter. Eat butter.

Here is butter. Eat butter.

(June is dairy month. I’m from Wisconsin. You knew this was coming.)

If I had a blog all about butter, I would write about the time I lost my innocence:


“No, never,” I respond to the lunch lady at Bogalusa Elementary School in Louisiana. I am 19, here for lunch on a volunteer trip, and have never eaten grits.

She can’t get over my northern lack of exposure. She ladles a hefty dollop of the white-gray sludge from her serving bowl into a square partition on my blue plastic lunch tray. I lift my tray and study the grayish heap.

“Is that it, do I do anything else to them?”

“I like ‘em with butter,” she says. “Want some butter?”

Heh. Do I want some butter? I’m from Wisconsin over here. Now we’re talking.

“Please. Butter makes everything better.” I put out my hand, ready to receive a couple of small golden rectangular packets, butter pads within.

She picks up another ladle, this one submerged in a vat of glistening liquid. It is orange. By the time she’s done pouring, my grits are covered to a depth of half an inch in highlighter-bright grease.

“Enjoy!” She smiles warmly. My “thank you” can hardly be convincing. I appreciate the sincerity of her hospitality, but this is horrifying.

By the time I reach my seat, the surface of the radioactive puddle on my tray has congealed like wax. I wedge out a small portion of the concoction and smile as the teachers and students with whom I’ve been working study me intently: here’s a Northern whose life’s about to be changed. A grits first-timer!

I lift the spoon to my mouth. The layer of waxy grease collapses and melts, oozing into a spoonful of spit-soaked grits to yield me a mouthful of oily, textureless mass. I roll it with my tongue (do I chew this?) and do my best to fake a smile. “Mmm, grits with butter!”

If I had a blog all about butter, the blog would suck, because I would probably just post this New York Times op-ed about butter over and over again:

Bittman writes, “…let’s try once again to pause and think for a moment about how it makes sense for us to eat, and in whose interest it is for us to eat hyperprocessed junk. The most efficient summary might be to say ‘eat real food’ and ‘avoid anything that didn’t exist 100 years ago.’”

If I had a blog all about butter, whenever I wasn’t busy posting and reposting the Bittman op-ed quoted above, I’d quote Julia Child:

“If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.”

And now that summer’s back here in the Northern Hemisphere, and since I recently finished my first batch of homemade ice cream, I would also say, “If you’re afraid of butter, make ice cream.” (I never realized how easy it could be!)

If I had a blog all about butter, you’d have to forgive me whenever I started to sound evangelical. As a friend of a friend recently said, lifting a stick of butter:

“This was made by God, in Wisconsin, with cream.” Then she lifted a tub of margarine. “This was made by God-knows-who, God-knows-where…with God-knows-what.”

If I had a blog all about butter, I would explore how fake butter—margarine, oleo, and other butter substitute products and spreads made with industrially processed vegetable oils or questionably rendered animal fats—ever came to be, anyway.

One explanation of the early butter-fake oleomargarine comes from the book Kitchen Literacy, by Ann Vileisis (thanks, Island Press, for the “blind date” email offer that landed this book on my shelf for free!). In its early days, this version of fake butter was made from by-products of the meat-packing industry:

By Ann Vileisis, published by Island Press (cover from kitchenliteracy.com)

By Ann Vileisis, published by Island Press (cover from kitchenliteracy.com)

“The [oleomargarine] industry grew substantially in 1883 when the Chicago packing houses began to tap their own mammoth fat supplies to make oleomargarine. Beef fat removed during slaughter was washed in water, minced by machine, then pressed through a cloth to yield light yellow oleo oil. The oleo oil was mixed with deodorized lard (hog fat), salt, coloring, and sometimes milk and butter.”

As more and more people left farms for cities, eventually forgetting what butter looked and tasted like, they became more accepting of the industrially produced counterfeit. The market for butter-fakes grew—right alongside industrial producers’ potential for new profits.

If I had a blog all about butter, I would write about the health benefits of eating the gold of dairy. Do you know how contested are the studies that have backed the “be afraid of saturated fat” refrain since the beginning? Do you know how butter can be not just not bad for you—but actually good for you?

Just wait! It won’t be long until we see butter—and other quality, saturated fats—on the latest lists of dietary super foods (right next to blueberries and sardines, I reckon, when Aunt Mary’s wisdom takes hold!). Yeah, of course: don’t let your diet consist of butter ONLY, but don’t be afraid of the stuff. When you want some butter, have some damn butter—and have enough of it to enjoy.

Butter loves you. Butter wants you. You know you want it, too.

If I had a blog all about butter, I would post an annoying number of recipes born on the marketing websites of Wisconsin dairy producers. Why stop at butter, when there’s also cream and sour cream and full-fat yogurt and mascarpone to make your next recipe unforgettably delicious? (I swear they’re not paying me.) Can I help it that the good people of Wisconsin have given us  so many “I-need-to-get-that-recipe-from-you”-inspiring food ideas*?

*BUT, if I had a blog all about butter, I would use an asterisk whenever I posted a delicious recipe that calls for butter alongside the real dietary villains in our midst—sugar and processed grains. That asterisk would be a tiny reminder that, when it comes to baking with sugar and flour—all in moderation (I love to bake, so I know this one’s easier said than done…but saying it’s a start).

Nevertheless, when it comes to doctoring up your steamed veggies (quality fat makes it possible for your body to assimilate vital nutrients!) or frying that morning egg (as my dad would say, there’s nothing like butter to season your cast iron)—or any other time refined sugar’s not involved—butter out!

And, finally, if I had a blog all about butter, it would become clear that, whenever I proclaim my butter-love, I am not even joking.

Really. I am not Paula Deen over here! My love of butter is not a guilty little pleasure. It is not about excusing reckless self-indulgence, or rationalizing bad food choices even if they undermine good health.

See, I don’t view butter as anything to be guilty about. I’ve learned about it, I’ve eaten it, and I’m serious. At the end of the day, butter is…just…better.

Worth a Thousand Words – and More (#tbt)

Hi everyone! I’m excited to share that for the last few months I’ve been working like a madwoman on a brand new Yellowstone manuscript. I can’t wait to share the whole thing, but I’m not there quite yet. Until I am, I thought I’d take advantage of Throwback Thursday and share a visual taste of what I’m up to. The following pictures, paired with quotes from the manuscript, hint at a few of the stories I’ve been working on lately…


Above: One minute I am doing some tone-deaf singing along with a few nostalgic ‘90s Spice Girls songs—if ya wanna be my lover, ya gotta get with my friends–the next; rattle, clank, clankety clank, screeeeeech. I hit the brake, pull to the shoulder, and step out to examine my car. Hanging from the underside of my Civic and dragging in the gravel on the shoulder, there is a large metal thing.


Above: The calf pushes up on its legs—the little creature is all legs, it seems—and manages to stay standing a few seconds before its front legs give out simultaneously. It bows for an instant before its back legs collapse, too. The fawn is once again a disorganized heap of brown, spots and legs sprawled on the grass.


Above: I wish I didn’t need any help. I don’t want to need his hand. But I do. I’m so glad it’s there.


Above:  Yes, it’s just the three of us out here today. Just us, together with the bison—each to the other, another group of mammals in the sage. This morning rises like cream rises. The summer has begun.


Above: “I have a saw in my van!” Bob offers from behind us on the trail. “I can bring it over to your campsite tonight.” Earlier, before Bob turned creepy, I made the mistake of responding when he asked which site number was ours.