Wisconsin grandmothers are some of the best in the world. They can be sweet as sugar and tough as nails at the same time. They know how to make amazing meals and always have a story to tell or some “expert advice” to give.
Hopefully, you’ve been blessed with a grandma as amazing as mine.
Grandma Lemmen (pictured above) is one of my best friends. The so -called secrets she tells me are “just between you, me and the fencepost.” That means she’ll be telling just about everyone else. But I know I can trust her to keep my secrets safe.
As a kid, when Mom told my sisters and I that we were going to Grandmas – we were always excited. I loved hanging out with Gram & Gramps, especially because their conversations were super entertaining and always made me laugh.
One memorable Christmas when I was a teenager, I told my grandma all I wanted was for her to stop smoking. After 40 long years of being a smoker – she quit – cold-turkey. It was one of the best Christmas presents ever. Plus – the cookies she sent home didn’t taste like smoke anymore!
I always look forward to our phone chats and a visit to grandma’s house, with my boys, is a regular thing. My grandma has been through a heck of a lot of challenges in her life, making her one of the strongest people I know. She’s smart, strong-willed and stubborn. And the best part of all is – she’s a Classic Wisconsin Grandma, born and raised.
But my Grandma isn’t the only one who you’d call a Classic Wisconsin Grandma. Throughout my years living in Wisconsin, I’ve discovered similarities between many of our grandmas.
Here are six signs your grandma is a Classic Wisconsin Grandma too.
1. If her drink of choice is a Brandy Old Fashioned
When Grandma goes out to dinner and has a drink she’ll almost always order a Brandy Old Fashioned, one of America’s oldest drinks and the unofficial cocktail of Wisconsin.
You’ll probably find that people outside of the state aren’t even sure what it is or especially how to order one. The Fox Valley Foodie does a great job of explaining this in his article, The Brandy Old Fashioned – Epitomizing Wisconsin’s Love Affair With Brandy…
“Elsewhere in the world, when you order an Old Fashioned you will get a completely different drink. The classic Wisconsin Old Fashioned is uniquely ours. “
Here’s the four different types of Brandy Old Fashioneds and what’s in them:
Sour – Sour Mix, Squirt or 50/50
Sweet – 7up or Sprite
Press – Seltzer & Lemon Lime Soda
Soda – Seltzer
Alcoholic drinks are a once in a while thing for my grandma, but her main drink is black coffee. My grandma has always been a coffee lover – black coffee that is – and definitely not decaf. She tells me that decaf actually keeps her awake at night and regular is what helps her sleep. Maybe that’s when you know you’ve had way too much.
2. If she goes out to eat at the local Supper Club
What is a Supper Club anyway? Maybe it’s the club for people who call dinnertime supper? But anyone can go. So, why is it called a club in the first place?
Well, they were traditionally viewed as a casual and relaxed destination where people spend the whole evening drinking cocktails and enjoying nightclub-style entertainment after they eat. I don’t mean nightclubs like we know them today. I mean big band music and lounge singers.
The very first supperclub was established in Beverly Hills, California. However…the man who started it was a Wisconsin native from Milwaukee. Supper Clubs became popular all over the country in the 1930s and 1940s. But nowadays you’ll only find them in the Upper Midwest.
The only difference between then and now is they’ve become mainly restaurants rather than an all-night entertainment destination. Either way, Classic Wisconsin Grandmas often go out to the local Supper Clubs for Friday night fish fry including perch with potato and coleslaw.
Any other night of the week you might find your grandma at a Supper Club ordering broasted chicken, prime rib or steak. After dinner, she’ll pay only with cash or check. In fact, I’m not even sure she owns a credit card. She always reminds me, “If you don’t have the money, you can’t buy it.”
Eve’s Supper Club in Allouez and the Out-O-Town Club in Kaukauna are both popular. You can also check out The Legacy Club, Red Ox Supper Club and Dick and Joan’s Supper Club – all in the Appleton area.
3. If she despises round-a-bouts
My grandma absolutely hates round-a-bouts. She doesn’t understand how they work, she’s scared to drive through them and the fact that they keep constructing more and more of them “really burns her up.”
She has written plenty of letters to city bigwigs to share her two-cents on the matter. Grandma doesn’t even like to drive as it is. She definitely won’t go anywhere in bad weather, and rarely after dark.
But when she does drive she takes the back roads in her Buick, which is “the only car anybody should drive.”
4. If she’s an Early Bird at B-I-N-G-O!
I’ve joined grandma at Bingo a few times and she always kicks my butt! She goes crazy-fast with the dobber and plays at least a dozen cards at one time. I have a hard enough time keeping up with my 2-pack.
If it’s not Early Bird Bingo, you’ll catch her on a gambling bus trip, playing the penny slots or betting numbers on the Milwaukee Brewers or Green Bay Packers games.
She’s hard-core and pays very close attention! I’m just not sure if she’d rather see the home-team win, or if she’d prefer to hit her numbers and win some cash.
5. If she has strong old-timer Wisconsin dialect
My grandpa used the word “warsh” for wash, and I thought he just really couldn’t pronounce the word correctly. But then I started hearing other older folks saying it the same way! There are other places in the U.S. that you’ll hear it pronounced this way, but after doing a bit of research, I found that it is part of the old Midwestern dialect.
Grandma always refers to her couch as “the davenport”. I think it’s funny when she uses words like this when talking to my 3-year old who has no idea what she means! Davenports were actually a popular brand of sofas – way back when – and they were manufactured by a company in Massachusetts called A. H. Davenport Company. So, Davenport is to sofa/couch as Kleenex is to tissue. The word is used especially by elders in the Midwest who were born before World War II.
Gram calls lunch “dinner” and dinner “supper” which has always confused me. Using the word supper to refer to the evening meal is definitely a generational term, but may also be regional. From the middle ages to the 18th century, most families ate their main or largest meal in the middle of the day and called that dinner. Then they ate light supper in the evening.
This example isn’t really about Wisconsin dialect, but I always thought it was funny how – during Brett Favre’s years with the Green Bay Packers – my husband’s grandma would shout “Come on, Bart!”
I guess you know she’s a true example of a Classic Wisconsin Grandma when she mistakenly and repeatedly mixes up Brett Favre with Bart Starr. Grandma Jo went to the Ice Bowl and has lots of memories from the Packers’ original “Glory Years.”
6. If Catholic church on Saturday is an absolute must
My grandmother is a well-rounded person. She has her moments of venting about how terrible the world is today, and she does swear a lot. But she says her prayers every night, and she will never miss a Saturday afternoon mass – no matter where she is!
I will always remember the time Gram and Gramps took their motor-home to visit me at college.
It just so happened that this was the weekend I had my car parked on a street where they were doing construction and had signs warning that cars would be towed after a certain date. Well, I’ve never really been great at reading signs, and I was one of the lucky few that got my car towed away.
We didn’t find this out until right before church started on Saturday. Since Gramps drove the motor-home I offered to drive us to church and walking out to where my car had been parked we discovered I would need 210 dollars to pick it up from the tow yard!
Grandma didn’t care about my car at that point since church was about to start and she wasn’t going to miss it if her life depended on it. So, we took the motor-home to church that day and my sweet grandparents ended up paying for my car which I will always be grateful for.
What Makes Your Grandma a Classic?
There you have it – six signs your grandma is a Classic Wisconsin Grandma. Can you relate? Are there other characteristics you can think of that I didn’t mention?
Leave a comment to let us know!