A Down-Home Tome

Suzanne Beecher, a Madison native and author of Muffins and Mayhem: Recipes for a Happy (if Disorderly) Life ($24.99, Touchstone), believes in the connection between food and memories, and shares both—vignettes of her favorite meals growing up in Wisconsin—in her new book.

Why do you think experiences with food produce such powerful memories?
When I was a kid, almost every Sunday we drove to Grandma and Grandpa Hale’s house in Lancaster, Wisconsin, for dinner. Thinking back I felt loved and cared for—as if it were only yesterday. Grandma Hale served huge old- fashioned Sunday dinners: roast beef, mashed potatoes with gravy, corn that she grew herself, deviled eggs and raspberry pie. Today, cooking is involved in every area of my life. So now I’m trying to create those kinds of memories for my own grandchildren. It’s never too early.

What is the best thing about food in Wisconsin?
My husband and I both miss the changing seasons in Madison, but truth be told, I think we miss the food even more. The last time we visited [Beecher currently resides in Florida], our list of foods we wanted to be sure to eat was much longer than the length of our stay. This is just a sample: gyros at the Parthenon, custard at both Culver’s and Michael’s, a couple of visits to Myles Teddywedgers, cheese curds and fresh fruit from Brennan’s, and an early- morning visit to Bagels Forever.

Recipe: Skunk Beans

Beecher shares a favorite dish from her recipe box: “I was looking through some old recipes I’d found in my mother’s kitchen cupboard after she passed away, [and] I discovered a folded piece of paper with the heading, ‘Beans for Skunk Party.’ Instantly I was smiling, because I realized how the Skunk Beans got their name.” Every time Beecher’s family got together to play Euchre, they tried as hard as they could to “skunk” their opponents.

Skunk Beans

8 bacon strips, cooked till very crisp and broken into pieces
1 chopped onion, sautéed
½ cup vinegar
1-cup brown sugar
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
Dash garlic salt
½ cup ketchup
½ teaspoon salt (your preference)
1 (15 oz.) can kidney beans, drained
1 (1 oz.) can lima beans, drained
1 (20 oz.) can pork and beans, drained

Mix all ingredients together in a Dutch oven or casserole dish. Cover and bake at 350 degrees covered for one hour. Uncover and bake for another 30 minutes. These beans keep great in the refrigerator. In fact, I usually make them a day before I’m going to serve them.

Recipe courtesy of Suzanne Beecher

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