The gathering place by the water
Summertime in Milwaukee is a short season. For that reason, it's a season spent outdoors at parks, concerts, sporting events and music and ethnic festivals celebrating the city's diverse present and past, no matter the weather. Summerfest along the lakefront, the world's largest music festival, is a regular part of the season and only cost $5 to see Tina Turner, John Lee Hooker, Paul Simon, Prince and Bonnie Raitt in the 70s and early 80s. (It's now $19 to see current headliners.)
It was a great city to grow up in, something I was reminded of when I went back this month, not only for affordable arts, old movie theaters, public museums, and the lakefront, but the sense of history and community in the people. At the time, it was a solid middle class and blue collar town with a focus on supporting neighborhood schools and gardens. A dependable bus service could take us anywhere in the city and beyond in all types of weather. Yet, it has never been a city that brags.
Growing up it was a city of music, dancing and seeing classic movies with my sister; of watching fireworks explode over the lake as we lay on the side of a hill; of roaming with my brother and sister throughout the city with one bus ticket and a transfer; of cheering bike racers as they sped through downtown; of powwows in late autumn; of my urban, integrated public schools; and of basement music stores and attic parties with kids from all over. It's a city that lives in my memory. It's a city that I hope will push through hard times brought down upon the people.
Now, because I don't want to leave you on a low note, here's a recipe to enjoy this summer. Being Milwaukee, dubbed "Beer Town" for the breweries established by beer barons from Germany in the 19th century, there is always beer, more so in the craft breweries that have popped up since the late 80s. We liked to spend time in our city parks enjoying cookouts everybody together.
Brats Milwaukee style:
Purchase good, fresh brats (Usinger, if you're in Milwaukee) and enough beer to fill a large pot.
Parboil the brats for two minutes in beer.
(This partial cooking of the brats will shorten grilling time and create a nice flavor.)
Dump out the beer when done.
Grill brats until fully cooked.
Eat on crusty (not soft) hot dog buns with ketchup, mustard, sauerkraut or whatever you wish.
(Photo: Lake Michigan sunrise, Milwaukee, source unknown)
Note: The name "Milwaukee" comes from an Algonquian word Millioke, meaning "good", "beautiful" and "pleasant land" (in Potawatomi language minwaking and Ojibwe language ominowakiing) or "Gathering place [by the water]" (from Wikipedia history of Milwaukee).