Wait Five Minutes

Every place has its local sayings and phrases, the regionalisms known to those on the “inside” and potentially bewildering to those on the “outside.” Where I grew up near Seattle, it’s common to hear people comment that “the mountain is out,” or perhaps more often, that the mountain “is not out” since overcast is the sky’s perpetual shade. The mountain is Mt. Rainier and on a clear day, its looming visage is hard to miss all over the Seattle area. So when the mountain is “out,” you can see it and when you can’t see it, it’s “in.”  It never seemed strange until I moved away to say that a 14,000 foot mountain could be “in” or “out,” but there you have it. And once I’m back in town, the words fall easily from my lips once again even ten years on (gulp! I moved away a decade ago!?!).

Here in Madison, we have our own words – though nothing is “in” or “out” as far as I know. There’s “hippie Christmas” and “coastie,” as well as the general prefix “Mad,” which attached to any word means it is somehow tied to Madison: Madcity, Madrollin’, Madcat, Madtown, Mad, Mad, Mad.

Orkney mainland, Scotland

But then there’s this: “If you don’t like the weather, then wait five minutes and it will change.” Have you heard this? Have you heard it applied to your town or city? Does it seem like 90% of the world seems to believe this about where they live? Mark Twain supposedly wrote, “If you don’t like the weather in New England, wait a minute.” I’ve heard it said in Seattle, Portland, Madison (all over Wisconsin, really), Minneapolis, San Francisco, Cape Cod, Chicago, and Boston. On a recent trip to Scotland, I heard it again from a man in Glasgow bar. He said it was an old Scottish saying – maybe but it appears to be just as “old” all over the place so perhaps it’s only old in the sense that people have been saying it for a long time.

What is it about that phrase? And what does it tell us about our meteorological feelings? Maybe we say it as a way to excuse bad weather, as though we’re embarrassed about the current conditions but something better will be along shortly – really! Or maybe it’s a reflection on the impermanence of everything, even the weather – that this too will pass, that nothing stays the same, that change is unavoidable. Or maybe we all just live in really tempestuous places.


New piece on Jerry Apps finally out

Check out the latest issue of On Wisconsin (the University of Wisconsin alumni magazine) for my profile of prolific Wisconsin writer, Jerry Apps. Jerry is a force to be reckoned with – every book catalog I open from a Wisconsin publisher seems to include a new book from Jerry. His work ethic is both humbling and inspiring. I can only hope to be as engaged and active as he is in my 80s.

No Gluten, More Cider

Flipping through a magazine the other day, I discovered that Michelob has a new beverage in its line-up: a hard cider. Cider making has been on the rise in recent years in the U.S. but a line in the ad – “a unique beverage that is naturally sweetened and gluten-free” – made me think it wasn’t the hard cider trend that Anheuser-Busch was seeking to capitalize on, but rather the rise of gluten-free eating and drinking.

Ciders are naturally gluten-free, being, in essence, nothing more than crushed apples. A few cider producers add wheat products for… flavor or something to their ciders so it’s best not to assume its gluten content on ordering.

It all makes me wonder whether the rise of gluten-free means more hard cider?

There’s nothing wrong with that per se, but being the hard-nosed historical traditionalist that I am, I’d love to see the rise of hard cider as a recognition of the drink’s long and glorious history and more importantly, its delicious flavor. Cider is the drink of our founding fathers and mothers, and the apple a fruit of immense social, cultural, and economic importance all over the temperate world. Good cider is an art and a craft, not simply a necessity or a concession to circumstances.

But I’m pragmatic, too, and happy to think that more people are discovering hard ciders, whatever the reason that brings them in. I just hope they stay for the flavor and heritage, too.