Across the near east side, small boys are mesmerized by round disks of cardboard imprinted with the image of a woman holding a hotdish. More popular than Pokemon, the coasters can be found tucked into sock drawers, riding in favorite Thomas the Tank Engine cars and clutched in the hands of sleeping children.
The woman, thought by anthropologists and archaeologists to be some sort of mid-1980s cult figure from the Upper Midwest region west of the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers, is wearing a simple tunic and holding a pan of something purported to be cheesy cauliflower casserole.
However, experts are not sure about the pans contents, even after consulting a number hotdish cookbooks from the mid-20th century. "The quality of the printing on the coaster is good for that medium," says Betty Lou Harrison, who almost finished her Ph.D. in anthropology before dropping out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison to start a small home repair business that she parlayed into a large remodeling corporation in Waunakee. "However, the rough quality of the card stock makes determination of the pan's contents difficult."
The significance of the coaster remains a mystery, especially as to why it is so appealing to preschoolers and elementary school children. "We think the cult leader may have some influence that we just don't understand," Harrison says. "We've found some references to long journeys and community gatherings involving electrified gelatin. One source says young adults were sent out from the community to pursue knowledge, training and employment. This cohort does not seem to react to the coaster in quite same way as the younger children. We think that may correlate to hand size."
Hotdish Hoedown itself
Brownies and pasta were a large component of the fare at the Hotdish Hoedown 2007. Faced with a winter that promised a lot of snow-shoveling, guests sensed the need for carbohydrates and chocolate, and shared their provender accordingly. With a few fewer guests, going back to the buffet for thirds was much easier.