I’m part of a Facebook group called “You’re probably from GREEN BAY if …“. A few months ago I saw an intriguing post on the page. “… If you know what a kneecap is,” it said.
What? I’ve lived almost 65 years, the first 21 of those in Green Bay, and I had no idea what they were talking about.
I soon found out. A kneecap is a pastry, sort of a cross between a cream puff and a doughnut. Consensus was that the best place in Green Bay to buy a kneecap is the Willow Street Bakery.
Well, maybe that explains it. Willow Street was on Green Bay’s North Side. I grew up in Allouez, the cushy suburb to the south. The city isn’t that big, but my parents weren’t Green Bay natives, so they weren’t into all of the local delicacies. I mean, I’ve only eaten booyah once—at a tavern on Riverside Drive with my friend Pam. But at least I’ve had booyah.
One man on Facebook was planning a trip to Green Bay for his 65th birthday. He wanted to ride the miniature train at Bay Beach, as he had in his youth, and he wanted to eat a kneecap. He posted later that he’d done both, and he raved about the kneecap. “I have to get one of those things,” I vowed.
My Incomplete Passes friends and I took our yearly trip to Green Bay last week, and I asked them about kneecaps. “I remember them!” Pam exclaimed. “When we went to parties at the Swan Club, they’d put them out on big platters. People would fight over them. But I wasn’t that impressed.”
“Maybe yours weren’t from the Willow Street Bakery,” I said.
Our weekend was busy, and the bakery is closed on Sundays and Mondays. But on Tuesday Pam and I were heading south from Carla’s family cottage in Door County, preparing to go home. Our route took us down University Avenue, which—you guessed it—used to be Willow Street.
“We really don’t need to be doing this,” I said. We’re both Type 2 diabetics, after all, and we were about to get our annual Sammy’s Pizza fix. “But maybe we could just look and see where it is. You know, for next year.”
Pam spotted the bakery’s sign on our right, and parking was available. “We could just go in and look at them,” I hinted. “Or maybe we could split one, just to taste.”
As we opened the door, wonderful aromas hit us. We saw coffee cakes, Danish, doughnuts. Oh no! Didn’t they make any today? But then we looked in the case farthest from the entrance. Gleaming rows of kneecaps sat on trays. “They’re really pretty small,” I rationalized.
We each purchased a kneecap. Pam sampled hers. “Mmmm … these are better,” she said.
I took my first bite. The rich, sweetened, whipped Wisconsin cream suffused the pastry layer without making it soggy. The woman at the counter explained that after the doughnut is fried and dusted with powdered sugar, the baker uses a punching tool to make a well for the cream.
“This may have been worth waiting 65 years for,” I commented.
“You’re wearing some on your nose,” the counter lady kindly pointed out.
“I’ll deal with that later,” I told her, taking another bite.
When I got home, I looked up a recipe for kneecaps on Allrecipes.com. http://allrecipes.com/recipe/kneecaps/
I can’t vouch for this recipe because I haven’t made it yet. But I likely will. I don’t know when I can get to the Willow Street Bakery again, and I’m sure not going without a kneecap for another 65 years.