You eat cannibal. We eat wildcat.

On this St. Patrick’s Day, when we went out for perch — even though corned beef and cabbage were served at the roadhouse where we go for fish — another Wisconsin delicacy was on our minds.

A friend posted this to Facebook last night:

“Time for a couple of cannibal (raw beef, seasoned) sandwiches on onion rye bread and then off to bed.”

Hmmm. Is that something you really want to eat before bed? Is that something you really want to eat? We batted that around on Facebook for a while.

The former question, I guess, is a judgment call. On the latter question, the answer is yes, at least for some of us in Wisconsin. Before we go any further, here’s an instructional video on cannibal sandwiches “Krajewski style.”

This gent used ground round to go with his raw onions, rye bread and black pepper. Our panel of experts suggests ground sirloin — or better yet, ground steak — and either way, the fresher the better. This traditionally is washed down with cold beer. What this gent is doing with vodka and Red Bull, I have no idea.

The ingredients were Part I of the debate.

Part II revolved around what you call it. The elegant name is beef tartar.

My friend, who grew up along Lake Michigan in eastern Wisconsin, calls it cannibal sandwich. So do most of the folks around here, in the shadow of Lambeau Field.

But I was living in central Wisconsin when I was introduced to this delicacy. There, an hour and a half to the west, we call it wildcat. All these years later, I remain a wildcat man, and not a cannibal sandwich man.

There really only is one song for this. And, no, it is not by Total Coelo.

“Meat Man,” Jerry Lee Lewis, from “Southern Roots,” 1973. (The buy link is to a two-fer CD also featuring “Boogie Woogie Country Man,” a 1975 LP.)

This wild tune (which I am shocked! shocked! to learn is really is not about meat) was written by Mack Vickery, a longtime Lewis pal and collaborator. He also wrote “Rockin’ My Life Away” for Lewis.

Vickery, an Alabama native, kicked around Memphis in the late ’50s and early ’60s as a singer. He didn’t have much success at that, but he wrote a bunch of hits for country stars in the late ’60s and early ’70s.


Filed under March 2011, Sounds

14 responses to “You eat cannibal. We eat wildcat.

  1. I have a pretty broad palate, but I don’t think I could handle that.

  2. Meat

    Countyline Market in Wausau used to sell some pretty lean stuff that, pre-ecoli awareness, was awfully good.

    • 2Mollie6

      I lived in Wausau and agree Countyline Markets was a great place to buy it.. It was served at parties. If it was a nicer party you would use the small rye bread and it was eaten as an open face canape’. And always served with beer. I moved away from central Wisconsin in 1985 and sadly have not had wildcat since. Also I never knew anyone who got sick from it..

      • Sharon

        Came from Northern ILLINOIS and parents brought this recipe and desire for this Christmas treat with them. My husband and his family calls them Wildcats. (Potato-Putatato).
        I just never learned the recipe and Mom and Dad are gone now.
        I DO know the right meat to use. And that cocktail rye, onion, salt and pepper are on it.

        Just not sure if there are other things mixed with the meat. I’m thinking Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder should be mixed with it. But still have never made it myself.
        Any must haves in there?

  3. Scott Thomson

    Cannibal meat? Been there, done that, but it hasn’t been 43 years and a wedding reception for one of my former Yellow-Cab-Madison buds. The killjoys at the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection will screech at you about the dangers, but are much more reticent about unprotected homosexual activity, or drug use. Whatever, ……

  4. I like my steak rare– charred on the outside and red/purple and cool on the inside. I have my limits… I don’t know that I could handle going completely raw. But hey, I’ll try anything once.

  5. I can’t decide if that’s surprisingly tasty, or batshit crazy.
    Only one way to find out …

  6. Dean

    My mom was born in Germany in the twenties’ and I practically grew up on something like this in Milwaukee. My parents called it “Gehaktes” (“ground or cut up” in German) and mom would hand grind some good beef, then add a raw egg, onions, salt and pepper, and a dash of German Dusseldorf style mustard. It was used as a spread, on some seedless rye bread-open faced.

    It is extremely good and tastes “like-butter”. Recently I was talking about this with an old guy and he mentioned “Wisconsin wildcat” which I had never heard of. I’m so happy someone somewhere is keeping this type of food alive.

    I also never got sick from this!

  7. Tom

    Domino Bar Wausau WI had wildcat every New Years Eve.

  8. Kevin

    Love it….We have it every year at Christmas. Most places now just call it “Seasoned Ground Beef with Onions” becuase of the e-coli scare several years back. Townline Market in Wausau makes the best!!!

  9. Jim

    years ago I saw it for sale at a beer garden at the State Fair in Milwaukee,WI. I used to eat it but not lately. It is GOOD!

  10. Paul

    From Wausau, WI myself and am a big fan of Wildcat. I have always purchase mine from Zillman’s Meat Market in Wausau and think it is absolutely delicious compare to some other places (none in Wausau). Zillman” calls a spade a spade and calls wildcat for what it is- wildcat

  11. Gary Lundquist

    Fond memories, we lived in Wausau from 1978 to 84 and went to a lot of parties that served wildcat from country line market
    Put it on small party rye bread there is nothing better. And I never heard of anyone who had it from there who ever got sick. Good times!

  12. Jim Krause

    Am also a Wausau kid and agree with Paul. Zillman’s is the only place to go. Went to high school with Lonnie Zillman and shop is still family run. They make the best. Have been since the great gramps and great uncles started the shop. And, don’t forget the mettwurst.

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