In the movie LA Story, Steve Martin and his friends went to a restaurant that did its best to insult its customers, and they paid top dollar for the experience. The restaurant was called L’Idiot, and they must have used Penzeys Spices in the kitchen.
Imagine a company that thought you would want to buy their products because they sent a letter to your home calling you a bigot and the place you live a den of intolerant racists. Waukesha residents like my wife, the Lovely Doreen, received a letter from Bill Penzey on the opening page of the summer edition Penzeys Spice catalog, titled "Waukesha – Community of Kindness."
The title has an unfortunate ironic intent. Penzey’s letter makes it clear that he prefers Milwaukee to Waukesha because the latter is just a racist suburb.
"Almost overnight, Waukesha, a place famous across the country for its abolitionist roots, became overwhelmed and home to a very different way of thinking."
Milwaukee in the 1950s was a Progressive heaven embracing "diversity" and the people opposed to diversity moved to Waukesha, according to Penzey. "Many embraced the change. Many others were not ready for it and fled west to Waukesha and Milwaukee’s surrounding suburbs."
Milwaukee’s Progressivism of the 1950s (the Socialist era) is, according to Penzey, "part of why Milwaukee is being discovered today by so many for the treasure that it is." That will cause more than a few eye rolls west of 124th street, considering most of Waukesha sees Milwaukee as run by a bunch of mediocrities, flakes and grifters, incapable of looking beyond their borders except in search of more money from suburban taxpayers.
What treasure does Penzey find in Milwaukee? Is it the failing schools? The shooting that shattered a window at Harley Davidson while the city did the hashtag handholding against violence? Or is it the inept city government that wants to build a streetcar on an existing city bus route? How about the racial hustle by Voces de la Frontera of Palermo’s Pizza?
Meanwhile in Waukesha County, I didn’t hear local leaders fretting when residency requirements were abolished about public employees fleeing to Milwaukee.
But what is it about Waukesha Penzey doesn’t like?
Penzey opposes the "governor’s defunding of inner-city schools," forgetting that it’s the teachers union in Milwaukee and the school board that blocked the Act 10 savings to Milwaukee’s schools. By the way, Governor Scott Walker is from Wauwatosa and is the former Milwaukee County Executive. Waukesha voters love Walker anyway.
And then Penzey returns to a previous attack on Waukesha. This is the second time Penzey has attacked Waukesha for being racist because of the Mukwonago High School Indians nickname, a tradition that predates the Happy Days era of Milwaukee. He said the law defending the use of the nickname was all about "getting votes in Waukesha and places like it."
"I would like to think that, in their hearts, none of these people feel good about sending the message that America is only for some people, not others."
Note to Bill: In our hearts, Waukesha residents do not like being called racists when we’re buying oregano and garlic. I suggest the next catalog should include more vegan recipes. Since Penzeys’ target markets are Shorewood, Madison and the East Side of Milwaukee, the venison chili recipe is out of place.
Penzey has made it clear that Penzeys Spices is "only for some people, not others," and he wants to only sell to those special people that hate Waukesha. So much for the motto, "Love to cook, cook to love." The only real love at Penzeys Spices is for Bill Penzey’s hollow self-righteousness.
It would be one thing for Penzey to hold these views and act on them away from the product he sells. By placing this attack on Waukesha prominently in his catalog he has made it clear he does not want business from Waukesha’s residents. I suspect Penzeys’ competitors do not have the same contempt for their customers.
Thanks to something called the Internet, Penzeys’ competitors are pretty easy to find.
Over 50 years ago, Phyllis Schlafly wrote a short book about Presidential politics called “A Choice, Not a Echo.” Schlafly’s book was an attack on the Eastern Republican Establishment – a group (think Nelson Rockefeller and John Lindsay) that would make politicians who are derided today as RINOs (such as Lindsey Graham and, inexplicably, Jeb Bush) look like tea party stalwarts. The book was an important part of the rise of the modern GOP and the realignment of our political parties along ideological lines. Conservatives left the Democrats. Liberals left the Republicans.