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Weekender: Bloomington, Indiana

Roger Davies

Photo: Roger Davies

Basketball is to Indiana what oranges are to Florida. To be sure, local folks are proud of the ballplayers they've bred, but Hoosiers have sown all kinds of seeds.

Fresh fruit and vegetables are sold at the Farmers' Market (401 N. Morton St.; held Saturday mornings May–October), but the prepared food—chili, pickled peppers, fresh bread—and the live bluegrass music are what make the outdoor stalls worthy of a morning detour.

For local and foreign wines, drop by Oliver Winery (8024 N. State Rd. 37; 800/258-2783), the largest and oldest in Indiana. The timber roadside shop stocks 18 varieties of wine (three of them made from grapes harvested from the Oliver family's vineyard) and offers free tastings year-round. Pick up a loaf of French bread and some cheese at the Farmers' Market, select your favorite vintage, and claim a picnic table by the winery's pond, which is surrounded by 15 acres of green hills and ash trees.

If you prefer hops to grapes, buy a half-gallon "growler" (a beer jug, in localspeak) at the Brewpub (1795 E. 10th St., inside Lennie's Brewery, Restaurant & Pub; 812/323-2112) and fill it up with one of the Bloomington Brewing Co.'s microbrews. Across town is the grander Upland Brewing Co. (350 W. 11th St.; 812/336-2337), where divine Belgian-style wheat ale is served alongside bar snacks such as burgers, steaks, and Buffalo wings.

Take some time to digest and sober up at the By Hand Gallery (109 Fountain Square Mall; 812/334-3255). At this artisans' cooperative, local potters, weavers, carvers, and jewelry designers showcase their wares at reasonable prices.

So what exactly is a Hoosier?The term is generally used for a native or resident of Indiana, but people have attached countless urban legends to the word's origin. Some look back to 1825, when a Samuel Hoosher supervised a group of Indiana men building a canal along the Ohio River . . . thus, "Hoosher's men." A more colorful version is poet James Whitcomb Riley's; he suggested that early pioneers participated in such vicious bar brawls, body parts were typically bitten off . . . leading to "Who's ear?" Webster's sees it as an alteration of hoozer, a word in English dialect meaning "anything large of its kind." In a 1987 letter to the Wall Street Journal, former governor Robert D. Orr wrote that the mystery of the word's derivation should remain, adding that there's "no mystery, however, of the fact that we are a friendly tribe and truly proud to be known for our ‘Hoosier hospitality.' "


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