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    Sweet Home Chicago
  1. I drove past a place called "Bob's Swingin' Weenies" last night. I think it's a hot dog stand, but I'm not sure I want to stop and find out.
  2. I am the woman who has refused to sell out and is instead rehabbing a ridiculously old-fashioned 1887 four-square on a block with 7, yes 7, new McMansions built within the last three years where other old houses used to stand. But I have two huge pantries, one on the now enclosed former back porch next to the kitchen and one in the basement next to the chest freezer. I don't know that I'm an advanced cook, but crazy and hardcore? You bet.
  3. A few weeks ago, I bought a Back-to-Basics ice cream maker (on sale for $18) and found The Perfect Scoop at the library. So far, I have tried the Rum Raisin and Strawberry-Sour Cream recipes, and both turned out beautifully. I had never made ice cream before and was a little daunted by the custard, but no worries! The instructions are well written, and this newbie with a cheap machine made some pretty good ice cream. So now I have to go and buy the book...I can see cooking my way through the entire thing!
  4. I often wonder how different the whole of my life would have been had we stayed there! When I have returned to visit, I have found that few people cook the "old-timey" way my grandmother did, though my aunt does still grow a gigantic garden and puts food up. My cousins like grocery stores and packaged foods much better. Don't get me started on the skinny red-dyed hot dogs made from miscellaneous parts. And of course, there is very little ethnic diversity up there in the high mountains. Let's just say it is an "interesting" place to be for a person like me.
  5. Not quite, but I do eat just a few kernels from a single row at a time, across in typewriter fashion. I find fewer bits stick in my teeth that way, and the cob looks much neater, too. I get a little prissy sometimes.
  6. What interesting questions you ask and what interesting replies! Here are my answers: Do you tend to mostly cook foods or recipes that spring from your home culture, or do you tend to mostly cook things from other cultures? I cook foods from many different cultures. Where are you from and what is it that attracts you to the things you choose to cook? I was born in Alleghany County, Virginia, to a Japanese mother and a Scots-Irish/Cherokee father. (Karen, you may be familiar with that area, not far from where you are, I think.) I lived there until I was almost six, then my family moved to Chicago. I have lived here since then except for my college years in New York. I have a Filipino-Italian stepmother, my mother’s husband is Salvadoran, my former husband is an Iowa farmboy of German-Swiss extraction, and other members of my family are of Polish, Greek, and Puerto Rican descent. While l have not yet traveled much outside the United States, I have been fortunate in that the world has come to me in so many ways. I like variety and, of course, I try to make food that my multicultural family and friends will enjoy. How long have you been cooking, and has your cooking shifted from that of one culture to another over time? I began cooking on my own at about 11 (see below), and let’s just say, I’ve been around for awhile. My “home” culture is a mix Japanese (e.g., udon, kare raisu), standard American (e.g, meat loaf), and American Southern (e.g., biscuits and gravy) foods. Now I cook almost anything, going through phases with no particular plan. I might try a new restaurant, read a book, see a movie, meet a new friend, come across a new ingredient in the store – all these things might trigger an interest in another cuisine. How did you learn to cook - from a person, from books, from television, from (?) My first experience was in “helping” my grandmother cook when I was a very small child. I don’t think I was all that useful, but she showed me how to knead and cut biscuits with a jelly glass, to choose ripe fruits and vegetables from the garden, and to enjoy food preparation from growing it yourself through eating it with people you care about. When we came to Chicago, my mother preferred carryout and quick-n-easy meals, so she didn’t cook much. When I was required to take a junior high home arts class, I loved the cooking part. I started out with the usual school recipes (creamed tuna on toast points!) but soon moved on to baking. I watched television teachers, started a now unwieldy cookbook collection that desperately needs weeding, and clipped ridiculous numbers of recipes from magazines and newspapers. I learned to make the “hot dish” type casseroles and homemade noodles from my former husband’s mother. A Polish friend showed me how to make pierogies, I’m hoping my Chinese friend will show me how to make sticky rice packages, and I’m looking for someone to help me learn to make tamales. (Hmmm, there may be a theme here.) What direction would you like to see your cooking go in the future - do you have a "plan" or any ideas as to what focus you would like to take? One thing that I would like to do is to find time to return to the way I cooked when my children were small and I was a full-time domestic engineer. I grew a terrific garden (yes, in the city), went to the country for u-pick fruits and vegetables, canned and froze and made jellies – all that stuff that people seem to be forgetting these days. Now I work 10-hour days, zip through the everyday meals, and make do with an occasional “domestic” weekend, when I just cook for two days. As noted above, I have no plan or focus on a particular food culture – it is all interesting to me.
  7. Me, too. I don't post very often, but I always enjoy reading your stories. Keep up the good work!
  8. Has anyone tried "Nice" brand canned sardines? They come from Morocco and are skinless and boneless, plump and tasty. Dominick's carries them here in Chicago. I eat them on Triscuits when there is nobody else at home. More for me!
  9. Me, I'm a crusty old broad, but tender-hearted. I likes them both.
  10. I was just discussing this topic with an co-worker yesterday. I can't stand oatmeal and other cooked breakfast cereals, rice pudding, tapioca, congee, and cottage cheese and the like because of their texture, especially if they are warm. Oatmeal literally makes me gag. But I like whipped cream, plain cooked grains (rice, couscous, etc.), and yogurt. I think it's the combination of the creaminess with the discernible tiny chunky or fibrous bites that puts me off. It reminds me of vomit (sorry -- it is that disgusting to me). And I eat tako sashimi, kamaboko, okra, mushrooms, and pate with relish! I am a hybrid -- Japanese mother, Scots-Irish/American Indian father -- so I suppose my varied preferences in textures is culturally and genetically appropriate!
  11. I too have been collecting cookbooks since I was a kid -- started in junior high home ec class! But I also do not generally cook from them. My family laugh at my collection because they know I have a rebellious streak and cannot follow directions. I like to compare different versions of the same dish to come up with my own, and cookbooks are lots of fun to dust (joke!). I also have some cookbooks that I would definitely NOT cook from -- they are more curiosities than anything else. One of my favorites was a gift from my late grandmother. When I was a poor starving student, she gave me a book with a gazillion hot dog recipes. I only eat them one way -- Chicago style -- but I keep the cookbook still as a remembrance of Granny. Cookbooks are also a remembrance from places that I have traveled. I try to find a local cookbook wherever I go. Cookbooks from other places are also a way for me to travel to those exotic lands. Perhaps I shall never get to the Congo, but I know what kinds of foods they eat there, and perhaps I can experience a little of that faraway place by eating some of the same food that people eat there. (edited to go on and on and on...)
  12. Do you go to several different grocery stores? Yes. My everyday choices are Jewel (Albertson’s) and Dominick’s (Safeway), but I take side trips to other places [Aldi’s, Sam’s Club, Whole Foods, Wild Oats, Whole Grain (pan-Asian), Mitsuwa (Japanese), Bobak’s (Polish), plus smaller Italian, Mexican, and Indian places]. We also have several independent grocers nearby. I visit them all as the fancy strikes me. I’ll buy food anywhere. Do you clip coupons? I don’t buy the processed foods promoted by most coupons, and I can’t remember to bring the useful ones with me, so I don’t bother. What do you usually buy at the grocery store? The usual staples, things I need for a specific recipe, and things that look interesting. I’ve gone into a store for some bread, and come out with stuff that I have no idea what to do with. I have lots of fun figuring it out. Do you tend to buy more meat or more produce? Depends on which store I’m in and who's joining me for dinner, but generally more produce. Are you too ashamed to make purchases from the "reject bin?" Few stores have reject bins any more, but I do take a look when I find one. Do you make a list? Sometimes. But I usually forget the bloody thing on the kitchen table when I fly out the door, after I've spent quite a lot of time writing things down. How many refrigerators and pantries do you have for food storage? One regular refrigerator/freezer in the kitchen, one small refrigerator and one large chest freezer in the basement plus one full pantry in the back entry (used to be a porch, apparently) and one full pantry in the basement. As an experiment earlier this year (after the last of the sons found a place of his own), I avoided shopping for anything but essential fresh items and tried living off what I had already. It took about six months to use up everything in the big freezer. It was great to clear things out – I found all kinds of things I had forgotten – and then I got to go out and replenish! Do you enjoy grocery shopping as much as I do? Probably. I even make a point of stopping at grocery stores when I’m on travel just to see what I can find.
  13. I don't like discrete foods to be all mixed up on my plate. I like to enjoy the unique taste of each dish that makes up my meal. How can you do that when it's all blended into an indistinguishable glop? If ingredients are mixed to make a complete dish, that's ok. But if those same ingredients are cooked as separate dishes, then I like to eat each one separately, and I don't want them to "bleed" over into each other on my plate so that the flavors are muddled. Perhaps that is what is bothering you, too. Maybe it's an Asian thing for me. My mother is from Japan, and she taught me to eat my rice separately, except in donburi or sushi, when it's part of the dish. I dislike food dumped on top of my rice. I think there's also some undercurrent of respect to the person who took the time to plan and prepare each dish separately (even if it's a carryout meal!) and respect for the flavors of each dish on its own, though of course they should complement each other when they are served in the same meal. It's a difficult philosophy to explain. p.s. I prefer my salad in a separate dish, too.
  14. I have tried many different kinds of potholders and mitts, but alas, all have failed me. My oven and stove burns became so ubiquitous that my younger son took to saying, "If the smoke alarm goes off, food's ready. If Mom burns herself, it's going to be good." And, of course, everything I cook is good! I now rely on a handy stack of kitchen towels. They relieve me of the false sense of security that I got from potholders and mitts, which all too often proved to be spottily thin, unexpectedly holey, or a bit too flammable. I know that if I don't position the towel just right, I will definitely burn myself, so I am more careful. Now if I can only remember not to leave them on top of the stove when the burners are still hot (it's an electric).
  15. Peanut butter and bananas, with or without the sandwich part! But especially this way: Place on a plate a decent spoonful of peanut butter, one firm banana sliced into rounds, and a pile of nicely crisp crumbled bacon. Spear banana with fork, roll in peanut butter, and dip into bacon bits. I found Peanut Butter & Company's The Heat Is On at a grocery store in Milwaukee while I was helping my college-bound son stock his apartment for the coming school year. It's got a good kick to it but doesn't go particularly well with Welch's grape jelly (of which I bought a great quantity to obtain a complete collection of Curious George jars). However, I think the hamburger idea might work beautifully for this stuff! I was also thinking of using it for Asian-style noodles. Edited for baaad splllng
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