Happy Mother’s Day, Beautiful

That’s what I said to my Mom in a card when I was a child. Strangely enough, a kindergarten student calls me “Beautiful” everyday. I think she needs glasses. On the cover of the cards displayed, my own painted artwork with Mom and a basket of candy. It should have been for Easter. My talent in writing was more than I expected at that young age. Mother, Mother, I’ll help and stay until the day you pass away. I’ll make you happy all through the year with kisses hugs and wonderful cheers. I don’t know about the hugs and cheers but I did stay with her until she passed away in 2001. Though my card was printed in block print, I did know cursive and signed it Love, Karla. Mom told me that most of my cards were signed, Love, Karla Korff which she always loved. As far as gifts for Mom, she was not a breakfast in bed lover. She did like breakfast at Denny’s in Calumet City when we lived in Dolton. But dinner was her favorite, choosing red snapper at the Green Shingle in Harvey,Chuck Cavalinnis in Dolton or the Flame in Country Side.

Back in the late 1990’s I found another card in a treasured box that says For Mom with our love and appreciation on Mother’s Day. And I know why I kept it. It was signed by both children in their best cursive. Their Dad probably bought it and for them to do something together was quite unique. I did like the beautiful bow and especially the line that says how thankful they were for my faith to help get them through difficult times which I still try to do today by responding to their phone calls and text messages. Though I have learned that it is not just my faith in them but my steady faith in God. Some of my favorite gifts have been fresh flowers for the dining room table, and a candle from my daughter as well as Lindahl chocolate. My son is known for bottled water since he works for Hinckleys, teas and he knows I love my Starbucks. Jamesons for a filet mignon in Downers Grove is my favorite for dinner but there have been many years spent having breakfast and lunch at Stevens in Woodridge.

And as I write and read this again; it is not about vacations or the most expensive gift, it is truly the love and encouragement we give to each other every day until we are able to call heaven our new home.

Happy Mother’s Day to all that celebrate with kisses, hugs, and wonderful cheers.

“Winging It” during the Super Bowl

By Caryl Clem

February is a big month celebrating over 50 foods. Get your napkin supply ready. Anyone with a Sweet Tooth, nearly every day offers a treat and it is Chocolate Lovers Month. Watching your sugar intake, National Snack Month offers tasty dips, chips and savory meat snacks. According to sales over 1.4 billion this year, consumers preferred to “Wing It” during the game with chicken wings. The best wings drown in a can’t stop eating rich covering like Aria B Mumbo Sauce created in Chicago. Did I mention, keep those napkins close by!

February is African American Heritage month, Argia B. Collins, an African American who enriched Chicago’s culinary experience. A Navy man from Mississippi thought his entrepreneur dreams could come true in Chicago. He moved here to work for his oldest brother in the 1940’s. By 1950, he opened his first restaurant on the South Side in Bronzeville. The Collins’ brothers were opening successful restaurants in different neighborhoods serving ribs and southern favorites. Competing with his five brothers, Argia opened a test kitchen in his first place and expanded to build two more restaurants featuring his Mumbo sauce on wings and other meats. The customers loved his sauce and kept bringing their own containers to take home more sauce.

To meet customer demand, he opened a manufacturing plant on the Southside and kept advertising. After a feature advertisement in a 1970 Life magazine, the sauce became a national favorite. Barbeque culinary experts across the country raved over this Mumbo Sauces’ combination of flavors. There was an effort to discredit the Chicago claim to this recipe but a court case decided the recipe’s authenticity.  Chicago has the right to claim this brands’ birthplace.

If you love hearty, spicy wings try Aria B Mumbo Sauce. Now a legacy that started as mix of determination and motivation to create the Mumbo sauce he remembered from his childhood. The southern roots for these sauces have led to legends in other towns. In New York, John Young, an African American during about the same time developed a “mombo” sauce for “Buffalo Wings”.  In DC another pair of brothers developed a Mumbo sauce that is well known.  None of the competition has statewide distribution this company supports.

The Captains Table, Mathon’s and Valentine’s Day at The Hob Nob

I was having a drink at the bar when I met the owner’s son of the Captain Table on Belvidere Road in Waukegan. I was living in the area and teaching from 1978-1987. Edward Allegretti was the owner who was a huge restaurant connoisseur. His son was also named Edward and managed the restaurant; a friend of mine back in the day. The restaurant had an excellent selection of seafood and was popular if you wanted to eat before seeing a show at the downtown Genesee theater. The atmosphere was comfortable and well-established. He owned the restaurant from 1972 to 1985. The restaurant was closed and the father passed away in 1997. Though I had lost contact with his son, sources claim he moved to Naperville and passed away in 2015.

Mathons in Waukegan opened in 1939 as a fish market just a block from the Waukegan Harbor. Mathon Kyritsis, a Greek immigrant, finally created a restaurant taken over by the son, John. The walls were ribbed resembling a ship inside and the windows represented portholes. They had the best calamari of all time. A few times I did sail from the Waukegan harbor. The vintage menu above was created by artist Phil Austin in the 1960’s.

Still open today, The Hob Nob by far is another wonderful place on Lake Michigan in Racine Wisconsin just past Kenosha. Many special occasions were honored at this restaurant. Valentines Day was celebrated with Allegretti. Strange, how I remember that it was that holiday in the early 1980’s because I was so impressed with the restaurant; my first experience. The Hob Nob served the best food and offered spectacular views of Lake Michigan from the bar. I experienced my first brandy alexander there. My engagement to be married…Kevin Sullivan…..was cherished in 1985. One of the greatest supper clubs in Wisconsin, it is truly an experience to visit and what I remember was the most elegant cream- tufted circular booths and bar seats. Established in 1954, the Hob Nob offered red snapper which my Mother loved. Many of the construction, signs and decor are exactly the same today.

The Higgins family had a restaurant in downtown Racine in the 1930’s and built the new one. Michael Aletto purchased the restaurant in the 1990’s keeping most of the same recipes. Aletto and his wife now commutes from Florida once a month and every other week around holidays. They have a strong staff that keeps the restaurant operating smoothly.

I moved to Downers Grove in 1988 though I frequent the north suburbs often. But I have not been back to the Hob Nob. Need to go back since I am less than an hour away and cherish the memories. No…….wrong. Let’s go back and create new memories with my new love…still relaxing with breath-taking views of the lake and my favorite steak.

Aprons

I remember my Mom during a 1960’s holiday cooking in the kitchen with her apron. One of my earliest memories is her laughing with my aunt wiping her hands on the half-waist apron. I also remember her wearing a dress for most holidays. One was a beige short sleeve knit with horizontal pinstripes. I also remember a black skirt with a white button-down blouse; her blue apron with flowers on the pocket covering that. She could dust quickly with an apron on. I also remember my aunts ruffled apron that I would cry into…for what reason….I do not remember. Another neighbor had a sheer white embroidered apron with pink flowers that she wore at birthday celebrations. How can I forget another relative who lived in a farm town and used the gathering apron. As she got older, it was easier for her to gather fruit and vegetables from her small garden; beets and tomatoes were my favorites.

Sometimes when we would visit when I was little, I remember she would share wildflowers in her apron for me to hold. I still have memories of neighbors that had half-waist aprons with pockets to hold their cigarettes and matches, though I don’t remember the smell being any different than an apron that smelled like vegetables and spice. I was so excited to get a hand-maid apron from my aunt with the pockets filled with crayons. I found one that was layers of lace made in the 1930’s in a family hope chest. In the 1970’s, I remember aprons that were floral but like an artist smock with front pockets and snaps. The picture represents one for sale on Etsy.

Back in the 1950’s and 1960’s, Len’s Auntie Sue would make aprons since she worked for Form Fit, headquartered in Chicago, for many of the family members and that would be their Christmas presents every year. Each was gracefully created to match holiday colors or celebrate the season with flowers, butterflies and birds. Homemakers woke every morning to get their coffee, and put on their favorite apron while they made breakfast; a variety was necessary to make their day. It was a lot easier to wash aprons than dresses which could be dry cleaned and that was expensive.

Etsy offers a wonderful collection of vintage aprons that provide pictures of styles that immediately take you back to those precious memories back in the day. So much detail went into the various designs; such cute reversible aprons with scalloped hems. Some are patchwork patterns that truly resemble the 1950’s or the apron pinafore with blue tulips that I know I have seen before.

Pumpkin pies’ political past

By Caryl Clem

Before English colonists traveled the high seas to land on American shores, pumpkins were used as a vegetable.  In a Native American cookbook, Spirit of the Harvest by Beverly Cox and Martin Jacobs a recipe features baking a variety of savory seasonings with meat and rice inside the pumpkin.  As early as 1651 a French chef published a recipe for Tourte of Pumpkin in his cookbook that was republished in England in 1653. Wealthy landowner’s wives baked pumpkin treats. Farm wives stewed sliced pumpkins and apples together with molasses. The first Dutch lawyer who owned land in New England documented his opinion that the North American pumpkin was sweeter and more delicious. The Native Americans believed sharing meals together was a sign of peace and community, sharing the pumpkins with colonists was a sign of goodwill.

An orphan colonial woman was able to publish the first American woman authored cookbook.  The recipes were written in a different format than the English version and included a new vocabulary for cooking terms. American Cookery by Amelia Simmons, in 1796 showed she was a genius combining specific step by step instructions, patriotic terms for dishes like Election Cake and meals for larger budgets and servings. She blended the emerging American culture into her recipes: created the first leavening agents that lead to baking powders, used the staple of corn meal to replace the English pasties dough, and introduced the terms shortening, cookie, and slapjacks. Her cookbook provided an American culinary identity and a way to spread patriotic pride in the new countr

In 1827, Sarah Josepha Hale, an abolitionist campaigned to make Thanksgiving a National Holiday. In her novel, Northwood the pumpkin pie portrayed as a most distinguished dish to serve at this meal.  Another abolitionist wrote the poem about the traditional journey to Grandmother’s house at Thanksgiving.  Released in 1842 by Lydia Maria Child, “Over the River and through the wood ended with a shout, hurra for the pumpkin pie. “ Instant recognition and fame spread as it appeared in children’s stories and articles in agricultural journals advising the benefits of eating pumpkins.  In 1828 a cookbook was published by popular Eliza Leslie that featured the pumpkin pie custard we eat today. The pumpkin was cooked; strained then eggs, butter, sugar and spices were added. This mixture was poured on top of a pastry shell with strips of pastry laid across the top. When Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a National Holiday in 1863, the members of the Confederacy in Virginia proclaimed it was a Yankee move to impose Yankee customs in the South. Taste buds finally won the political war as the love of pumpkin pie spread across the country.  In 1929, Libby first released canned pumpkin filling that became the answer to easy pumpkin pie baking.

After checking the top pie sales across the nation, Pumpkin ranked first, followed by Apple in a heated second.  National Pumpkin Pie Day is Christmas Day, Dec 25:  I am not waiting that long to celebrate this wonderful taste of fall.

Decades of kitchen fun

During kindergarten recess, I would anxiously visit their kitchen, have a seat while waiting for the best in plastic cuisine presented to me. There were several cooks involved in the process; a far more elaborate setting than my early 1960’s, childhood kitchen. They would fight when offering me the best to eat from their own personal menus. It was a constant argument between pizza, chocolate chip cookies, donuts with sprinkles or just candy. Sometimes I would get juice…half filled. Now, without being in school with friends, they are probably learning the real art of cooking in the family kitchen with Mom. I loved my childhood kitchen and after watching a home movie, I realized that I, too, wanted to be in charge, just like my kindergarten friends.

Made in the early 1960’s, mine was not metal like some, but the made from Sears brand that many had in white or pink corrugated cardboard with red, plastic handles that was easy to move. The set included a stove, with glow burners, oven, cupboard, sink with running water and refrigerator. I don’t remember the cups, saucers and other utensils except for a metal coffee pot and a aluminum baking pan for cupcakes. Vintage play food was not as extravagant as it is now. Pizza and chocolate chip cookies were not a big item on the list. My collection included lots of fruits and I did have a turkey for Thanksgiving.

Unfortunately, in the early 1990’s, my daughter did not have a kitchen but her best friend who lived right next door did. They had a special bowl and ingredients to make alphabet soup. She also had a Fischer Price Sizzle and Glow that the girls would try to relocate outside during nice weather but this was electronic. She had a muffin container too. However, they came with the finished product;  great looking frosted cupcakes with maraschino cherries.

Today, play kitchens are not that different with the exception of having a microwave oven, refrigerator ice dispenser and no corrugated cardboard designs. Many are being crafted from high quality wood. Mine went for about 15 dollars. Today, 200 is the average price to fulfill your child or grandchild’s dream of having the best kitchen in the community. During another article soon, we will talk about the best of childhood grocery stores…found right in your home! Pickup and delivery was available even back in the day.

 

Popcorn gains from Chicago Connections

By Caryl Clem:

Popcorn’s early history dates back to worshiping the Maize with popcorn adorned headdresses and rain gods.  Today’s mass consumption of this snack is a combination of ingenuity, determination and old fashioned hustling.  January 19th is National Popcorn day.

Early popping corn was risky, often greasy, or partially burned and inedible until Charles Cretors invented a steam popcorn machine wagon. He moved his family to Chicago in 1885 to expand his business.  During the Columbia World Exposition in 1893, fresh popcorn vendor wagons were introduced. C Cretors and Company of Chicago featured popcorn flavors that won instant approval. Charles previously sold peanuts before the popcorn venture, his recipe combined molasses, peanuts and popcorn. The cheery red wagon that popped fresh popcorn could be pulled by a boy or pony was open for business anywhere a crowd gathered.

Two German immigrant brothers were determined to obtain financial success in Chicago. After their first business burned to the ground that was located South Clinton Street in 1885, they rebuilt and expanded their business using wagon vendors.  Again the combination of popcorn, peanuts and molasses from a recipe they construed in 1871 became a staple of their success.  A box decorated by a patriotic sailor with a slang term meaning the best, “Cracker Jack” originated their popcorn snack.  The Chicago Tribune on March 8, 1896 featured an article proclaiming that to taste the Rueckheim Brothers popcorn would lead to an obsession, “Do Not Taste It,” read the ridiculous headline. “If you do, you will part with your money easy.”   Expanding the popularity of the product, jobbers went to grocers, drug stores and retail merchants to obtain orders.  By 1908 a song embracing the joy of baseball, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” quoted, “buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack” cemented the bond between games and snacking.

As America fought two wars, sugar shortages narrowed the choices for snack treats. The Great Depression brought poverty to the majority. A bag of popcorn was between 5 and 10 cents, a luxury most could afford.  Farmers and vendors were able to make a meager living off popcorn.  Cracker Jack started offering prizes inside their boxes to corner the market.

Movie theaters were against serving food to prevent littering the atmosphere of richness and prosperity that dominated the early movie houses.  After the Great Depression, movie theaters struggled to survive.  In the 1930’s from Glen Dickson  manager of a theater in the Midwest area, Julia Braden in Kansas City, Mo.,  and R. J. McKenna in the west: all  saved their businesses by selling popcorn inside the theater to increase profit margins.  Now a movie is associated with the smell of buttery popcorn. Children’s movies and suspense dramas sold the most popcorn.

Since the microwave introduced popcorn in 1981, popcorn starts to dominate the fix at home snack market. Orville Redenbacher in 1965 is selling his popcorn out of his car as he travels to supermarkets across the Midwest.  Family cooks can make snack foods . Options to make your own popping corn are at your fingertips. Range or stove Popcorn is easy to make and offers many flavorful seasonings.

If you want to buy, the top selling brand today is Chicago’s own Garrett Popcorn ShopsChicago, ILThe Cretors family has modernized its market to open Cornfields, Inc.  a healthy snack manufacturer and producer of the G.H. Cretors and Hi I’m Skinny brands.

No matter what your choice, Chicago offers the best popcorn!

The best chocolate drinks

I was not an addict of soft drinks but I could not live without chocolate in any form…even today. I loved mixing Nestles Quick chocolate in my milk drinking cold or warm. I loved eating restaurant bought chocolate shakes or chocolate phosphates along with my hamburger..no fries.. from childhood on.

If Mom bought Bordens Dutch Chocolate, it was usually for a special occasion. Real cocoa that was poured right from the carton and is still sold today. Some may remember Bosco Chocolate syrup which was invented in 1928 in Camden, NJ by an unknown physician. The William S. Scull Company, a company founded in 1831 in Camden, NJ, acquired the manufacturing license. The Scull Company’s most famous product was Boscul Coffee, which gave the product its brand name, “Bosco”. In the 1950s, Corn Products Company acquired Bosco, and Bosco Products, Inc. acquired the brand in 1985.

And I loved Kayo, a bottled chocolate drink named for Kayo Mullins in the Moon Mullins comic strip. In 1929, Mr Aaron Pashkow created Kayo made from skim milk and chocolate syrup, selling his business in 1964 here in Chicago. For many years, Kayo was sold in a bottle then a can. Kayo is currently sold as a powder delivering steaming mugs of delightful hot chocolate, temptingly sweet and richly aromatic. It can be added to coffee to make a delicious mocha or chocolate rush.

And if you are looking for a little alcohol to celebrate the holidays, the Chocolate Martini is highly recommended. Drizly offers a great recipe for this decadent drink. Another favorite of many chocolate lovers is the Chocolate Margarita that uses Godiva chocolate liqueur. Chocolate is not reserved for new cocktails today but has been a long time classic used to make the Brandy Alexander. This creamy delight has been a go-to after-dinner drink and you’ll love the mix of brandy and dark crème de cacao.

Today, some of the best hot chocolate drinks are the French hot chocolate; the recipe is almost like sipping chocolate overseas and truly a luxury on a cold evening. Another great hot homemade chocolate starts from real chopped chocolate cut by hand and incorporates in milk just perfectly. Fifteen spatualas has a wonderful recipe and shows you how to refrigerate for up to three days.

The Good Old Days: Grandparents and Thanksgiving

Kempton was always known as the small town with the big heart; the town of my mother’s family beginnings; her grandparents, my grandmother who had passed away in 1958, aunts, uncles and my great aunt, Lulu Pearl. My earliest memories of Kempton were on Thanksgiving Day at Aunt Lu’s two bedroom corner, blue cottage neatly painted in white trim. A vegetable garden was meticulously maintained in the back with her specialties of beets and tomatoes while well-trimmed shrubs surrounded the foundation of the home.

Coming from the city, my immediate family was always the first to arrive while Aunt Lu called the others to join us on her believe it or not box phone with crank and real receptionist named Jenny. That gave me plenty of time to cut out the latest Betsy McCall and her clothes. After the rest of the family arrived, we took our places behind the long table in the dining room eating from her blue willow dishes. Pumpkin pie was always her winning recipe.

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving break is Grandparents Day at school; a wonderful time for those traveling to see their grandchildren. For our district, Grandparents Day is usually one of the biggest attended events with just grandparents…not sons or daughters who have kindergarten or early elementary children. Just for Grandma,  Grandpa and Grand friends…sometimes Aunts or Uncles if Grandma can’t attend. Over 300 attended today. Many become new Grandparents on that day for children who do not have a guest. A study out of the University of Oxford found children who are close to their grandparents have fewer emotional and behavioral problems, and are better able to cope with traumatic life events, like a divorce or bullying at school.

Though she never learned to drive, Aunt Lu would find her way to our house in the city by my cousin every summer. I could always count on a game of Yahtzee every time I offered and she always made the best fried potatoes in town. Because of unpredictable weather, the winter months were generally confined to her little town in Kempton but one year she came to stay and had arrived two days after Christmas. It was unusual for her to venture out in the cold months but my father was in the hospital. Children were not allowed to visit during the 1960’s and Aunt Lu felt she could help.

During her first night’s visit, the phone had disturbed our usual game of Yahtzee and after that I found that Aunt Lu could offer so much more than games. It was a nurse from the hospital; my father had passed away. Though I was 12 and tried to be adult, Aunt Lu let me cry as long as it took, keeping her arms around me, never tiring or disturbing me from my tears. What incredible timing for Aunt Lu’s calming patience in such a terrible storm. Ten years later, Aunt Lu passed away after passionately celebrating her 90th birthday with her family.

Today, I appreciate the towering strength she provided that day and the strenuous days that followed; never perceiving the no pomp and circumstance woman as one of the most salient women I was blessed to know. And I try to follow her loving example everyday reminding myself that every tragedy has a reason.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Exploring Native American cuisine

Caryl Clem:

Authentic Native American cooking varies from region to region, recipes adapted to what the surrounding environment supplied.  Traditional cooking consists of four phases since the Native Americans were forced from original homelands under the Dawes Act as groups escaped government control forming new communities in new territories. Historically cooking techniques and methods fall into the pre-contact era before men from Europe were exploring, first contact with settlements, after Indian Removal’s “Trail of Tears” mid-1800’s reservations given rationed food, lastly emergence of Native American owned restaurants featuring indigenous dishes during the last 25 years.

The top chefs from 566 recognized tribes are publishing cookbooks, opening catering businesses, food trucks and restaurants. Red Mesa Cuisine, operated by Kiowa Nation, offers recipes from all generation.  Travel from the past and back at your own dining table. Mouthwatering choices include plank broiled smoked salmon or bison, marinated bison served with Cajun style sauces, Succotash,  blueberry cornmeal mush, wild berry glaze, acorn bread, and fry bread. During the forced containment of the Navajo at Bosque Redondo during 1864-68, the Native Americans created a food staple from the rationed flour known as Fry Bread. Starting as a humble food stretcher to accompany every meal, its popularity spread from coast to coast. Now Fry Bread rivals the lasagna, potatoes, noodles, or rice to earn a place of honor during any culinary feast.

If you are a road warrior blazing asphalt trails, famous Native American cuisine can be found in Albuquerque NM,  Seattle WA,  Denver CO,  Colorado Springs CO,  Santa Fe NM, Minneapolis MN,  Phoenix  AZ ,  Geyersville California, Washington D.C. to name a few. The oldest cooks in America are the new “in” must have taste. Stopping to dine ranges from a Smithsonian museum buffet style restaurant or luxurious hotel while savoring the “harvest”.  For the hands on, do it yourself readers, the following cookbooks were on multiple cites as favorites by the cookbook buying consumers. Bon Appetite!!

THE SIOUX CHEF’S INDIGENOUS KITCHEN BY SEAN SHERMAN AND BETH DOOLEY

THE MITSITAM CAFE COOKBOOK BY RICHARD HETZLER

 MODERN NATIVE FEASTS: HEALTHY, INNOVATIVE, SUSTAINABLE CUISINE BY ANDREW GEORGE JR.

 WHERE PEOPLE FEAST: AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLE’S COOKBOOK BY DOLLY WATTS AND ANNIE WATTS

ORIGINAL LOCALINDIGENOUS FOODS, STORIES, AND RECIPES FROM THE UPPER MIDWEST BY HEID E. ERDRICH