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.

 

African American cuisine, Chicago soul food suggestions

By Caryl Clem

Winter weather lingers during February while we look for ways to find comfort waiting for spring. I dig out the recipe books to look up  favorites. When it’s cold outside, I crave eating made from scratch macaroni and cheese bubbling under the bread crumb crust. If you think about Sunday dinner meatloaf or finger licking crusty fried chicken, warm cornbread smothered in butter followed by a tasty cobbler for dessert, all these originated from African American culinary ingenuity. Kentucky Fried Chicken won success with soul food staples as well as several other fast food chicken rivals. Getting the most for your money and taste buds has earned “soul food’ a place on our plates and in our hearts.

Several of our founding fathers all had Black African American chefs that were educated in Europe. In France, Parmesan cheese, butter and pasta was the new rage during the 1800’s. Thomas Jefferson sent his chef to France to learn how to prepare French delicacies. By February in 1862, Thomas Jefferson was hosting parties featuring this macaroni pie specialty. President, George Washington had a famous Black African American Chef Hercules whose clothing can be seen in an museum exhibit in Washington D.C. African Americans as chefs showcasing American food has been established for centuries. These chefs have shaped America’s palate:

Chef Hercules was an African American slave owned by the Washington family, serving as the family’s head chef for many years.

Chef Edna Lewis was a renowned African-American chef, teacher, and author of several cookbooks who helped refine the American view of Southern cooking.

Chef Joe Randall was a good friend of the late Edna Lewis, has been a veteran award-winning chef for over 50+ years.

Chef Leah Chase was an American chef based in New Orleans, Louisiana. An author and television personality, she was known as the Queen of Creole Cuisine. She passed away at 96 in 2019.

Chef Patrick Clark was an American chef. He won the 1994 James Beard Foundation award for “Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic Region” during his tenure at the Hay-Adams Hotel, Washington, D.C. and also competed.

The reputation of Southern wealthy families depended on offering superior feasts. The culinary feats were achieved by slave chefs from a variety of African regions. New to colonists dinner ‘s influenced by West Africa offered tomatoes, lima beans, onions, and chili peppers with peanuts, ginger and lemon grass. Natural sugar from dates, coconuts, sorghum and sweet potato lessen the need for granulated sugar. Garlic, cumin, and chili peppers for meat followed by allspice, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. Chili made with cinnamon was probably the result of African spice blends.  Africa has five regions that use the same spices and seasoning blends. Across America distinct African American influence is broken down into these categories: “Northern States, “ Agricultural South”, “ Creole Coast”, lastly, “ Western Range”.  Trivia fact, over 1/3 of cowboys in the west after the civil war were African Americans. Spices and flavors from a distant continent won new fans and changed the rather bland  fare forever.

Chicago offers several “soul food” restaurants, a phrase that started in the 1960’s and was common place by the 1970’s. Foursquare provides some great comments and pictures about several. Here are just a few with pictures above that describe their menus:

  1. Luella’s Southern Kitchen
  2. Wishbone Restaurant
  3. Big Jones
  4. Virtue
  5. Feed

My favorite fast food hamburgers

Since childhood, it was always a hamburger and chocolate shake that was my faovrite lunch away from home. It began with Henrys.  In 1956, Henry’s, or as some old timers called it, “O’Henry’s” was running 35 locations in and around the city and suburbs. By the ’60s, Henry’s expanded to over 200 restaurants nationwide,  surpassing McDonald’s, White Castle, Jack In the Box, and Wag ‘s. Occasionally, I would have a white castle hamburger at a birthday party. The first White castle opened at 79th and Essex in 1929…my old neighborhood and the oldest hamburger chain.

My next favorite was Wimpy Grills always a place to eat when we took the Illinois Central downtown in my pre-teens and went shopping with friends at Carson’s or Marshall Fields. Though I did love the olive burger at the Narcissus room at Fields. The Wimpy brand was established in 1934 by Edward Gold, when he opened his first location in Bloomington, Indiana under the name Wimpy Grills.The name was inspired by the character of J. Wellington Wimpy from the Popeye cartoons created by E. C. Segar. Gold did not open his first Chicago area location until two years later in 1936, after opening units in five other Midwestern cities. The one I remember the most was located on the northeast corner of Randolph Street and Wabash Avenue which originally opened in 1940 and is no longer there. By 2011, Famous Brands had 509 Wimpy restaurants in South Africa no longer apart of the US.

But in 1973, my still favorite fast food cheese burger was established and will still eat it today when I am looking for something close to home, fast and affordable. Though I do love their chocolate shakes too. The quarter pounder with cheese, just had one yesterday, of course a McDonald favorite. In 1979, the Happy Meal for children was created followed by Chicken McNuggets in 1983; the latter still a favorite of my 30+ children

The first McDonald’s restaurant was started in 1948 by brothers Maurice (“Mac”) and Richard McDonald in San Bernardino, California. They bought appliances for their small hamburger restaurant from salesman Ray Kroc,who was intrigued by their need for eight malt and shake mixers.Seeing great promise in their restaurant concept, Kroc offered to begin a franchise program for the McDonald brothers.

On April 15, 1955, he opened the first McDonald’s franchise in Des Plaines, Illinois, and in the same year launched the McDonald’s Corporation, eventually buying out the McDonald brothers in 1961. The clown,Ronald McDonald, was created in 1963.  The corporation is still located in Oakbrook and today McDonalds is considered the largest restaurant chain.

 

 

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.

It was Fannie May for the holidays, still is!

The first Fannie May shop was opened in Chicago on LaSalle Street in 1920. After World War II, Fannie May was known for the Pixie candy but it was the mint melt-away created in 1963 that I wanted as a child. That every child, growing up at that time, wanted too. In fact, every child growing up.. even my own children decades later in the 1990’s. When I was a child, my Aunt would take me to her favorite Fannie May store on Chicago’s south side and help me select presents for family, friends and always my teachers. She let me have a special bag to select chocolates for me to take home. If during the holidays, it would be a foil covered Santa or Easter bunny along with other chocolate favorites.

Growing up, as a Mom in Downers Grove, I would take my two children to the Fannie May store on Ogden Avenue; following the same tradition as my Aunt taught me. The store is still open today to shop for your chocolate holiday favorites.

In 2003, Fannie May joined forces with Harry London Confections. In 2015, Fannie May partnered with the Chicago Cubs and launched the Chicago Cubs Collection. Today, Fannie May offers tasting events that are implemented in every store. These events showcase a specific flavor or assortment to better familiarize customers with products. Fannie May candy is great way to execute chocolate fundraisers.

Fannie May favorites can still be purchased:

Gingerbread Pixies (1 lb., $29.99) A cult favorite now includes smooth gingerbread flavored caramel and crunchy pecans coated in Fannie May milk chocolate, topped with chocolate sprinkles for extra holiday cheer this gifting season.

Holiday Pretzels (12pc, $19.99) An irresistible mix of sweet and salty, crunchy & creamy – his collection includes four milk chocolate covered pretzels, four dark chocolate covered pretzels, and four pretzels covered in white confection decorated with red and green drizzle – the perfect treat for your holiday table.

Holiday Mint Meltaways (1lb, $29.99) Creamy mint chocolate centers coated in sweet white confection & covered with just the right amount of red and green sugar crystals, making them the must-have table item for every holiday hostess.

Christmas Crew 7 oz. Hollow figures ($11.99 each) The delightful holiday characters, Santa, reindeer and elf are here to delight all as the perfect stocking stuffer for kids this holiday season!

Colonial (1lb, $24.99) Fannie May’s most popular assortment features a delectable selection of signature tastes – from our famous Pixies ® and Trinidads ® to our buttercreams, toffees and chocolate covered fruits.  A great gift for the chocolate lover or Chicago local.

Cashews & Assorted Nuts Tins (1 lb, $29.99 each) You can enjoy lightly salted Cashews or the perfect combination of pecans, almonds, and cashews in the elegant gift tin – perfect to have out as a snack around your holiday table.

The Good Old Days: Christmas Trees

During my childhood, it was the real Christmas tree that delighted my father every year. It was not Italian lights but bulbs on heavy cord that he would switch out if two colors of the same were located next to each other. It was the time of bubble lights and tinsel hung one strand at a time. Aluminum silver trees were popular too…the only fake trees I knew. A neighbor had a beautiful silver creation with identical ornaments. Fully aluminum trees were made commercially available in the mid-1950s. Of course, no aluminum tree was complete without a rotating color wheel.

It was not until early pre teen years that green fake trees or flocked trees with Italian lights and garland instead of tinsel became the rage. But through the decades, it was always about the Christmas tree even many years after my Dad passed away. You had to put everything on the tree in perfect time and space..I still do… choosing the best ornaments and bows for vacant spots. Through the years, fake trees just kept getting better and better.

We had a green fake tree but it finally fell apart and for the last five years, we have been buying real trees. Though my father loved colored lights, my family today enjoys many white Italian lights throughout with new and vintage ornaments of a different time. Though we still switch up bows each year and rather than garland, elegant ribbon around the tree.

Most of the fake trees today come in a wide variety of heights, so you can make sure you get the right fit for your home. Trees now our pre-lit and many experts don’t recommend that because eventually those lights will have to be replaced. Today’s artificial trees come in an amazing variety of styles, from flocked and colored trees in such outlandish colors as black, pink, and red, to upside down trees.

And the Rainbow tree is the new trend for 2019. The rainbow tree isn’t just for the holiday season. Some teachers have been spotted using them to decorate their classrooms for back to school, since the colors look like a crayon box. Not for me….thank you!

And when Christmas trees were Christmas trees, before my time, it was when entire families got together on Christmas Eve to decorate the big tree with ornaments, candy, popcorn, fruit and tiny candles.

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 as 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

How to save on all aspects of Halloween

Flipp App savings expert Lauren Gruetman provides tips on how to save on all aspects of Halloween. Below you’ll find her tips as well as a few local Chicago deals available now!
Savings Tips:Plan ahead to save big bucks on costumes. There are so many DIY costumes that you can make using items from Dollar Tree. I recommend using the Flipp App to search through the Dollar Tree circular to see what items are in their stores. You can easily make unicorn wings from a feather boa and fairy wings (both are found in the craft section). Use a dish towel and cut it up into a vest to make a cowboy vest. Think creatively around the items you can find there for inexpensive costumes.Candy is cheapest two weeks before Halloween as stores start putting them on sale. And check your local drug stores flyers for deals on Sundays, which is when new deals are sometimes released. You can also look at bulk stores like Costco and Sams Club, but steer away from the chocolate candy. Buy big packages of Airheads and Skittles for a cheaper price per oz.

*It’s possible to throw an epic party for under $40! Stick to the dollar stores for decorations and buy items that can be used from year to year. The days following Halloween are the best times to purchase large blow up items and other Halloween decor.

Watch for Fall Harvests. I find the cheapest pumpkins by driving around and purchasing them at local homes that have them out for sale. You will save a LOT of money and get a larger pumpkin for buying local.

The free Flipp app is available for IOS and Android. You can search weekly ads, coupons and navigate through your favorite stores. The app allows you to check out specific foods or browse a variety of retailers. Once you download the app and add your location, Flipp will locate the stores in your area and you can click on your favorite store to explore its best deals. You can tap a retailer, check out the coupons and load them to your loyalty cards. There are thousands of retailers available including Kroger, Walmart, Big Lots, CVS Pharmacy, Aldi’s, Family Dollar, Home Depot, Loews and Dicks Sporting Goods to name a few. You can even save money on your favorite and find deals at Petco.

Halloween Deals on Flipp in Chicago:
Candy:

Decor:

Costumes:

Celebrating autumn

By Caryl Clem:

September 23 marks the first day of autumn. Toiling farmers are grateful for the harvesting of their crops. As the days grow cooler, you feel renewed energy to join others for festive holidays during the fall season. My enthusiasm to travel to an apple orchard remains as poignant as my first time searching for the perfect apple. In the past few years, I preferred the apples to be picked, labeled, and available for tasting. Last weekend I was a kid again biting into crisp apples discerning which apple candidate was the winner. With my friend, we discussed what to purchase from the selection of sugar free preserves and while drinking a sample of apple cider. On the return trip home, several apple edibles chased hunger away.

One of my favorite flavors of ice cream is Pumpkin Spice.  Various squashes appear on supermarket shelves increasing food options for dinner. Popular favorites include butternut, earthy, sweet Chinese Kabocha, Spaghetti ‘s light strands great for sauces, round acorn squash , sweet Japanese red Kuri , sweet dumpling squash, delicata squash, sugar pumpkin ,blue hubbard and banana squash. In every meal, an autumn food star can spice up your palette.

An increasing number of consumers are learning how to preserve harvested vegetables and fruits. The pressure cooker would beep and whistle while my mother showed me how to convert the entire garden’s bounty into jars. The heat outside often matched the heat inside our tiny kitchen. Canning is a process that demands fortitude and patience.  Instead of the long canning process, freezing, drying and fermentation techniques are used more often.  To acquaint yourself with the newest techniques, check out this article.

Chicago offers 3 large beer festivals at the end of September, 312 Block Party Goose Island Brewery, United Center, September 20 2019-September 21 2019 / Revolution Oktoberfest, Revolution Brewing, Logan Square, BeerHoptacular, Vertiport Chicago, Little Italy, UIC, September 28 2019.  If you are in the mood to sip a beer, here is a calendar website There is abundance of small town beer festivals as well as in the suburbs.

Harvest feasts vary across the world.  In grade school, coloring pictures of Pilgrims and the Native Americans taught that the harvest Thanksgiving was first celebrated in the last Thursday in November. The history books left out the first harvest dinner celebration held in Jamestown. Germans served bountiful meals to celebrate the harvest time after the autumn moon that fell on the first Sunday in October. Both the Protestant and Catholic churches honored this day with religious services. Jamestown residents in 1610 held an Erntedankfest known as a Harvest Home) supper.

Pilgrims from England had the experience of participating in a religious feast that occurred after honoring St Michael’s mass on September 29.  All gathered at one location to participate in a food and craft market with dancing, singing, eating and playing games.  Maidens in parades wore corn wreaths; before the feast was to begin a queen was chosen. Lastly, townsfolk adorned the home and alter with corn dolls to ensure prosperity.  This holiday would happen after the women preformed the final “gleaning” of the fields. Those who ate geese thought it would lead to financial prosperity. The county fairs at the end of summer bear many similarities to old harvest customs. During Celtic rule in Ireland, harvest was on August 15.  A favorite part of the Irish festival was a horse swimming competition. In America, the Thanksgiving dinner was proclaimed a National Holiday by President Lincoln in 1863.

Fall has arrived featuring the gratitude for a bountiful harvest, the satisfaction of eating autumn star foods with friends and family, attending festivals blending old and new customs, and exploring the world of past and present when retelling ghost stories.

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