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.

Memories of the Pump Room

In my best dress, I barely remember eating in a beautiful booth with my Mom and Dad; one of my first Baby boomer childhood trips of elegance. In later years, I celebrated a friend from college’s birthday and excited about seeing the unexpected appearance of one of Charlie’s Angels; a TV series in the late 1970’s and Kate Jackson was her name from the program. My daughter also celebrated a friends birthday at the Pump Room in the 2000’s; bottom picture, my daughter, is second from the right. Dining at the Pump Room, opening on October 1st in 1938 and located at the famous Ambassador East Hotel in Chicago was a popular place for many celebrities who wanted to be seen such as Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Natalie Wood, and even Judy Garland and her children. It was the infamous booth number one where they would eat together. It always remained vacant until someone important arrived. The table actually had access to a rotary phone where they could make and receive calls. They could also unplug the phone from the wall if they wanted privacy.

Ernie Byfield created the restaurant based on the concept of the original Pump Room in Bath, England, where aristocrats would meet and wanted the same for celebrities visiting Chicago. It worked. Another area I remember is the hall leading to the restaurant that for over 50 years have shared the framed celebrity photos that fill the walls of the room’s entrance, lives that are gone for many. The Ambassador East was located on the northeast corner of State Parkway and Goethe Street in Chicago ‘s Gold Coast area and later was renamed. Until the 1950’s, train travel across the US was the only way and celebrities would have a special cross-country Pullman car switching at the LaSalle Street Station. Sometimes they would stay overnight but they did have a suite where they could freshen before returning to the train. Many stayed for lunch at the Pump room. Irv Kupcinet also talked about the Pump room and his celebrity interviews in his column for the Chicago Sun-times.

According to a wonderful article by Dr. Neil Gail, Saving Illinois History One Step At A Time, in 2010 real estate developer Ian Schrager—known for cofounding New York’s Studio 54—buys the Ambassador East for $25 million. In 2011, assets are auctioned off including the phone and is remodeled which reopens as Public Chicago. In 2016, Schrager sells Public Chicago to investors Shapack Partners and Gaw Capital for $61.5 million. In 2017, the hotel is renamed Ambassador Chicago. Rich Melman’s restaurant group, which formerly owned the Pump Room, returns to manage the space and renames it Booth One. After a remodel, the team installs a rotary phone at the famed table. The actually operated the Pump Room from 1976-1998.

The Pump Room went through many changes before finally closing in 2019. Ebay offers some great items of the historic Pump room including a variety of match covers, boxes and menus.

The Prudential Building: Tallest in Chicago?

Who remembers when the Prudential Building was the tallest building in Chicago? I went with my family, parking in the new underground parking lot and was terrified the windows would cave in. I remember my Mom putting money in a telescope dispenser where we could view the skyline and other buildings, much, much, closer. The Prudential was actually the same age as me and I was only five when I saw it for the first time….both of us born in 1955; a 41-story structure which was the headquarters for Prudential’s Mid-America company. Some visited the new Stouffers restaurant in the building after viewing Chicago’s skyline. I remember going on another trip with my girl scout troop and eating at Wimpy’s Grill on Clark Street, another Chicago beginning opening in 1934 with the best burgers. The spire on top represented WGN.

According to Connecting the Windy City, The first tenant to move into the building, the western advertising offices of Readers’ Digest magazine, settled into its space in September of 1955, taking up temporary space on the third floor before moving up to the nineteenth floor in the spring of 1956.

The structure was the first new downtown skyscraper constructed in Chicago since the Field Building, 21 years earlier and was built on air rights over the Illinois Central Railroad. It was the last building ever connected to the Chicago Tunnel Company’s tunnel network. It became One Prudential Plaza when a second building was built in 1990. Completed in 1972, the simple, rectangular-shaped, tubular steel-framed structure was originally called the Standard Oil Building and now Aon which is much taller than the Prudential. Actually the Board of Trade building built in 1930 was taller and had an observation deck but as Baby Boomer children most of us were told that the Prudential was the tallest maybe because it was new and located by the lake with the best views. It was the tallest skyscraper built in the 1950’s.

Then it became Two Prudential Plaza which was 64 floors. In 2006, Bentley Forbes purchased One Prudential and the property next door but went into default due to the recession. In 2015, New York companies bought in though Bentley Forbes still has interest in ownership.

Gayety’s Ice Cream is open

Gayety’s Candy was located on the South side of Chicago at 9207 Commercial Ave. established in 1920, over 100 years ago, right next to the Gayety Theatre. Founder James Papageorge was an immigrant stowed away on a steemer from Greece at the age of  nine. He learned everything about candy and ice cream while opening a shop next to the Gayety Theatre with the same name. It wasn’t uncommon to share the names of other businesses.I remember Mom I visiting to buy their homemade candies when I was little but they had best ice cream sundaes and banana splits with fruit cocktail. Moved to Lansing, IL and Shereville, Indiana, was closed, but has re-opened in Lansing.

Located at 3306 Ridge Rd,  Laurene Lemanski bought Gayety’s through her new company, For the Love of Chocolates and Ice Cream. Her parents grew up on the South side and went to the shop there. She actually worked at the Torrence Avenue store in Lansing in the 1980’s while attending high school.

The fruit topped banana and vanilla ice cream sundae is buried under a liberal dollop of real whipped cream and crushed nuts. They also offer seasonal flavors of ice cream depending on the time of year. Their shakes are massive, and they serve you what’s left in the tumbler too. They have ice cream chairs that are also fun to sit in enjoying the atmosphere of a real ice cream parlot.

Image courtesy of A.C.C

Ice cream facts

By Caryl Clem:

Surviving Italian Florentine rebellions, at the tender age of 14, Catherine d’Medici was to wed the second eldest son of the King of France, Henry Orleans in 1533.  Her two loves, ice cream and high heels are still around today.  She had purchased a recipe for ice cream from a goat and chicken farmer who won a contest her family sponsored. This frozen dessert won instant popularity after it was served at her wedding.  As a short new bride, Catherine wanted to ensure her grand entrance before the Royal Court of France; a stunning pair of custom made high heels was a fashion first.   Catherine became Queen of France in 1536 bearing 10 children with her husband.

Since 1686, a café that entertained the greatest thinkers in Paris was Café Procope . Famous clientele included Voltaire famous French author against tyranny, Diderot, inventor of modern encyclopedia organization, Americans Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and George Washington discussed world issues over coffee and ice cream.

The first recipe for ice cream used by George Washington in America had 21 steps.  Rich mansion owners had underground ice houses for blocks of ice cut in the winter.  Only the wealthy could afford the necessary ingredients.

Before Chicago, Philadelphia was an ice cream “hot spot”. Quaker schoolteacher named Louis Dubois Bassett set out to make high-quality ice creams on his rural New Jersey farm.

Fast forward to the late 1800’s when Chicago enters the ice cream market limelight.  Early vendors hawked their half Penney and Penny licks ice cream from reused, rinsed, small hand held glass containers.  Italian vendors sounded like they were saying, Hockey Pokey’s.  Believed but not proven, the more sanitary ice cream wafer cone happened at a World’s Fair Exhibition in St. Louis.  An ice cream vendor ran out of glass containers so he paired business with his neighbor selling thin wafers, rolling them then placing a scoop on top.

Gone but not forgotten the Buffalo ice Cream Parlor in Chicago.  Elaborate décor of cherubs dancing murals on the walls, leaded glass windows, rich dark walnut wood and marble top counters, amid the whirl of 20 malt mixers concocting heavenly combinations.  The Buffalo offered a perfect place to escape reality and enjoy sumptuous ice cream desserts.  The original Buffalo in Chicago opened in 1902 moving to the Irving Park in 1918.  The new location had the Commodore Theatre across the street.  Now a Shell Gas Station stands has replaced the spot ice cream was enjoyed.

At the end of the civil war, a jobless William Breyer started hand-cranking ice cream in his kitchen in Kensington outside Philadelphia then selling it to neighbors.  He was the first using a wagon equipped with a loud dinner bell to announce his location.  Breyer’s reputation rests on simple good for you ingredients for over 150 years. The cream, cane sugar, fruits and nuts ingredient base became known as the Philadelphia American style ice cream.  During the 1960’s only ice cream parlors sold the number one rated Breyers.  In the 1970’s, Breyers joined the Kraft product line.  A suburb favorite, Homer’s Homemade Gourmet Ice Cream.

In Oak Park, Petersen’s Ice Cream has been in business over 80 years. Founded by a Greek immigrant, his son, Dean Poulos, reports that his grandfather’s secret ingredient was butterfat. With décor from the 1919 era complete with tin ceiling tiles is Petersen’s Ice Cream Shop. Exploring Chicago’s ice cream history is definitely a summer treat.

Buffalo Ice Cream photo Courtesy of Patrick Crane

Rainbow Ice Cream and Rileys Trick Shop

Living on the south side in the 1960’s, we would make a trip to Rainbow Ice Cream  at 92nd and Western eating the same five-flavored ice cream cone as today; chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House (New York vanilla with cherries and walnuts), pistachio and orange sherbet. Grandpa Joe Sapp established Rainbow in 1926. His first rainbow cones were sold out of a small ice cream shack on 92nd street across the street from the building that was built four years later and still exists today. Then we visited Riley’s Trick shop that was located at 9033 Western Ave, opened in 1965. I remember getting trick cards and funny eye glasses.

Riley’s opened in 1937 at 79th and Rhodes which mainly sold greeting cards and paper goods. Jim Riley and Eleanor married three weeks after opening their shop. They had a popcorn wagon that was hurting popcorn sales at the nearby Rhodes Theatre so the manager offered them $75 for it. They invested that $75 into a line of tricks, jokes and magic, and Riley’s Trick Shop was born. In 1945, Jim Riley co-founded Magic Masters of Chicago which is still thriving today. They moved into another rented storefront at 1057 W. 79th St. in 1956. In 1965, Jim and Eleanor Riley built their own building with living quarters above at 9033 Western Ave.

In 8 years, there the business outgrew two building additions and moved to its current 5,000 square-foot location at 6442 W. 111th in Worth, Illinois. Jim and Eleanor lived above the business they loved until they passed away 27 days apart in 2002. Jim’s son moved the Worth to Palos but had to close in 2014

Rainbow Round Cake consists of all five ice cream flavors of the Rainbow Cone on top of a cake layer. Rainbow Cake Rolls are offered in 6″ and 12″ rolls. They currently offer chocolate cake rolled with five flavors of the Rainbow Cone. Over 96 years, the Sapp family is still serving the same ice cream Joseph developed back in 1926.

 

 

Plush Horse

We lived on the south side of Chicago and it was a field trip with my family to the Plush Horse in Palos Park. It was like going to visit a relative at an old-fashioned, three-story shingled house and, of course, I always had to see if the horse was there as a child. With my adult daughter, we continue to visit and again, I have to see if the stuffed horse is there…it is. For over 80 years, the Plush Horse in Palos Park offers a nostalgic atmosphere with an overwhelming selection of homemade ice cream. Over 70 different flavors.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the original farmhouse was built in 1893. A Mrs. Gray moved there as a bride during the Spanish-American War. Her husband went off to war, and she had the store built so that he would have something to do when he came home. For a few years the storefront housed a general store. Later, the store went through reincarnations as a butcher shop and an antique shop until the Itzel family opened the ice cream parlor in 1937. It has been through several owners since but still the best ice cream.

Today, as an adult it offers some great, specialty, coffee moments so when the parlor is open, you can visit on a cold night. They are opened all year round and you can order online. Plush Horse offers a variety of ice cream with out sugar added. Cones,shakes,sodas,malts, sundaes, and banana splits are just a few of the delicious handmade sweets and treats they offer and they have some great ice cream cakes. Many a child have spent their birthday celebrating with a cake from the shop. They also have a Plush Horse in Tinley Park which has been opened since 2012 and have been named “The Best Ice Cream” in the South land!

Picture courtesy of Slywy.com.

 

Forgotten malls: Evergreen Plaza

From the southeast side of Chicago, my best friend and I were allowed to ride the bus at the age of 12 in 1967 down 95th street west, passing Beverly, crossing Western into Evergreen Park where we exited at the CTA bus stop right in front of the Evergreen Plaza Shopping Mall  which is still there.  I can remember visiting Chandlers Shoes, Lyttons, one of my Mom’s favorite stores as well as Chas A Stevens. Before Montgomery Ward on the North end and, it was The Fair. Of course, Carson Pirie Scott which was located on the far south end from 95th street. My aunt worked there in jewelry for awhile. If we had money, we headed to Walgreens for candy after our lunch. There was a Wimpy’s where we had lunch.

The Evergreen Plaza operated from 1952 to 2013 and the first regional mall in the nation; the second indoor mall. It was originally designed as an open-air shopping center developed by Arthur Rubloff, one of, if not, the first of its magnitude in all of Chicago land. Actually the mall was enclosed in 1966. The center also contained a Jewel supermarket, which featured a conveyor belt that carried groceries from the store to a parking lot kiosk.The mall’s Walgreens was the second self-service Walgreen pharmacy in the chain; it was also the chain’s first location in a shopping center.

Two theaters were added in 1964; fairly new for us growing up, located on the south end by Carson’s and they were huge. I saw Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid at one of them but those were closed in 1999.

Today, Evergreen Market Place is a contemporary outdoor mall replacing the former Evergreen Plaza anchoring the corner 95th Street and Western Avenue in Evergreen Park. It offers approximately 22 stores such as Planet Fitness, TJ Max, Whole Foods Starbucks and Petco.

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.