My friends and I are approaching middle age, some of us more quickly than others. Babies are included in dinner reservations. Our bodies aren’t as reliable as they once were. Most of us have grown-up jobs or own property (buncha sell-outs!). I’m also noticing that many of us are questioning everything. It’s similar to what we went through after graduating from universities, but now the questions have changed: do we want to have kids? am I on the right professional path? where should we live? (who made these rules anyway?!)
Where should we live? is a question that Bryan and I ask each other a lot. On our frequent trips to Los Angeles we often have moments where we think it would make sense to live there. We have family and friends in the city, the climate, landscape and lifestyle all seem to fit us. We fantasize about what life would be like in sunny California and it’s a blur of avocados, apocalyptic sunsets, and year-round backyard dinners. These fantasies are usually followed by very real moments trapped in freeway traffic where I end up screaming “I hate this fucking city!”. Sooooo, maybe not Los Angeles.
There are good and bad things about everywhere. I don’t know where we should live, but I do know that if we were to answer a Buzzfeed quiz called “Where should you really live?”, it is unlikely that either of our results would be Chicago. Chicago can be a pain in the ass with crime, segregation, frustrating public transportation, terrible weather, and uninspiring landscapes. It doesn’t look great on paper. But! But! But! How many people live where they should live? Those quizzes don’t take into account the intangibles, the lives we build wherever we are and the connections we have made. There is something about Chicago and the Midwest that I can’t quit. I grew up here, that is certainly a part of it. Chicago feels like home (whatever that means). But the Midwest is also objectively charming. It has its moments:
- Rolling farmland!
- The smell of burning leaves on a cold autumn day!
- Driving all of the way west on Fullerton at dusk on a summer night!
- The beach towns of southwest Michigan!
- Wisconsin cheese! (or maybe just the entire state)
- Eating a hot dog at a Sox game!
- Chicago’s dive bars!
You find that it’s sometimes not easy to see the things you love about what you already have.
When we were last in Madison (a city that is reason enough to love the Midwest), I picked up a copy of The New Midwestern Table by Amy Thielen. I’ll be honest, I had never heard of the book or of the author. The cover didn’t sell me, I was worried it was trying to peddling a sort of hokey Midwestern puritanism that I do not find attractive. I bought the book anyway, convincing myself that it was a good investment. It was. It is as close to being a perfect cookbook as they get (and it looks like the James Beard awards agree with me). I read it from cover to cover and was bummed when it was over. This is almost unheard of in a cookbook! Thielen is a gifted storyteller and an incredible salesman of the joys of the Midwest. It’s satisfying to see Midwestern culture celebrated and affirmed (It all comes back to representation?). She includes recipes for many foods that are familiar to anyone who grew up here, and so far I have liked every recipe I have tried. The onion dip is especially delicious and will transport you to backyard parties eating off of paper plates and being bitten by mosquitoes.
At the end of the day, I love the Midwest and would be happy living here forever. Part of my questioning is undoubtedly related to mid-life crisis issues that will soon have me driving a bright red convertible around town, and part of the questioning is wanting to make sure we’re happy with the way our life is going. I’m grateful to Thielen for reminding me of why I love the Midwest so much and am happy to live here. (Also, Amy Thielen, please write many more cookbooks!)
In the Midwest we have a certain kind of pizza, often available in dive bars or small-town pizzerias. It is a very thin and cracker-like crust topped with sauce and cheese, sausage is good too. It isn’t unusual for the cheese to be something other than mozzarella, maybe even something orange. In any case, it is the pizza I grew up on and the pizza I will always love the most. Bryan and I make frequent trips to Vito and Nicks on the south side of Chicago (my old neighborhood!) to eat one of the pies that I grew up on. This recipe does a good job of capturing some of those flavors. It’s also a cinch to put together. Just remember, in the Midwest we cut our pizza into squares.
Cracker-Crust Pizza (from The New Midwestern Table by Amy Thielen)
- 3/4 cup cool water
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- 1/2 large onion, diced
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 28-ounce can whole plum tomatoes
- 1 large sprig fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves
- 1 pound fresh mozzarella, shredded
For the pizza dough, pour the water, oil, salt, and sugar into a large bowl. Add 1 cup of the flour and whisk until smooth. Switching to a wooden spoon, gradually add the remaining flour, stirring until the dough comes together. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and knead until it is smooth and supple, about 5 minutes. Divide the dough into three equal pieces, shape each one into a rough disk, cover with a cloth, and let rest on a board for at least 30 minutes (and up to 3 hours) before rolling.
For the tomato sauce: Heat a wide saucepan over medium heat and add the butter, onion, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Saute until the onion is very tender, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Pour the tomatoes into a bowl and crush them well by hand. Add the tomatoes, 1/4 cup water, basil sprig, rosemary, sugar, remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a couple of turns of black pepper, and simmer until the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes. Discard the basil sprig.
Set a pizza stone on a rack on the bottom third of the oven and preheat the oven to 500°F.
Roll one portion of dough between two pieces of parchment paper into a round that is about 12-inches in diameter. Peel off the top layer of parchment. Fold over the edges of the crust and pinch the edge into a small roll, as you would crimp a pie.
Brush the dough lightly with olive oil, and then spread the top with with one third each of the sauce and the basil. Top with a third of the cheese.
Slip a pizza peel beneath the paper and transfer the pizza to the pizza stone in the oven. Bake until browned on top and slightlu charred on the edges, 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer the pizza to a cutting board, swiping the paper out from underneath the pizza. Cut the pizza into small squares and serve immediately. Repeat the process to make two more pizzas.
Lynn @ The Actor’s Diet says:
May 13th, 2014 at 8:51 am
Please come live in LA! I’ll be your middle aged friend!
May 13th, 2014 at 8:51 am
I’ve read about this book before & been intrigued as well–I really appreciate your point about representation and the assumptions we make about certain food cultures. I don’t know what the opposite of exoticization is, but it seems just as limiting/ignorant. I know basically nothing about Midwest food culture, so I’m putting this on my cookbook wish list.
And this pizza! Going to happen this weekend. With beer, yes?
May 13th, 2014 at 8:57 am
Nishta- yes, beer. Ideally something cheap, I would suggest something like a Hamm’s. ; )
May 13th, 2014 at 9:34 am
Midwest is best. Or so goes the rhyme. The more I travel, the more I appreciate living in Madison. It gives me the possibility to travel and provides a soft, welcoming landing when needed. If you’re going to stay in the Midwest, have you considered Madison? Then you could visit Chicago and wave at the traffic on your way home.
May 13th, 2014 at 9:38 am
Hi Marlena! We do think about Madison a lot. We’ve been visiting at least twice a year for the past few years and love it a lot. I have some general concerns (lack of diversity and state politics mostly) but would not be surprised if we ended up there some day. In the meantime, we’re happy to have it as a second Midwestern home.
May 13th, 2014 at 10:01 am
Thank you for this post. I have been silently appreciating and cooking from your blog for years. As an East Coast transplant living in Madison, I have grown to love this small Midwestern city and its evolving food culture. I am grateful, though, that Chicago isn’t too far down the road from here.
May 13th, 2014 at 10:21 am
I found Amy Thielen through the Food Network and every recipe of hers is divine. I love her new twists on things, but she also does traditional Midwest things like fried chicken made with crushed Ritz crackers that remind me of my Grandma. I live in Austin, TX (love it!) but grew up in Michigan and have to say the Midwest keeps a strong tug on my heart.
Rockin Arugula says:
May 13th, 2014 at 10:27 am
Chicago has the best damn dive bars! I, too, am contemplating where to settle next and find myself wanting things like a house with a yard, which I never wanted before. What I’d like even more than that right now is that pizza! Looks great.
Librarian Lavender says:
May 13th, 2014 at 10:37 am
This cookbook looks really great! And I love the look of your pizza, so delicious!
Caroline Shields says:
May 13th, 2014 at 11:12 am
Love this post! Hope all is well!
stacey snacks says:
May 13th, 2014 at 11:13 am
I’ve often thought where should we go……we are middle aged and I need a change from suburban New Jersey……>California? Florida? The South?
I probably will die here in the New York metropolitan area, it’s in our blood and not sure if the Midwest or anywhere else in the country is ready for me!
But it was a nice thought!!!!
May 13th, 2014 at 11:15 am
Amy’s cookbook is interesting…cracker crust pizza is a new one to me (no yeast, in particular)…I like to be open to new applications, and from the picture it looks really good!
Johanna Lowe says:
May 13th, 2014 at 11:24 am
Really lovely piece, thank you Tim.
J.S. @ Sun Diego Eats says:
May 13th, 2014 at 11:35 am
Thought this pizza literally had a crust made of pulverized crackers or something. This is much better than that :)
May 13th, 2014 at 11:45 am
“…maybe even something orange” !!! Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore. Wait a minute – that’s JUST where we are! Greetings from dirty Jerzy. ps I’d eat up that pie in a blink.
May 13th, 2014 at 11:52 am
Hi Johanna! That is a good question, and I don’t know the real answer BUT my hypothesis: It’s also called party-cut or tavern-cut, since pizza was often a staple at bars. I think it is cut in squares because it is better/easier for sharing and snacking on. Maybe pizza was more of an appetizer/snack when it first made its way to the Midwest. I like how hospitable the cut seems. Lots of friends can share a pie this way. It also means there are pieces with crust and pieces with no crust. There are so many pizza-eaters who do not like eating the crust end of a slice, and so this is perfect for them. Related story: When I turned 30 one of my best friends (originally from Chicago) threw a birthday party for me in Manhattan and had it catered by a favorite Italian/pizza place. She thought it would be a fun homage to our Midwestern roots to have the pizza cut into squares. But she could not convince them to cut the pizza into squares, no matter how much she begged.
May 13th, 2014 at 12:33 pm
The ‘where should we live’ question is something that comes up a lot for us, too. We’ve both moved around so much, and even in the 5+ years of our relationship, we’ve lived in three different countries. Who knows what the future holds? In the meantime, I think I’ll make that pizza and uncork a bottle of wine.
May 13th, 2014 at 12:34 pm
Amen to that. All of that. My husband and I both hail from southeastern Wisconsin, and many of our Friday night pies are reminiscent of these that we also grew up with and love so much. The classic in the Milwaukee area is tomato sauce, mozz, fennel-y pork sausage and white onions. Guess that solves the dilemma of which toppings to put on this Friday’s pizza! *Cheers* to the magnificent Midwest!
Linda, TheEssentialGarden says:
May 13th, 2014 at 12:37 pm
I have to laugh.
As a (former) Cincinnatian who commonly drove to Chicago for dinner, I had the west coast bug for almost ten years. I agree that LA traffic negates all the city’s benefits, particularly having lived in a city where one doesn’t agree to donate two hours of precious time to each car trip.
The solution? Portland, OR. An unimaginable food culture. A fundamental friendliness of the residents. Gorgeous geography. Mountains, ocean, high desert. A quick trip to all of California.
The bug to move will surface again. At age 61 I gave up my former career to start a baking and pastry management program at the Oregon Culinary Institute. All in.
You’ll have fewer days to enjoy the convertible in Portland (rain); however, the benefits far outweigh any detriment, an 11-month growing season being only one of them.
It’s never over. There are only new beginnings.
May 13th, 2014 at 1:02 pm
I’m not really from the Midwest (or maybe I am; many people tell me that Pittsburgh is more Midwest than east coast, although I’m not entirely convinced. But how does one really define the mid-Atlantic region? Perhaps this is a cookbook waiting to be written), but I’ve been curious about Amy’s book since it first came out. It seemed homey to me and somehow comforting; maybe it’s because mosquitoes and onion dip are two things I can relate to quite well. Thanks for the cookbook suggestion!
I often wonder about where I’ll end up settling, too; ever since I finished grad school, the question of the next step has been hanging over my head. For now, I’m in the lovely East Bay (who could ever complain about the avocados?), but I don’t know if I’m one of those people who wants to be Californian for life. There are so many decisions to be made in the near future, although I often think that life–work, economics, life style–makes the decisions for us and we just like to think we’re in control. I hope that’s semi-comforting.
May 13th, 2014 at 1:15 pm
You have a fantastic way of writing about Chicago that I love. I’ve lived many places, but Chicago will always be home to me. It’s a glorious city and I hope someday to return, for good. But for now I’ll live vicariously through posts like this. Thank you so much! D
May 13th, 2014 at 1:32 pm
The comment box asks me “What do you think?” and I think you are spot on. Yes, to building a life wherever you are. And yes to not being able to see what’s right in front of you. And yes, yes yes, to pizza!
We live in Switzerland right now. It’s temporary, which means that I’m constantly thinking about what’s next. And about all those friends at home who are setting down roots, buying houses and mowing yards. I need to remember that what I have is great too – adventure! alps! paris in 4hrs! I should put a list on my fridge for all those moments I’m ready to pack up our teeny apartment and head home.
Thanks for introducing me to Amy Thielen and this pizza. Good pizza doesn’t exist in Zurich, so it’s all about making it at home and I need a new recipe. This one sounds perfect.
May 13th, 2014 at 1:37 pm
I knew that pizza was Chicagoan the minute I set eyes on how it was cut. Oh, round thin-crust pizzas cut into squares! They’re the best ever. Needless to say, I grew up outside Chicago, and even though I do indeed remember things like spinning around icy cul-de-sacs in a minivan at 7 am in 1991, I miss it so. :) And this cookbook sounds like something I need on my shelves immediately.
May 13th, 2014 at 1:40 pm
I have to second Linda’s comment regarding Portland. This green land is some of the best I’ve ever experienced. I love visiting other cities but coming home is always the best. Though I will say that there is plenty of snobbery mixed in with the friendliness…. just saying :)
Such a great post about homelands and hometowns, and such a great pizza! We have a couple restaurants here that make a delightfully thin “cracker-crust”…. they call it “Northwest style”, I apologize. I mean I’m glad we’re not the only ones that call it that :)
May 13th, 2014 at 1:54 pm
Great post, Tim. I’m only 23 but I’ve been obsessed with the same question (must be the post-graduation phase). Parts of me wants to look at a map and find some very cool place that I’m “meant” to live in, but most of the time I just kind of take a fatalist position and think that even if we hate where we grew up (ahem, rainy urban wasteland Seattle suburb), life would be a little emptier leaving it. Life isn’t much without all the arbitrary but seductive rules we grow up in, whether it’s cutting pizza into squares or never being allowed to own an umbrella…
PS: god, isn’t buzzfeed the worst?
May 13th, 2014 at 2:17 pm
I grew up in Wisconsin (and pizza cut in squares! It’s such a great bar snack for a group of people) and moved to Maine for graduate school. I won’t finish my degree for a while, but I’m constantly thinking about where I’ll end up. Since I married an oceanographer, though, it probably won’t be back in the Midwest. I am longing to get my hands on this book; the Midwest has really been left out of the slew of regional cookbooks coming out lately. Until this beauty. I love your words here about the Midwest and its ways.
May 13th, 2014 at 2:48 pm
Thanks for all of the good comments, everyone! It’s a lot of what makes this my favorite place on the internet to hang out.
May 13th, 2014 at 3:32 pm
It’s been really interesting to get to know the Midwest while visiting my fiance’s hometown in Iowa. His parents, originally from Detroit, have lived in Iowa for decades now. I love visiting! People are so friendly! Not something I’m necessarily used to since I grew up in Miami. I mean, you can tell the difference just by the way people drive.
I hear you on the where should I live question! I wish I were one of those people who had her heart set on living in x city. It would make things so much easier! Til I figure it out, I hope I get the chance to try out calling a few different cities home. Maybe even one in the Midwest.
p.s. totally picturing you and Bryan in a red convertible! You should rent one the next time you’re in LA. :)
May 13th, 2014 at 4:40 pm
Try the Midwest, Ileana! ; )
Brianne, Maine seems pretty good to me. Your coast is so beautiful, and being tied to the ocean doesn’t seem so bad!
Amy, Buzzfeed is the worst. But somehow irresistible? It’s also exciting to not know what will happen! So much possibility. 23!
May 13th, 2014 at 5:27 pm
Come visit Lexington, KY. We have a lot of cool stuff happening here. Really.
Also, you went to college with my cousin, so I’d love to meet you someday, either here or in Chicago.
May 13th, 2014 at 7:23 pm
I’ve heard good things about Lexington, Alison! I hope to visit someday. Who is your cousin? Theatre School?! That’s cool.
May 13th, 2014 at 9:38 pm
Love this chicagooey post. I’ll be sharin pizza squares with ya as we eat our feelings in this collective crisis of the midlife variety.
May 13th, 2014 at 9:56 pm
Out of all the foods in the world, pizza is the most important to me…it has so many emotions attached to it, so many memories. It’s the one food that always comes with stories both while making from scratch and eating.
Also, hope I get to run into you in the beautiful city that is Chicago soon, farmer’s market or somewhere else equally wonderful!
May 13th, 2014 at 10:04 pm
good to think of these things….and plan…and save more than you imagine be enough.
we travel, we love it.
you will love retirement.
May 14th, 2014 at 4:32 am
Huh. I always thought that was St. Louis-style pizza. That’s what they call it in St. Louis, at least. Hope you figure out the right place for you. I’m a California native who’s lived in the Midwest, the South, and now in France, and everywhere I’ve lived has had incredible upsides *and* downsides. The fun is finding them all…
May 14th, 2014 at 6:27 am
This post has come at such a perfect time for me. My husband and I are relocating from Boston to central Illinois this summer and I’m by turns thrilled to learn a new food culture (I’ve always lived on the East Coast) and terrified to leave what I know. I received Thielen’s book late last year and love it. The peppered pork roast is delicious (and the leftovers make perfect Philly-style roast pork sandwiches). Thanks for sharing your love of the Midwest–it’s so comforting to hear people with excellent taste embrace the region.
May 14th, 2014 at 8:50 am
Come to LA and I’ll teach how to avoid the freeways at all costs!!! :) :)
Christina @ My Homespun Home says:
May 14th, 2014 at 12:44 pm
Ha, I’ve been in Chicago 10 years this past January, by way of Cleveland and upstate NY. I love sport peppers (so sad I couldn’t find them even in Wegmans the last time I was home) but still put ketchup on my hot dogs and square pizza reminds me of grade school cafeteria lunch.
I love living here though. After this past winter, I seriously considered moving somewhere warmer, but you know, the first day of nice weather made me realize how much I love having 4 seasons and how much more I appreciate the nice weather than then if it was beautiful all the time.
May 14th, 2014 at 1:06 pm
Great post. The intangible and non cliché things about the Midwest are what many of us love about living here.
Mary Anne says:
May 16th, 2014 at 7:50 am
This makes me miss home!! Chicago summers with bbq’s every weekend and drinks on restaurant patios during the week. But Tim, no one calls them fireflies in the Midwest!! They are lightning bugs! DUH!!
May 16th, 2014 at 10:02 am
This post made me SO homesick. Especially the mention of burning fall leaves and October. Can I miss having four seasons without missing winter?
Anyway, I still cut my pizza in squares (the hubby teased me at first, but now he prefers it, ha!) and I can’t wait to try this recipe out. Thanks for sharing.
Misc Marsha says:
May 16th, 2014 at 1:45 pm
I grew up in the Midwest as well. Now I live in the South, but your prose really had me reminiscent of my formative years. I found myself nodding my head and quietly saying “hell yeah” to the part about cutting our pizza in squares.
Jeffrey C says:
May 17th, 2014 at 7:13 am
For me, the “where do I want to live?” question is increasingly directly tied to what means would be required to live the way I want to live in _____ (insert locale under consideration) and what does that mean for retirement, etc. I’d love to live in San Fran, but it would mean working more and longer in perpetuity and that’s a trade I’m not willing to make. Calibrating the different values that matter to us seems even more challenging later in life than it did when fresh out of college.
May 19th, 2014 at 12:22 am
No doubt that the Midwest has its charm (esp in the summer). And one of those charms is its pizza. Trust me, it’s a big bad world for pizza outside that sliver of US.
Lisa @ Garlic and Zest says:
May 19th, 2014 at 11:59 am
I’m from the East Coast and my husband is from the Midwest — somehow between Ole Bay seasoned blue crabs and tater tot hot dish, we make it work. I’ll have to get the cookbook. The cracker crust pizza looks divine!
May 19th, 2014 at 7:33 pm
I love this. Square-cut thin-crust pizza always reminds me of sleepover parties. Have you read Bill Holm’s book The Heart Can Be Filled Anywhere on Earth? It’s a book of beautiful essays that addresses living in the Midwest, among other things. Isn’t that a great title? It contains one of my favorite essays ever, The Music of Failure. It’s worth a read, especially with an impending midlife crisis!
May 19th, 2014 at 9:31 pm
Yum! Reminds me of my favorite pizza restaurant in Wauwatosa, WI, Barbiere’s! Wish I could find some pizza like this in Portland, Oregon!
May 20th, 2014 at 6:27 am
Hey! This is Madelyn who lives in Jerusalem, again. I loved the recipes you posted from the Jerusalem cookbook, and thanks to you there’s another cookbook I need to buy! That’s because I grew up in Indiana (3 hours due East of Chicago–Fort Wayne area) and this pizza recipe already tugs at my heart. I’ll take squares over triangles any day! You hit the nail on the head with, “backyard parties eating off of paper plates and being bitten by mosquitoes.” Thank you for sharing this find!
May 20th, 2014 at 8:23 pm
This article moved me! Thank you so much for sharing, and I often feel that finding a spot to stay and live is often the most challenging. I am in love with some many places—how do you choose?
Renia Carsillo says:
May 21st, 2014 at 4:50 pm
I’ll be making this pizza this weekend! It looks incredible! Growing up in Iowa, my mother used to make homemade pizza similar to this and cut it into squares with scissors. Simply gorgeous!
Question, do you think this crust would work on the grill as well? Its close to the recipe I use for grilled dough and here in Florida I hate turning the oven on after May 1.
Clare Poth says:
May 21st, 2014 at 7:37 pm
I really recommend Buffalo -it is an incredible city. Full of art, music, great food, wonderful people. A hybrid of East and Midwest. very welcoming, friendly and livable city
May 23rd, 2014 at 4:54 pm
Next time you and Bryan go out for pizza I want to come with and I may even drag Rachel along! I am a huge fan of party squares.
May 28th, 2014 at 8:15 pm
This crust and sauce were exactly what I was looking for in a crispy crust for homemade pizza. The sauce is simple and to give it the texture I wanted I gave it a whirl in my food processor.
May 31st, 2014 at 9:12 am
This is one of those “that’s my life” posts that one reads once in a while. After some world traveling, I ended up in Chicago in the late 1980s to go to grad school. I stayed for 25 years. Chicago became my home, was the place I became a man (or my slightly bent definition thereof), was where I created a family.
I moved away twice, once to Paris and once to New York, but Chicago pulled me back both times. Something about that damn city…
Finally, about two years ago, Seattle called my name. I love it here and this time the move appears to be sticking — but good ol’ Chicago has claimed happy, permanent residence in my soul, DNA and personal history.
And pizza made at home? Three years ago, a friend and I instituted a weekly pizza night. A tradition strong enough to convince him to move to Seattle, too. We haven’t missed a week, and no two pizzas have been the same. My advice is, go wild with your toppings. Make whatever kind of pizza you can imagine, because everything is good baked on a flat crust!
June 29th, 2014 at 2:48 pm
In my experience (as a native Californian), midwesterners have a hard time living outside the Midwest. I’ve known lots who’ve moved to California only to wish for and eventually make plans to move back “home” to the Midwest. California is too… intense, expensive, unfriendly, or who-knows-what for them. I feel bad for the midwesterners. No other region is full of such kind, generous, outgoing people.
August 1st, 2014 at 6:27 am
I grew up in NYC and spent summers with my cousins who lived in a little town of 150 people 7 miles from Galesburg, IL. I loved those summers filled with delicious fresh corn, barbecued ribs, and ice cream socials. We walked to the general store for sticks of gum that cost 1 cent a piece and picked up the mail at the Post Office, which was a little corner in the hardware store. We spent Sundays tooling around the Mississippi River in my uncle’s motorboat and picnicked on sandbars eating my aunt’s delicious fried chicken, coleslaw, and potato chips – same menu every Sunday. The sky was huge, and the dirt was black and loamy with a scent I can sense whenever I think about it. After years of living in NYC, attending the opera and the ballet, I am retiring to a small country town in upstate NY, and I credit my love and longing for the country to those happy childhood midwestern summers.
August 4th, 2014 at 7:30 am
I grew up in Montana and have moved frequently around the country with my husband. He hails from WI. We’ve lived in Seattle, Nashville, and now, upstate NY. My cooking palate and preferences have changed a lot from what I grew up eating. We ate meat and potatoes five days of the week. The other two days were most likely cheeseburgers or pizza. Slushburgers, spaghetti (with ground beef), and Tex-mex tacos (also with ground beef) were staples. My mom was a great cook. But it’s interesting to look back at how different certain regions of the country are in terms of cooking. Most of our desserts that we ate were of Scandinavian origin, especially around Christmas time. The older ladies of our church were such great bakers. I really wish I could have spent more time with that generation, learning all of the tricks of their trade! Gonna check out this cookbook.
September 14th, 2014 at 10:36 pm
It’s nice to read a blog from my hometown. So many of the blogs I read leave me wanting more greenery (which at times is lacking in Chicago) or mountains (most definitely lacking in Chicago). I spent the last year and a half away from the Midwest but I’m back and have really tried to get creative on how I can feed the part of me that loves wide, open spaces. Lake Michigan sure helps. I went an hour out to the Indiana Dunes last weekend and even though surrounded by factories, it’s still pretty. I’m thinking maybe I’ll attempt cross country skiing out there this winter.
Well, I’m rambling but like I said, it’s great to hear some midwest pride and reminders of what makes living here so great.
I looked at your Chicago guide and was a bit surprised to see Big Star absent from the list. Maybe overrated but one of my favorites for sure :)
September 15th, 2014 at 12:52 pm
Thanks for checking in. My Chicago guide is not meant to be comprehensive, it is just a list of places I eat at a lot and enjoy. I think it is sometimes helpful to people visiting Chicago. I like Big Star, too. But it would not be a place I recommend to visitors from other places, and to be honest I don’t find myself wanting to eat there that often myself. It requires a certain energy. And the same kind of taco joint is present in many other towns.
November 26th, 2015 at 8:19 pm
Lovely to read such in-depth comments. This is my first time visiting your site…got here because of your “cracker-crust” pizza, reminds me of the Kraft Pizza Kits that I would so much like to prepare from scratch! Will definitely give this recipe a whirl. I can relate so much to a “love of place”. There is something about memory of where one grew up…flavors, colors, smells, seasonal activities…they are hard-wired into our brains so that wherever we move, there is always a tug on our hearts to experience it all again to feel content…perhaps to revisit youth. I live in north central Canada, have traveled the world in my younger years but I always “come home”. Yes, the winters are harsh but it makes spring and summer so much more sweet. Love your site and will check in regularly.