Category Archives: Friday Food Fun and Facts

Real Home-Made Italian Beef Sandwiches: The Chicago Classic in Your Kitchen

I did not like eating meat as a child. So it was not hard for me to become vegetarian on my own at age 11 (nobody in my immediate family did so with me).  There were several reasons for this odd childhood decision in the 1970s.   

My mother did not like to cook, and she would admit that her skills were uninspired in this area, particularly with over-cooked meats.  While we ate meals out or had take-out frequently, I never cared for most meat in restaurants.

I also was a big animal-lover, with cats, dogs, hamsters, gerbils, and fish in our household.  Thus, I did not care for the idea of eating animals, when I was young.  I read extensively about animal rights (for example, Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation), the horrors of the meat-packing industry (e.g., Upton Sinclair’s classic, The Jungle) and some of the more  kooky 1960s health food manifestos.

George indicates Italian beef to be chop-licking good.

For about 10 years, I ate no red meat or chicken.  During some of that time, I did not touch seafood, either.  However, I suddenly reverted to omnivorous ways at a dinner party while at the University of Chicago, where the hostess did not know I was vegetarian.  She served a wonderful medium-rare steak.  I decided it would have been rude to declare my vegetarianism and thought I would give it a try. My clean plate indicated a hasty farewell to my strict vegetarianism.  Today, however, I eat relatively little red meat or even chicken and try to be sure it is ethically raised, organic, free-range, or, at least, happy.

This is all a round-about way of explaining that, while I grew up near one of the very best purveyors of Italian beef sandwiches in suburban Chicago, I think I never ate one until I was an adult.  When I discovered this classic sandwich, I became a devoted admirer of this Chicago classic.  I have tried examples, which are supposed to be the best – all over  ”Chicagoland”.   

The Italian beef sandwich is one of two Chicago originals, specialties in the culinary world and best eaten there – the deep-dish Chicago-style pizza being the other.  In the nearly 20 years I have been away from Chicago, I make a point of having Italian beef on each trip back.  

For the Italian beef’s origins, review, food holidays – and the recipe… Continue reading

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Friday Food Fun and Facts, Third Edition

Pizza Party!

I will be posting the outstanding America’s Test Kitchen recipe for Chicago-style pizza (above), which I recently made – very authentic and worth the extra time to prepare the buttery crust. The recipe features an authentic tomato sauce and makes two pizzas. My versions were a hot-hot-hot chorizo (above) and a pizza with caramelized onions.

While I was in Chicago three times this year, this is the first time in my life in which nobody in my immediate family is living in the Greater Chicagoland Metropolitan Area (TV slang for the vast reaches of the city into suburbia and beyond).  My mother is now in an assisted living facility near my brother in Connecticut.  So maybe this is why I have been craving Chicago specialties, including the famed Italian beef sandwich, which I shall make in my slow-cooker this weekend.

The deep-dish buttery-crusted pizza and the Italian beef sandwich are perhaps the two finest exemplary Chicagoland dishes, originating in the city yet gaining renown elsewhere.  Stay tuned for Chicago specialties….

Upcoming Food Holidays, December 18 – 25

In case you had no other meal plans, tomorrow is another odd day for you to celebrate in the Wacky World o’ Food Holidays. Roast suckling pig, anyone?

The holidays on the 23 and 24 make more sense than Xmas itself, as I associate pumpkin pie with Thanksgiving, but who knows who is responsible for anything on the list, to begin with?

December 18 – National Roast Suckling Pig Day
December 21 – National French Fried Shrimp Day
December 23 – National Pfeffernusse Day
December 24 – National Egg Nog Day
December 25 – National Pumpkin Pie Day

For a holiday brown betty recipe and 2010’s best world cookbooks,

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Friday Food Facts and Fun, Second Edition


Did you celebrate National Chocolate Brownie Day earlier this week?

I am still in a reflective brownie mode, hence, the photo above of my double-chocolate double-malt frosted brownies.  It is the brownie I crave the most.  This year, I have tried at least four new chocolate brownie recipes and have posted three on IslandEAT. Holidays are about celebration and reflection…

Upcoming National Food Holidays

As this the “holiday season” is upon us, here are the food holidays for next week:

December 11 – National Noodle-Ring Day
December 12 – National Ambrosia Day
December 13 – National Cocoa Day
December 14 – National Bouillabaisse Day
December 15 – National Lemon Cupcake Day
December 16 – National Chocolate Covered Anything Day

If anyone knows what a “noodle-ring” is, or why it should be fêted, please let me know immediately.  I am most excited by the events celebrating cocoa and “chocolate-covered anything”.  Just where exactly does the chocolate-covering stop, in matters of good taste?

For questions, a retro video, and blogging resources….

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Friday Food Facts and Fun: A New Feature

What is Friday Food Fun and Facts?  It is a new interactive weekly feature of articles, videos, events, tips, gadgets, questions, and other items from the wide world o’ food on IslandEAT.

I continually discover bits and pieces of food lore and news, which somehow do not make their way into my posts.  My friend, former colleague, and subscriber, Michele, also suggested I offer a food question-and-answer segment, so I thought I could answer –  or attempt to answer – your burning food questions, from time to time.   Thanks, Michele, for that suggestion!

Yesterday, I was able to “Experience the Difference” on BC Ferries through an extended 10-hour trip from Vancouver to my island.   The trip involved three ferries/two transfers and should have taken less than one hour, nonstop, on one ferry.  Because of a “mechanical problem” requiring an “inspector”,  I had plenty of time to read and surf online, however.  One “upside” of the adventure was that I finally took the mammoth Coastal Celebration from Vancouver to Victoria, which I can see from our house (pictured in my post here).  A few major  routes now have WiFi – another very good thing, to borrow from Martha S.

Cookery Video

Still thinking about all things British after our recent trip, I came across an unintentionally hilarious instructional film,  from England, circa 1937:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgQkMGgHxr0&feature=related

“The broiler-griller is indeed the housewife’s friend…it may be well the husband’s companion, too”, according to this film.  Really? Rather.

News Flash:  The Pavlova Prize goes to…New Zealand!

The Vancouver Sun had a small item yesterday on a stunning development in the culinary world.  The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) has awarded the Kiwis the ultimate dessert prize.  The OED has determined that New Zealand can claim creation of the meringue, whipped cream, and fruit dessert known as the “Pavlova”.

For years, Australia and New Zealand have battled over bragging rights for the invention of this famous dish.  The OED settled the dispute, as they found earlier references to the Pavlova in a New Zealand cookbook  in 1927, Davis Dainty Dishes – well before any mention in the land of Oz. (I would love to get my hands on a cookbook with a title like that….)

The dessert was named in honour of the Russian prima ballerina, Anna Pavlova, who had a grand tour of NZ and Oz in the 1920s.  Congratulations, Kiwis!   You now have beaten Australia in one of the most hotly-debated food arguments of all time.

For views of New Zealand and food photography hints, keep reading.

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