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.
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