Made in Chicago: Stories Behind 30 Great Hometown Bites by Monica Eng
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Release Date: March 21, 2023
Chicago is a food city. Once famous for its stockyards and still a major transit point for the products of America’s breadbasket, the city is home to a diverse people, a gathering of migrants and immigrants who brought a wide variety of foods from their homelands and put the necessary twists on them to make them salable to Chicagoans while using available ingredients. This book features entries on thirty foods and beverages that are products of Chicago ingenuity, be they dishes that were wholly invented in the Windy City or one’s that have a distinctive Chicago-style variant. Foodies know exactly what is meant by Chicago-style hot dogs, pizza, or tamales.
If all you know about Chicago cuisine is that ketchup on a hot dog is considered a sin, you’ll learn about some colorfully named Chicago inventions such as: “the Jim Shoe,” “the Big Baby,” and “the Mother-in-Law,” as well as many others that are more prosaically named, if equally calorically dense. One also sees the mark of Chicago’s immigrant story in the Akutagawa, Flaming Saganaki, Gam Pong Chicken Wings, the Maxwell Street Polish, and Chicago Corn Roll Tamales.
Each chapter discusses the nature of the respective dish, its influences, the [often contentious] origin of each item, where one can obtain said dish, and (for most) includes a recipe for making one’s own home variant. So, it’s mostly food history, but with a bit of cookbook, as well. There are pictures throughout, of the foods and in some cases of the location that invented or popularized each dish.
Be forewarned, while Chicago is a city that loves food, it’s not a place that’s wild about nutrition or moderate serving sizes. In fact, I feel certain that many people attempting to consume every item in this book in, say, one month’s time would drop dead of a coronary shortly thereafter (if not during.) Most of these dishes are foods done fast and served with an allowance of fat, sugar, and / or meat suitable for a family (for several days.)
If you’re a traveler (or a Chicagoan) and want to know more about quintessential windy city foods and where you can sample them, you must read this book.
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